Raffaele Meretrice, aka Insight, is a superhero created by writer John Markopoulos in the Serene Republic of Venice in 1947. Influenced heavily by Italian cinema, film noir, and Markopoulos’s own anarchist tendencies, Meretrice is notably less grounded in a local literary tradition than his often-cited counterpart, Sabah Selim, is. Insight was part of a popular series of comics in the Republic of Venice, as well as in France, Spain, Italy, and much of the Americas, from 1947 to 1953, though he feel out of favor for political reasons during the Cold War. Meretrice would see a resurgence in popularity with counterculture movements in the 1960s, culminating in the merger of Entertainment Comics, Meretrie’s publisher, with Incredible Tales and Camp Stories, the publishers of the Steel Lion. Meretrice would go on to feature heavily in Antelo and Qamari’s famed Cheap Chess storyline, before being spun off again into his own series. Much of Meretrice’s 1980s publication history would see him moved from Venice and the Adriatic to the Swahili Coast under the pen of Rashid Moro, a Swahili-Venetian author who imparted Meretrice with a more revolutionary ideology and created the character of Mumtaz Makani, a Mughal spy and Meretrice’s occasional love interest, rival, and partner.
Insight is written as having an extraordinary ability to read people and situations, often to a supernatural degree. His abilities have traditionally been explained as arising from his mother living near a secret nuclear testing facility while pregnant with Meretrice, though later stories have suggested that anybody can achieve his level of awareness with proper training and focus. Insight traditionally uses these abilities to read people, detecting lies and making educated guesses about their pasts and activities, as well as using them to enhance his fighting ability, as he is capable of predicting attacks and devising strategies to counter them. Insight’s fighting style is typically rendered as being a variation of the French form Savate.
John Markopoulos first conceived of Meretrice in the mid-1940s as a the “apex of the hard-boiled detective of noir fiction.” Markopoulos first collaborated with artist Gene Eisenbury, who suggested that Meretrice take part in more high-concept action than the grittier, toned-down forms Markopoulos had originally called for. Insight #1 was published by Entertainment Comics in 1947, and featured a story in which Meretrice first encountered his long-running nemesis, Lady Mare, the cunning and deceptive mistress of Venetian crime.
From 1947 to 1953, Meretrice had high-profile success, quickly becoming Entertainment Comics’s largest brand. Despite this, the continued insistence of Eisenbury and Entertainment Editorial to keep Meretrice a lighter, more family-friendly character continually frustrated Markopoulos, who publicly broke with the company in 1953 following the conclusion of his eight-issue arc in which Meretrice first ventures to England. Insight comics ceased production for a year and a half during the lengthy court battle between Markopoulos and Entertainment Comics, which resulted in Entertainment retaining the rights to the character and Markopoulos’s bankruptcy. Until 1996, all Insight material featured the phrase “Created by Gene Eisenbury.”
However, the bad blood from the Markopoulos Trial resulted in Insight comics losing popularity abroad, while several other characters, most notably the more science-fantasy Argentoscudi, filled the void. Eisenbury took over writing Insight comics for two years before leaving, beginning a revolving door of Insight writers as Entertainment Comics lost solvency. During this time, much of Meretrice’s backstory involving nuclear radiation was developed, as well as a short-lived attempt in 1961 to spin him off into a space-based, sword-and-sandal epic called “Insight of the Elders.”
In 1963, an increasingly desperate Entertainment Comics hired Silvestre Antelo, a young Valencian man recently out of university. Antelo returned Meretrice to Venice and essentially ignored the character’s previous history, attempting instead to bring out Markopoulos’s own deeply-held anarchist beliefs in the stories. Meretrice under Antelo’s pen became an anarchist sympathizer, though Antelo was careful to never turn him into a revolutionary, and spent much of his time battling the manifestations of centralized power. Antelo also brought back much of Meretrice’s supporting cast by picking various characters from prior publications he found to be interesting; among them were Robin, a Robin Hood-themes English ally of Meretrice, and Giovanna, the mysterious, chain-smoking reporter and Meretrice’s on-and-off love interest.
Antelo’s run turned Meretrice into an icon of the 1960s Venetian counterculture movement, but failed to save the character or the company from pending bankruptcy. In 1971, Antelo would enter talks with the Ottoman-based Incredible Tales and Camp Stories company, which was best known for their character the Steel Lion. Over the next two years, Incredible Tales and Camp Stories acquired Entertainment Comics, rebranding as Intrepid Comics, and Antelo shifted over to being writing for the more popular Steel Lion. Despite this, he incorporated Raffaele Meretrice into the “Cheep Chess” storyline, using him both as a natural foil to the bureaucrat-by-day Steel Lion and as a link between the two worlds.
In 1979, after eight years of lacking an independent run, Raffaele Meretrice: Insight #1 was published under the pen of the Swahili-Venetian writer Rashid Moro. With no editorial mandate for the character, Moro had Insight move from Venice to Moro’s home in Mombasa, where he had the European anarchist interact with decolonization struggles in East Africa. The 1984 storyline “Heart of Decay” is considered one of the essential Insight collections, as it features Meretrice deal with his old nemesis Lady Mare, the new villain King Saint-Fort, and his rival and occasional lover Mumtaz Makani, also known as the Cat. Though the run was famously “second on the shelves” to the “Night of the Qliphoth” storyline in Apotheosis Comics, Meretrice surged back into public consciousness with Moro’s run.
Throughout the 1990s, Meretrice was a popular comic character, with his 1994-1995 “Shadows of the Morning” storyline pitting him against a team of Ryukyuan martial artists in the African Great Lakes region. His rival, Mumtaz Makani, also received a spin-off during this time. A Mughal spy and the supposed descendant of Mumtaz Mahal, the Cat, as she is known, possesses unbreakable bones and a degree of resistance to pain, allowing her to complete physical actions impossible for most. She combines this with her cunning, resourcefulness, and beauty to promote the interests of her spy ring, the fictional Directorate of Intelligence, around the world. The Cat became a popular series in the 1990s and 2000s, with the “Burned and Condemned” storyline of the early 2000s seeing her disposed of by the DoI, left for dead, and ultimately gaining revenge on them.
In 1996, Intrepid Comics editorial received overwhelming fan pressure to honor John Markopoulos's contributions to the character of Raffaele Meretrice. Markopoulos had died in 1979, and in 1995 his wife Doria Markopoulos, while hospitalized, reached out to the company to inquire if there was any way to put his name on a comic before her own death. Though Doria died before an agreement was reached, John and Doria's daughter Elena Markopoulos settled out of court with Intrepid Comics for an undisclosed amount of money and an agreement to include "Created by Gene Eisenbury and John Markopoulos" on all future media featuring the character. Silvestre Antelo, who had since retired, voiced public support for the cause.
Idaho Man -- a potato farmer by day, he received superabilities by drinking tap water laced with frakking chemicals. Now possessing the power of fire, he uses his talents to fight those who would destroy Idado!
Idaho Man -- a potato farmer by day, he received superabilities by drinking tap water laced with frakking chemicals. Now possessing the power of fire, he uses his talents to fight those who would destroy Idaho!
Born in Paris, French Empire in 1944, born under occupation by the Holy Roman Reich, as his parents fought with the Loyal Bonapartist faction of the French Resistance. He would lose both his parents when the Iron Hand, the his Secret Society, called Chimera, after cooping the Holy Roman Empire, and his Chancellor. Chimera were defeated by an allied attack, by the USA, the Russian Empire, and British Imperial Commonwealth. attacked their secret base near the Capital, Germania, where The Eagle would disappear in a plane.
After the War, Napoleon went to an orphanage, living their for 18 years, before joining the Imperial French Foreign Legion, and stationed in the Barbary Coast. He would fight for 10 years, before joining the Service de Documentation Extérieure et de Contre-Espionnage. This is where he would meet his Mentor, a mysterious figure, called the Father. Both of them would start the L.E.G.I.O.N. a espionage, and counter-terrorism agency. After working for nearly 2 decades, the Father passed the mental of Grand Director of L.E.G.I.O.N to Napoleon Fevre.
In the early 1980s, L.E.G.I.O.N would come to contact with amnesiac Ming Woman, Liu Biyu, also known as Lady Dragon, discovered later to be a Ming Pilot, who disappeared during a flight test in the 1960s. They both find out that Lady Dragon was attacked and adducted by Martians, and in the incident, Liu Biyu was affected by Martian Radiation, giving her superpowers. They will stop the Martian plot to take over Earth, but Napoleon would lose his eye to a laser bolt. Lady Dragon would go back to space, to defeat the Martian threat once and for all, but gives Fevre a communicator, in case of he Lady Dragon's help.
Later in the 1990s, Fevre start the Defenders Initiative, a group of super individuals from all parts of the Earth. One of the first people he recruits, is Natalie Bisset, also known as the Spinnerette. When The Eagle returned from a time portal, he also joined. The Defenders would have superheroes from all over the world, such places as the Aztec Empire, the Mughal Empire, Holy Roman Empire, the Oda Shogunate, Ming China, British Imperial Commonwealth, the Russian Empire, the Confederate States of America, the USA, Gran Colombia, United Provinces of Rio de la Plata, Kemet, and the Mali Empire. With all these Hero combined, the Defenders protect the world from all threats.
An American superhero team published by Mutual Entertainment, an American production company and publishing house, the Metsuke were originally created by author Jordan Bethel in 1986. Created in response to the growing popularity of European publishers such as Intrepid Comics (known for such characters as the Steel Lion and Apotheosis) and Infinity Publishing (best known for the ubiquitous Lighting Bolts, the forefront of 1970s science fantasy), the Metsuke were branded as a uniquely American group of characters intended to reflect a more realistic, down-to-earth take on the medium. The Metsuke are considered some of the first comic characters to utilize the secret identities of the characters as sources of storylines, most notably the use of Hollywood politicking as a consistent plot hook in many Metsuke stories.
The Metsuke are traditionally a team of five heroes working in Los Angeles, California. The original stable of characters included Sasha Slate “the White Dragon” and Dylan Obregón “Noir,” two characters created by Bethel to be the centerpieces of the new group. The “80s Metsuke,” written from 1986 to 1995, featured Slate and Obregón alongside older characters with flagging readerships, Cedric Galaine “Pendragon,” Charlotte Tillman “Salem,” and Spencer Roberts “Peregrin.” After a successful 12-issue run from 1986 to 1987, Bethel successfully pitched an extended series in which each character would have a 12-issue “centerpiece,” with each character’s story taking inspiration from a different film genre. Bethel got approval for this project, which began in 1988.
Bethel, working with artist Amber Garrett, began the cycle with the 1988-1990 Metsuke: Noir run. Focusing on Dylan Obregón, a man born in the “little Hollywood” of American Havana, the run saw major success, with many praising the more serious portrayal of mob activity and street crime in Los Angeles and within the film industry. During this run, Obregón acquired a love interest in Gisele Gallart, an Afro-Cajun woman from Rochambeau, Missouri whose genius intellect matched her desire for stardom. The success of Metsuke: Noir rolled into the 1990-1992 run of Metsuke: White Dragon, now focusing on Sasha Slate, a Russian-descended woman from New Sebastapol, Washington. Turning from the “Glitz Noir” of the prior series, Metsuke: White Dragon dove into direct crime drama.
The continued success of the Metsuke brand led to serious discussion of a film adaptation in the mid-1990s. A film was nearly produced which would have starred major star Justin Kimball as Spencer Roberts “Peregrin”, a move intended to line up the film with the next wave of Metsuke releases. While the film was never made, Mutual editorial had Garrett begin to draw Peregrin to look like Kimball, which was taken to court following the film’s cancellation. This resulted in Metsuke: Peregrin ending after only three issues, and the entire line being put on hold. In 1994, the line picked back up, with Metsuke: Pendragon running through to 1995, where the overarching story was wrapped up.
Bethel and Garrett moved on from Mutual shortly afterwords, leading to a period of retirement for the Metsuke brand. In 1997, however, George Zellinger revived the franchise, pitching it as another chance for the revival of flagging characters. The “90s Metsuke” consisted of White Dragon and Noir returning, while Salem and Pendragon had been spun off into their own line and Peregrin had been cut from publication. The new team added Isma’il “Izzy” Khoja “Moonshadow,” a Uighur-American martial artist from Imperial City, California, Jordan Middlemost “Tighthead,” a Gullah man from Commodore, South Carolina, and Tyler Cooke “Transcendental,” a half-Comanche man from Fort Crockett, Texas. The 90s Metsuke placed a major emphasis on the multicultural aspect of the team, as well as placing a new emphasis on the members as martial artists.
Zellinger’s run on Metsuke lasted from 1997 to 2004, during which time he consciously imitated eastern martial arts movies in both art style and story structure, moving away from the tightly-plotted crime dramas which had dominated the Bethel and Garrett era. This era, however, never achieved the popularity of the 80s Metsuke, in large part due to the success of the “New Arthurians” line Mutual Entertainment was running simultaneously, which included Metsuke alumni Pendragon and Salem. In 2001, Mutual forced Zellinger to write Tighthead out of the Metsuke, whereupon he would take up the role of “the Friar” in the New Arthurians line.
The 90s Metsuke would conclude with the “Reality Trap” crossover event Mutual Entertainment conducted from 2005-2006, which involved a total reset of the universe’s status quo. Zellinger and Bethel would both contribute to the writing of this crossover, which included a fan-favorite issue “Recriminations” in which the 80s Metsuke and 90s Metsuke (save Peregrin, who was replaced with Noir’s short-lived love interest Gisele Gallart “Starlet”) would unite for a mission into a pocket dimension. The positive reception to this issue, however, convinced Mutual Entertainment that the characters involved had potential as individual lines, and following the end of “Reality Trap,” Noir, the White Dragon and Moonshadow, and Transcendental would spin off to become independent runs.
In the late 2000s, Mutual Entertainment would face severe financial woes after the major box office failures of their first three comic-to-film adaptations, The Rocketeers (2007), Pendragon (2009), and The Rocketeers: Resurrection (2009). The number of active comic lines published by Mutual dropped from roughly 50 to 14, which included all former Metsuke characters. Writer Ava Ali was brought on to head a new run of Metsuke. Despite the blessing of Jordan Bethel, however, the announcement triggered backlash amongst the community, largely due to an existing distrust of Mutual Editorial following the 2007-2009 period, the decision to make the “new Metsuke” a continuity reboot rather than a continuation, and in some circles, due to Ali’s ethnicity and gender.
The “Teens Metsuke,” as the new team came to be known, included the return of the White Dragon, Moonshadow, and Noir, all of whom had come to be considered core members of the team. They were joined by Salem, who was returning to the team for the first time since 1995, and Starlet, who was promoted to a full-time member of the team. In face of the early backlash, the Metsuke under Ali developed a sizable fanbase largely of younger readers, in comparison to the older fanbases of more established characters, most notably the New Arthurians, who were favored by readers who first discovered them in the 1990s. Mutual Editorial took note of this internal rivalry and integrated some of it into the 2013 story “Arthurians vs. Metsuke,” which pitted the two organizations against one another.
Much of Ali’s 2010-2017 run on the Metsuke involved a return to the grounded, crime-driven fiction of the Bethel days. One distinct element of the Teens Metsuke, however, was the integration of detective fiction, which played a large role in many of her stories. Fans and detractors of the Teens Metsuke would come to know it as the least action-heavy period in the series’s history, and indeed one of the least action-heavy superhero comics of the day.
In 2017, the Ali left active writing on Metsuke to head the writer’s room for the new streaming-TV Metsuke show. The series received critical acclaim, and went on to spawn eight additional seasons of TV - three seasons of “Metsuke,” two seasons of “Metsuke: White Dragon,” two seasons of “Metsuke: Salem,” and one season each of “Metsuke: Noir” and “Metsuke: Moonshadow.” Ali was replaced as head writer of the comic with Kieran Willis, her protege at Mutual Entertainment. Some have dubbed Willis’s run as the “20s Metsuke,” although his work from 2017-2019 included the same core cast as Ali’s Teens Metsuke. In November of 2019, Mutual Entertainment announced a new run of comics “Noir and Starlet,” presumably indicating their departure from the Metsuke. As of February 2020, Willis has confirmed that the Metsuke will remain a team of five, and that Peregrin, whose character has been retired by Mutual Editorial, will not be returning to the team.
Originally from the Russian colony-turned American city of New Sebastapol, Washington, Sasha Slate was a prodigy martial artist as a child, touring around the world in junior competitions. While in a competition in Moscow, however, her mother offended a Russian crime lord, who had their private plane shot down while it was over the Russian Far East. Sasha, only eleven, survived the crash, and was found by a small village of native Siberians, who took her in. While there, Sasha learned an ancient martial art from the region, the Dance of the White Dragon, of which she soon became the sole keeper. At eighteen, Sasha returned to New Sebastapol, and soon moved on to Los Angeles, where she found employment in the local immigration office as a translator, given her flawless knowledge of both Russian and Mandarin. By night, she is the White Dragon, and known as one of the greatest martial artists in the world. Izzy Khoja once noted, after fighting with her, that her style "conceals her chi," making it difficult for others to match the flow of her movements. Khoja also noted that, while the two had seemed evenly matched, had the fight continued he doubted he could have continued to keep up with her. Sasha is considered a core member of the Metsuke.
The son of a Havana woman and an American movie star living it up in the "little Hollywood" of American Cuba, Dylan Obregón was born with a natural charisma. Even as a child, he was more than capable of charming teachers, classmates, and friends. He was also, however, highly empathetic, and resented the bullies he saw around him, often trying to defend weaker and less popular classmates. As an adult, Dylan moved to Los Angeles to work in the film industry, where he discovered two things. The first is that his talents went beyond charisma; he had perfect recall of people's voices and mannerisms, allowing him to imitate nearly anyone he wanted to. Secondly, he realized that this recall included fighting. While he had not trained himself and had much to learn, he was naturally predisposed to matching and countering the fighting styles of his enemies. When his best friend, Juan Guerritez, was brutally beaten by the mob, Dylan took up the name of Noir and began his own crusade for justice. Dylan and Sasha were the founding members of the Metsuke, and Dylan is considered a core member of the group.
80s Metsuke (1986-1995)
Born in the old colonial town of Caerleon, North Carolina, Cedric was sent at a young age to a boarding school in England, where he was a prodigious student, and learned fencing in his free time. While returning to his hometown, Cedric found the frequent mists of the town to part briefly, whereupon a mystical lady emerged from the water and informed him that his destiny was at hand. Presenting him with a sword, Excalinarian, the Lady told him that he was the next in line to be the Pendragon, a warrior against rampage and ruin. Cedric would be an early member of the Metsuke, but would soon spin off into a central character of the "New Arthurians."
80s Metsuke (1986-1995)
Teens Metsuke (2010-2019)
An orphan raised in the coastal Maine town of New Swansea, Charlotte Tillman was a reserved, haunted young girl who seemed to see terror in every shadow. Her caretakers, up until she was in her mid-teens, feared that Charlotte would ultimately need to be confined to a mental hospital. However, Charlotte soon found peace; her caretakers couldn't explain it. In truth, Charlotte had learned astral projection, allowing her unrestricted ability to survey the area around her without fear of harm. After using her powers for selfish purposes for several years, however, Charlotte was frightened by the appearance of a demon in the astral plain, offering her to train her as a demon-summoner. Realizing her dark path, Charlotte fled New Swansea, determined to use her powers only for good. Charlotte was a founding member of the Metsuke, and later left with Cedric to form the New Arthurians. Salem later returned to the Metsuke, with the source of her powers having been changed for the 2010 reboot to no longer relate to the mythology of the New Arthurians.
80s Metsuke (1986-1993)
A farm boy raised outside of Siegel, Montana, Spencer Roberts spent much of his early life wishing he were anywhere else. He eventually got out of his hometown by working as a boxer, which disappointed his parents. Traveling around the country, however, Spencer wished he could fly away, and be anywhere else. To that end, he developed a wingsuit, which would allow him to glide around, and a grappling hook, to help him ascend in the first place. The initial thrill of this invention soon wore off, however, and he needed something new to bring that rush he so craved. Combining his boxing and flight, he began to fight crime as Peregrin. Spencer was a founding member of the Metsuke, but retired after a legal issue in 1993.
A Uighur-American first generation immigrant, Izzy Khoja was born in Imperial City, California, amongst the many groups of East Asian immigrants in the city. While triads of Cantonese, Korean, Filipino, Uighur, and Hawaiian immigrants would cause violence between these communities, Izzy also grew up amongst the strong ties in these communities, often going from one neighborhood to the next, and becoming an excellent cook in the process. He also learned a variety of martial arts, often a smattering of lessons from one style or another, blended and bent on the streets. As he got older, Izzy became known as a top-notch fighter, and was pressured into joining a local Uighur triad. On his first night, however, he was asked to kill an old Hawaiian couple he knew, and refused to, forcing him to go on the run from Imperial City. He wound up in China, where he trained more strictly, and learned the ability to sense one's chi - thus allowing him to dictate the flow of his opponents in a fight. He eventually returned to California to clean up crime.
90s Metsuke (1997-2001)
Born in the major city of Commodore, South Carolina, Jordam Middlemost was known for most of his life as a phenomenal rugby player. On his school's team, Middlemost lead the way to a state championship and a college scholarship. Unbeknownst to anyone, however, he had an ability to manipulate the vertigo in others, allowing him to throw opponents off-balance, to his and his team's advantage. In college, this ability proved his undoing, and although nobody could prove how, it was assumed he was cheating, and he was kicked out of school. Wandering the country, Middlemost ran out of money, and prepared to begin a life of crime, when he, by chance, met a hitchhiker on the side of the road in California. The man was trying to get to Imperial City, where he hoped to right his past wrongs and fight crime. Middlemost confessed his life story and future plans to the hitchhiker, Izzy Khoja, and the two agreed to help one another out. The tow formed a partnership, and when they later met Sasha and Dylan, joined the Metsuke. Middlemost exploded in popularity in the late 1990s, and it was later revealed that his powers came from his fey heritage, leading to his abandoning of the title "Tighthead" (a reference to his rugby days) and becoming "the Friar," a member of the New Arthurians.
The oldest character to be a member of the Metsuke, Tyler Cooke was first created in the 1960s as a "Neo-Transcendentalist Hero" from Fort Crockett, Texas. Tyler had the "power of negation," which would allow him to prevent harm and turn enemies' momentum against themselves. After years of flagging sales, Cooke bounced around from book to book, including a run in the Metsuke.
Teens Metsuke (2010-2019)
Born in an Afro-Cajun family in the old French colony of Rochambeau, Missouri, Gisele Gallart knew from an early age that she was intelligent. A precocious child, Gisele knew that she wanted to go to Hollywood and become a star there, but her parents forced her to temper her dreams of stardom with a good education. A natural intelligence, Gisele soon mastered electrical engineering, chemistry, and physics, as well as the ability to pattern her whole look after big movie stars from the 1940s. She ended up in Hollywood, where she fell naturally into the social life of Hollywood, and began dating fellow rising star Dylan Obregón. When a group of thugs, thinking they could take the two hostage to turn them against the mysterious Noir (unbeknownst to them, Obregón himself), Gisele revealed the invisible wires she's run up her hands, allowing her to discharge electrical pulses from her palms. Though she and Dylan later broke up, she remained a supporting member of the Metsuke's cast, using her genius intellect and skill as a fighter to help. She later quit the life of a Hollywood starlet to become Chief of Police in Los Angeles, where she would work by day as a cop and by night a vigilante. After many years, she would become a core member of the Metsuke.