Armagideon Time

When it comes to hobbies which lend themselves to effective supervillainy, plague the art of juggling is right down there next to philately and marigold cultivation. It’s not that I’m impugning the quick-thinking and manual dexterity of juggling enthusiasts, it’s just that it’s difficult to perceive an appropriate aura of menace from something I reflexively associate with that one Montessori school alum in my college Dungeons and Dragons group.

However, this high hurdle for hearty heinousness did stop the late great Mark Gruenwald from gracing the Marvel Universe with an entire team of prop-tossing ne’er-do-wells otherwise known as…

…the diabolical Death-Throws.

The group debuted in Captain America #317 (May 1986), as part of an unasked-for epilogue to Gruenwald’s Hawkeye miniseries from a few years prior. Just as Crossfire (the fifth-tier mastermind who served as Clint Barton’s nemesis in the earlier tale) was about to stand trial for his misdeeds, his former henchmen Oddball (juggles balls) and Bombshell (juggles bombs) bring in Ringleader (juggles rings), Tenpin (juggles bowling pins), and Knickknack (juggles random crap) to spring their former boss.

Though Gruenwald would later flesh out the backstory of the Death-Throws in excruciatingly convoluted detail, I think he really dropped the ball (HA!) by not using the group’s introduction as a springboard for a Blues Brothers-ean “getting the band back together” montage — Oddball and Bombshell showing up in full costume at a ren faire/adult education class/kid’s birthday party, guilting their psuedo-contented pals into making the leap into full-time supervillainy. “Are you really happy doing kids parties? You could be tossing bowling pins at Thor!”

(Call me, Marvel. We can make this happen.)

In any case, the Death-Throws’ grand plan ran into a snag when Crossfire confessed he’d sunk his entire fortune into a the mind-controlling funeral parlor organ that was the centerpiece of his previous wrecked scheme, and would be unable to cover his liberators’ expenses. The Throws expressed their anger at this revelation by subjecting Crossfire to the unparalleled horrors of…


The Death-Throws offered to ransom Crossfire to Hawkeye, in hopes a bagging a slightly more profitable hostage. Captain America agreed to Hawkeye’s plus-one for the exchange. The two heroes decided to switch weapons before walking into the obvious trap (purportedly for “tactical reasons” but more likely to add a mild element of challenge to the routine z-list villain beatdown to follow).

The Death-Throws went all out, but there was really only so much their limited skillset could accomplish against guys who stomp Absorbing Man and Kang on the reg. Such is the sad truth of juggling — it rarely impresses the spectators as much as it does the practitioners themselves.

Despite their initial setback, the Death-Throws did go on to pursue a modest career propelled by their creator’s love of recursive continuity and subsequent writers’ post-ironic affection for high-concept obscurities.

They reside still at the margins of Marvel’s shared universe. Should you need a variety of objects thrown for nefarious purposes and Bullseye is too pricey for your discretionary villainy budget, just leave a message at the Chautauqua hall of Nobody’s Favorites and the Death-Throws might help you.

Or they’ll get defeated by Squirrel Girl inside thirty seconds. You get what you pay for, after all.

10 Responses to “Nobody’s Favorites: Juggle? No.”

  1. Tracer Bullet

    Heh. “Juggles balls.”

  2. Rex Kidd

    I think Tenpin is the real loser here, or the biggest lamewad of the bunch. Bowling pins, jeez.

  3. Crowded House

    “In any case, the Death-Throws’ grand plan ran into a snag when Crossfire confessed he’d sunk his entire fortune into a the mind-controlling funeral parlor organ that was the centerpiece of his previous wrecked scheme”

    You can’t be serious, yet I know you must be, because only comics could come up with something this magnificently moronic.

  4. bitterandrew

    Crossfire’s plan was to lure Hawkeye in with a plush job (the Cross Technologies gig he had circa Avengers #200), then murder him so all the Marvel heroes would show up at Clint’s funeral.

    Once they were gathered at the wake, the hypno-organ would make the heroes go into a homicidal rage and kill each other. Those who survived would be shamed into retiring.

    Simplicity at its finest.

  5. Crowded House

    Oh, of course. It’s rather obvious in retrospect. I don’t know how I didn’t see it coming.

  6. LouReedRichards

    I have a slight affection for them. They appeared in The Deluxe Handbook of The Marvel Universe #3 which is still a favorite comic, (if you can call it that) mostly for nostalgia reasons. It’s the same reason I have a fondness for a lot of dopey characters. I may not have ever had an actual appearance by a certain character, but if they were in the Handbook or Who’s Who I usually felt some connection to the them. It’s scary how well the marketing motive behind those books worked.

    I do own the Captain America comic they appear in and yeah, like most of Gruenwald’s run, it sucks.

    Also: Damn the coloring/separations on Cap’s book was god-awful at that time.

  7. damanoid

    “Mind-controlling funeral parlor organ”– Heh, heh. Yeah, that’s what I call it…

    Mainly because of the lifelessness. Also the weeping and regrets. So many regrets…

  8. athodyd

    “presumably deserted warehouse”

    I was actually presuming that it was still an operational warehouse that just didn’t have people working in it that often because I was hoping the climactic battle would be interrupted by a dozen baffled guys with pallet jacks.

  9. Maxbenign

    “A direct violation of the Lake Geneva Amateur Performing Arts Convention.”

    Ssshlol, good one.

  10. Johnny Utah

    Its been a while since I read that Hawkeye limited series. But if memory serves, in the midst of a fight with Oddball, doesn’t Hawkeye wax poetic about the sad state of his rogue’s gallery?
    And even better, briefly consider Oddball being good arch-enemy material?
    Just how would that work?

    Hawkeye- So… um… like, are you, well… um…what I’m trying to ask is well-
    Oddball- Dude are you trying to get in my pants?
    Hawkeye- What the hell man? No way! I was wondering if you wanted to be my arch enemy.
    Oddball- Whew. I was scared for a minute there. Sure. We can be arch enemies. I was thinking about going after Starfox but hadn’t really made up my mind yet. You do realize this means I’m going to have to kill your family.
    Hawkeye- D’oh!

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