Real Name: Nial Coward
Identity/Class: Human mutant;
Group Membership: Avengers (provisional)
Affiliations: Nick Cream, Beth Niehoff, Kym Valentine,
formerly Donna Zipp
Enemies: Celebrity Stalker, Disaster
Known Relatives: Unidentified parents, unidentified wife
Aliases: America's Greatest Hero
Base of Operations: New Jersey (see comments)
First Appearance: (Intended) Coward#1; (actual) not applicable
Powers/Abilities: Nial has unstable and hard to define
powers, apparently with nearly limitless potential. Even as a baby he was
able to withstand being struck by lightning (and may even have somehow summoned
the strike). His powers seem to emerge with explosive force on the occasions
he has inadvertently used them.
Hank Pym confirmed that he could conduct electricity at the time Pym ran tests on him, but noted that since his powers seemed to be in a constant state of flux and his metabolism always changing, there was no way to know if those powers were constant.
(Coward#1) - A little over thirty years ago, Nial Coward's parents worked in the field of Radioactive Central Heating, at the time considered Britain's big hope for the future. Nial's mother later went unexpectedly into labor on a golf course. As he was born, he was struck by a freak bolt of lightning, but survived.
As a schoolboy he had a streak of natural cruelty. When he attended an exhibition of an octopus that had been launched into space as an unwilling astronaut and just returned from a flight into the Cosmic Ray Belt over Woomera in Australia, he chose to rile the animal. When it bit him, Nial tipped the octopus' cage out of the nearest window in spite.
The first evidence that Nial had powers emerged when he was in his teens while he was making out in the back seat of his father's car with a date, Donna Zipp. The resulting explosion ripped apart the vehicle and convinced Donna to join the nearest convent as a convert. Nial never really learned to control his powers, considering them more of an embarrassment than a boon. However, he did develop his other natural talents during his teen years - cowardice and womanizing. A complete charmer when he wanted to be, women found him irresistible, though he was actually selfish in the extreme. Becoming an actor led him to the States, a life on the casting couch, and a marriage of convenience that turned out to be anything but.
Hoping to further Nial's career, his agent, Kym Valentine, arranged for him to meet a much adored Hollywood sex bomb, but during the meeting the actress was targeted by terrorists. Coward grabbed the actress' children, intending to use them as human shields, but being cornered by the terrorists terrified him, triggering his powers, which took out the attackers on national television. Mistakenly believing he had been trying to protect the children, and overlooking that his uncontrolled powers had also taken out a few unlucky bystanders, the press lauded Coward's actions, Overnight he became a hero from coast to coast, voted America's Greatest Hero by a phone-in on television's Mid-Morning America show.
Skillful marketing by Kym and Nial's PR man Nick Cream raked in serious cash via licensing. Getting top designer Armani to design a superhero costume, Kym reinvented Nial as Slaughter, America's Great Hero. All seemed well in Nial's life, and he went from one woman to the next while money poured in from everything from cereal endorsements to working as the public face of the First Lady's Health and Efficiency USA campaign. The President even endorsed Slaughter as the role model for all decent American kids, unaware that Slaughter was busy personally endorsing the President's personal secretary.
Coward finally had his choice of movie roles, though when Kym put his name forward for a part in the Gone With The Wind remake by blockbuster producer Beth Niehoff, Nial learned to his disappointment that the role of Rhett had already been cast to a top movie star.
Then the Slaughter lie threatened to get out of hand, when a new villain, Disaster, began tearing up New Jersey. Though other heroes arrived on the scene, they were turned away as the public and media called for Slaughter to intervene. Freaking out in fear at the thought of actually having to fight a superpowered maniac, Nial hired a friend, one of the athletes from the television show Gladiators, to wear the costume and attack Disaster, telling his unwitting stooge that the whole thing was a set up for a hidden camera TV show.
From the safety of his apartment, Nial watched live news footage as his friend attacked Disaster...and was immediately vaporized. Worse, Nial stared in horror as Disaster then approached Nial's apartment building and began tearing it apart. As his fears got out of control, Nial's powers erupted, blitzing the entire apartment and sending great chunks of concrete from the wall falling 50 feet to flatten Disaster. Staggering from his apartment, suitably charred and smoldering, Nial was caught by the TV cameras and, once again, proclaimed America's Greatest Hero.
Shortly afterwards, Kym called Nial to inform him he had got the part in Gone With The Wind after all, failing to mention that this was because the original actor had been brutally murdered by the costumed lunatic Celebrity Stalker. Then, as an afterthought, Kym asked Nial if he'd like to join the Avengers...
(Coward#2) - Everything seemed to be going Nial's way. He was working on the new Gone With The Wind, and had charmed and bedded producer Beth Niehoff for good measure. Mid-Morning America had organized another phone-in which they claimed proved that the whole country was demanding that Slaughter become an Avenger, something Nial couldn't help but think would look good on his resume. There were two potential flies in the ointment however: Nial's wife of convenience had decided it was time to show up, wanting a piece of his action, and unknown to Nial as yet, Celebrity Stalker was running amok in Hollywood, murdering more celebrities including one of Nial's Gone With The Wind co-stars.
Nial returned to New York to take a tour of Avengers HQ with Captain America, and noted with interest the Avengers groupies hanging around outside the back door. Nial instantly hated the straitlaced Cap, especially as he explained that Slaughter would have to work with the team on a trial basis for a while, to which Nial retorted that he no longer did auditions.
Hoping to have his powers defined, Nial let Hank Pym run tests, but Pym found that Nial's powers seemed potentially limitless but were in a constant state of flux, with an ever-changing metabolism. Their discussion was ended by Cap arriving to inform them that a UFO had been sighted over Times Square, and he dragged along a secretly terrified Slaughter to investigate.
(Coward#2-4) - The results of Cap and Slaughter's investigation remain unrevealed. Coward presumably eventually failed to join the Avengers and faced off against Celebrity Stalker; whether the public ever realized how mistaken they were about their new hero remains unrevealed.
Comments: Created by Tim Quinn (scripts) and Charlie Adlard (character sketches) and possibly Richard Elson (also character sketches).
When Marvel UK contracted in September 1993, several forthcoming titles were abandoned, some within days of publication, and then an attempt to relaunch the line in 1994 was abruptly curtailed thanks to Marvel U.S.'s financial woes, resulting in the U.K. branch being sold off to Panini. Multiple projects were again abandoned in various stages of completion. Coward was one of them, a proposal by Tim Quinn that had been commissioned, had rough story outlines for at least the first two issues completed, and been going through art development, but hadn't even been publicly solicited. I learned of the series while researching an article on the lost projects for the Marvel Fact Files series, and everything in this profile, from storyline to art, had kindly been provided by Tim. Since the Fact Files' article had limited space, it barely scratched the surface of what Tim had provided, so he has generously permitted me to publish the rest here instead.
Tim's series proposal synopsis: "Nial Coward, a hero who doesn't want to be a hero. A hero who isn't a hero. A hero who is really a liar, womanizer, a bully, a charmer, a cheat and ... a coward. But suddenly, overnight, he's become "America's number one hero." Now what?"
In regards to the series art and where the concept arose from, Tim revealed "Sal Buscema had agreed to work on this title just before Marvel UK slipped into the Thames. We'd gone through a few artists trying to find the right look. Not sure whose character roughs we have here? Maybe this is early Richard Elson? I remember that Charlie Adlard also put some character designs together, which I have somewhere. The idea for the book came from George Macdonald Fraser's Flashman series...a hero who is really a womanising coward and all round dirty dog. I got permission to include certain Avengers in the story, which I was very up about."
Since Disaster's rampage took place in New Jersey and Nial's apartment was one of the buildings he targeted, I ASSume Nial lived in New Jersey, though he clearly worked in both New York and Los Angeles.
Profile by Loki.
Slaughter has no known connections to:
Nick Cream was a PR man who worked with Kym Valentine to promote her client Nial Coward after his public act of "heroism," helping sell him to the public as a new superhero, Slaughter. When Hank Pym told Nial that he was able to conduct electricity, Nick immediately contacted Ever Ready to see if he could arrange a promotions deal.
--(intended) Coward#1 (2?, 3?, 4?
Beth Niehoff was a top Hollywood producer who was working on a remake of Gone With The Wind. When agent Kym Valentine put forward her client Nial Coward for the lead male role, Beth declined since the part had already been cast to a top star and filming had begun or was imminent. However, when her leading man was murdered in his trailer, Beth changed her mind and offered the now vacated role to Nial. Ever the ladies' man, and wanting to ensure his role was secure, Nial quickly seduced and bedded Beth for good measure.
--(intended) Coward#1 (2, 3?, 4?
Kym Valentine was an actor's agent and paranoid fadist (if it's in, she's in it!) who represented British actor Nial Coward. She arranged a meeting for him with a Hollywood celebrity that inadvertently (and inaccurately) resulted in him getting national coverage as a hero. Taking what might have otherwise been a fleeting moment of fame for Nick, she reinvented his image into that of a superhero, Slaughter, snaring commercial endorsement contracts and high profile appearances at the White House, as well as offers for major acting roles. Striking on another idea to raise his profile after his encounter with Disaster, she suggested he join the Avengers, and used appearances on mid-morning television shows to promote the idea that this was what the public wanted, until the Avengers actually agreed to give Slaughter a trial membership.
--(intended) Coward#1 (2, 3?, 4?
Disaster was a supervillain who undertook a destructive rampage through New Jersey, and when he was confronted by a Gladiator posing as Slaughter, Disaster vaporized the unfortunate man. His rampage soon took him to the apartment building Nial Coward lived in, and while busy causing damage there, he was squashed flat by a large chunk of masonry falling from the building that Nial had unintentionally dislodged.
(Coward#1) - Obsessed super-fan Celebrity Stalker didn't want his idols' autographs, but their lives. The costumed lunatic snuck onto the set of the new Gone With The Wind production and waited in the trailer of the star playing Rhett Butler, then gunned him down with a magnum when he entered the vehicle.
(Coward#2) - Celebrity Stalker organized a bus tour of top stars' homes for other deranged fans who wanted to collect body parts rather than autographs. He then targeted Gone With The Wind again, snatching one of the co-stars, and later left her dismembered remains distributed between twelve refuse sacks left hanging from the Hollywood sign.
--(intended) Coward#1 (2, 3?, 4?
images: (without ads)
Slaughter costume concept sketch (main image)
Character face studies concept sketch (Nial headshot)
Character concept sketch (Nial and... Beth?)
Character face studies concept sketch (Nick headshot)
Character face studies concept sketch (Beth headshot)
Character face studies concept sketch (Kym headshot)
First Posted: 01/26/2019
Last updated: 01/26/2019
Any Additions/Corrections? please let me know.
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