In the Marvel Universe crime doesn’t just occur on the streets or in secret super villain lairs. It’s also perpetrated in board rooms and offices by greedy and unscrupulous businessmen, though this type of crime usually goes unnoticed by most of Marvel’s costumed heroes.
There is one Marvel character who has declared war on corporate villainy. His name is Doctor Elias Wirtham, and when his brother was killed by corporate greed, Wirtham replaced his own heart with a beta particle reactor allowing him to energize his speed and strength to super human level and fire blasts of energy. Wirtham uses these abilities in his guise as Cardiac, a ruthless vigilante bent on taking down greedy businessmen who make a profit off of misery and carnage.
Cardiac sees himself as a hero, but unlike many of the Marvel U’s protectors he’s ready, willing and able to kill criminals who get in his way. This stance has brought him into conflict with Spider-Man on several occasions. On June 15th, Cardiac will be drawn into a different kind of conflict in a short story appearing in issue #3 of the anthology miniseries “Fear Itself: The Home Front.” CBR News spoke with writer Ben McCool about the story and what it was like writing the fondly remembered fan-favorite character amidst the backdrop of the larger “Fear Itself” event.
CBR News: Ben, I remember when David Michelinie and Erik Larsen introduced Cardiac in the ’90s. He was a really interesting character, but in recent years he’s become kind of obscure. If my research is correct he’s only appeared once since the ’90s, in a 2005 issue of “Marvel Team-Up,” so in a way you’re sort of reintroducing the character to Marvel readers. What made that an appealing assignment for you? What elements of the character do you find most interesting?
Ben McCool: It’s fair to say that Cardiac’s been somewhat elusive of late, and that was definitely an appealing factor in using him. I love the idea of this crazed vigilante taking down white-collar villains, seeking vengeance for the needless death of his brother, who died as a direct result of corporate malpractice. Cardiac is like a suit-and-tie-hunting Punisher!
Much has happened in the Marvel U since Cardiac’s last appearance. Will you have time to address how recent events have affected him? Is he still at war with corporate criminals? Or has his mission changed at all?
His original mission is still very much intact, although this particular story offers a fresh dilemma — one that poses Cardiac questions about his agenda, his dedication to it, and his conscience. Being a self-contained short story, there isn’t really much of an opportunity to fill in the blanks of the past few years, but he’s still the Cardiac readers from way back when will remember.
What can you tell us about the dilemma that arises in this story?
In the midst of the madness that is “Fear Itself,” Cardiac comes across a disturbing scene in the middle of an NYC street: a bunch of rioters have attacked and overturned a car that was en route to the hospital, a desperately sick young boy inside. Initially leaping in to help, Cardiac notices that one of the other passengers — the boy’s father — is somebody that he recognizes; a corporate fat cat that he’s wanted to take out for a very long time. A moral dilemma ensues: does the sick boy in desperate need of help come first, or does he too warrant punishment, guilty by association with his father? And that’s when matters get really out of hand.
Interesting. Do things get out of hand because a villain or some other adversary shows up? Or is this the kind of story that didn’t really need an antagonist in the traditional sense of the word?
As mentioned earlier, Cardiac’s been thrust into a position where helping a young boy inherently means assisting the enemy. Does he go through with this, or does the vigilante stick to his revenge-filled principals? I think this is a very interesting conflict to impose upon a character, and his response to it increases the stakes further.
How would you describe the tone of your story?
Well, it’s definitely very bleak! There’s a real noir feel to the story, mirroring exactly Cardiac’s thought process in regard to the situation he’s faced with.
Who is the artist that’s bringing this morally gray tale to life?
I’m lucky enough to have fully painted art on the story by Mike Del Mundo, and he’s absolutely nailed the tone, mood and feel of the story. I can’t wait for everybody to see it!
As you mentioned, this is a self-contained story. If people respond to it would you like revisit the character?
Oh, without doubt! I always enjoy stories featuring characters whose participation in a given universe is less frequent, and to develop a character like Cardiac further would be an absolute treat. What would his outlook be on the current Marvel Universe? Who are his major targets in the present day? Have his goals changed, or is he as vicious — and creative — in his acts of vigilantism as ever? With a bit of luck readers will enjoy what we’ve put together here and then we’ll see what happens!