Slightly Misplaced Comics Hero Case Files #16: Triathlon

He's the new pushy hero nobody was waiting for!
He’s the new pushy hero nobody was waiting for!

Kurt Busiek and George Perez had a fairly epic run on The Avengers starting in the late 90s.  They had the team take on Ultron and Kang.  They had a mix of old and new characters.  They made Carol Danvers interesting (yes, Jenny, I said it, and she’s been interesting ever since).  There was beautiful artwork, stories that showed great understanding for everyone on the team, and a silent issue where Washington D.C. got destroyed, but the Avengers managed to get George W. Bush out, and only George W. Bush out, before everything went boom.  I did not make that up.

They also put a new character named Triathlon on the team, and he was fairly lame.  I only recently learned why.

See, Triathlon was supposed to be some sort of Scientologist.

OK, not quite.

See, Busiek wanted to do something, sort of, with Scientology, but he didn’t know much about them at the time he started his Avengers run, but thought it would make for a good story.  So, he created a thinly-veiled version of the Church called the Triune Understanding.  What may be most noteworthy about the Triunes is that, aside from the group’s founder, the everyday members were largely treated as decent folks worthy of empathy.  The group as a whole wasn’t really full of sinister minions.  Even when the founder’s diabolical intentions were discovered, that still did not get Triathlon kicked off the team.  He was innocent, and even willing to continue to help out the Avengers.

But I really didn’t make that connection until recently after reading an article on Slate detailing the Avengers’ battle with Scientology.  I just knew Triathlon was kinda lame.

Here’s what I did know:  former Olympic athlete Delroy Garret was stripped of his medals after testing positive for steroids.  He was bummed out until he found the Triune Understanding, which did…something to him and unleashed his superpowers.

What superpowers were they by any chance?  He was three times stronger and faster than a human being in peak physical condition.

Wow.  A whopping three times.

Who else was on the team at the time?

Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Wasp, Hank Pym, Scarlet Witch, Wonder Man, Vision, Justice, Firestar, Warbird (Carol Danvers to you, Jenny), and Hawkeye.  And given Busiek always uses Hawkeye, its worth noting he writes a really good Hawkeye.  This line-up is also known as a whole lot of characters more interesting than Triathlon.

So, with a line-up like that, and an author willing and able to pull in any Avenger as needed, why did they need a guy who just was three times better than a regular person?

That’s a good question.  Maybe it was for his fashion sense.

Nope.
Nope.

I will give the character this much credit:  he was an African-American, but that rarely came into play with the guy.  That was the sort of thing past comics creators had been trying to get done for years, but as seen with the Tyroc entry, that wasn’t always permitted.  Triathlon was a hero who just happened to be black.

Except, being black is sort of how he got on the team to begin with.  Protestors appeared and demanded more racial inclusion amongst the Avengers, and Triathlon must have been the first black guy they could find.

All these guys were busy.
All these folks were busy.

So, he joined the team and wouldn’t stop going on about how awesome the Triune Understanding was.  I’m sure everyone knows somebody like that.

It probably didn’t help that the Triunes were obviously being set up as bad guys, and rather lame ones at that.  Seriously, this was an Avengers team that battled the Squadron Supreme, the Supreme Intelligence, a town full of Hulks, a team of Juggernaut types,  motherluvin’ Kang, Carol’s alcoholism, and Ultron.  How threatening is a group where most of the membership are well-meaning folks looking to improve their lives?

Triathlon’s story unfolded over four years, and when it was finally discovered that the head of his group was evil, he didn’t quit.  He just dedicated himself to helping the people left behind who weren’t evil.

Well, I see where he got his fashion sense from now.
Well, I see where he got his fashion sense from now.

Oh, and it turned out the Triunes didn’t give Triathlon his powers.  He had connections to the 3-D Man, and after that, he changed his name and developed the ability to see disguised Skrulls.

I see Skrull people.
I see Skrull people.

So, he’s the guy you call when there may be a Skrull loose.  Now why didn’t they just call the Falcon back up again?

 

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