SPOILER WARNING: This article contains spoilers for “Captain America: Sam Wilson” #15, which is on sale now.
Right at the start of Nick Spencer’s “Captain America: Sam Wilson” run, the writer surrounded the shield-carrying hero with a healthy supporting cast of heroes. Sam continued his partnership with Misty Knight, he gained an all-new Falcon in Joaquin Torres, and Steve Rogers’ old partner D-Man returned from obscurity to stand by the new Cap.
“Captain America: Sam Wilson” #15 shines a long overdue spotlight on the Demolition Man (a.k.a. Dennis Dunphy), who despite having debuted 31 years ago in “The Thing” #28, has rarely been the lead of a story. And now, decades after his debut, readers know that Demolition Man is gay.
The issue, illustrated by Angel Unzueta, follows Sam, Joaquin and Rage as they attend Unlimited Class Wrestling event, one starring D-Man back in his headlining role as the mohawk-wearing wrestler Demolition. While Dennis gets ready to return to the ring backstage, he’s comforted by his partner who kisses him on the cheek and tells him he hasn’t aged a day.
But once Demolition steps into the ring, he’s confronted by a face he didn’t want to see — and a face fans haven’t seen in quite a while. Dunphy learns he’ll be taking on Battlestar.
Lemar Hoskins debuted in 1986’s “Captain America” #323 and he soon became the sidekick of John Walker, one of the many interim Captain Americas that have held the mantle vacated by Steve Rogers. Battlestar eventually became a hero in his own right, leaving Cap behind and joining Silver Sable’s Wild Pack. But Battlestar has been M.I.A. for much of the last decade. After appearing in some “Civil War” tie-ins in 2006, he popped up in the 2012 “Marvel Zombies Destroy!” limited series — and then disappeared.
Battlestar’s comeback freaks D-Man out because prior to either of them becoming a sidekick to a Captain America, they were wrestlers with the Unlimited Class Wrestling Federation. Demolition was told to go easy on the new kid Lemar, but he changed his mind once they got in the ring; Demolition demolished the young Hoskins, ruining his wrestling career before it began. Now, D-Man figured Battlestar would get his revenge.
But the match was interrupted once the wrestling heroes noticed that the event promoter and some shady wrestlers were in secret making off with all the cash raised by the event, cash that was supposed to go to charity. Battlestar and D-Man turned their attention to the thieves, and teamed up to stop them.
After thwarting the robbery attempt, D-Man’s friends and partner congratulated him.
Dennis even made amends with Battlestar, who said he only showed up to wrestle in order to give the audience a good show and raise more money for kids in need — no hard feelings, at all. Dennis’ story concludes with him and his partner, cuddled up on the couch watching television.
This look at D-Man’s personal life comes decades after his debut and his first meet-up with Steve Rogers back in 1987’s “Captain America” #328. That issue, written by Mark Gruenwald with art by Paul Neary, features a number of parallels to the current “Sam Wilson” issue. For one thing, it takes place at the HQ of the UWCF — an organization that’s been around quite a while despite not showing up in a comic for years.
There’s even a bit of (most likely unintended) gay subtext between Dunphy and Rogers, as Demolition asks if Cap wants to take a shower pretty much right away.
While they shower in adjacent stalls, Dunphy runs through his origin: he was a high school football player that didn’t go pro, so he took an experimental strength augmentation treatment offered by the mysterious Power Broker. The treatment worked too well and he proved to be too strong to play sports (he destroyed every football he kicked). Like many of the Power Broker’s other subjects he joined the UCWF — which his where he’d eventually meet the Thing, who would recommend him to Captain America.
Demolition then changed his name to the more superhero sounding “D-Man” (short for Demolition Man), and he threw together a supersuit that paired the original Daredevil costume with Wolverine’s mask.
D-Man remained one of Steve’s supporting characters until the mid ’90s, but he fell into obscurity after that. He popped up now and again, applying to be Luke Cage and Jessica Jones’ nanny, being brainwashed into being the villain Scourge, etc. None of those status quos stuck, however, until his current stint as a supporting character in “Sam Wilson.” And now, thanks to “Captain America: Sam Wilson” #15, we finally know even more about this long-lasting hero.
“Captain America: Sam Wilson” #16 arrives in stores on December 21.
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