Witness (comics)

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The Witness is the name of at least three fictional, American comic-book characters, the first published by Timely Comics in the 1940s and the final two by its successor company, Marvel Comics.

Timely Comics[edit]

The Witness
Twelve005.jpg
Promotional art for The Twelve #5, by Paolo Rivera.
Publication information
Publisher Timely Comics
First appearance Mystic Comics #7 (Dec. 1941)
Created by Stan Lee
In-story information
Team affiliations The Twelve
Notable aliases Judge, Juror, Avenger of Evil
Abilities
  • Strength
  • Speed
  • Durability
  • Energy Projection
  • Fighting Skills

Publication history[edit]

The first Witness debuted in the eight-page story "The League of Blood" in the superhero anthology series Mystic Comics #7 (Dec. 1941),[1][2] during the period fans and historians call the Golden Age of Comic Books. A costumed superhero in this incarnation, the character was created by writer Stan Lee,[3] who wrote the stories under the pen name "S.T. Anley",[1] and an unknown artist. This version of the character appeared in one story each in Mystic #7-9 (Dec. 1941 - May 1942).

Timely Comics house ad for The Witness #1 (Sept. 1948)

A Timely character called The Witness also appeared, in a different costume, as the star of the eponymous comic The Witness #1 (Sept. 1948), in three stories written by Lee and drawn variously by Ken Bald and Syd Shores, with Charles Nicholas providing the cover.[4] The Grand Comics Database lists this character as a different entity than the Mystic Comics version,[4] while Jess Nevins' "A Guide to Golden Age Marvel Characters" considers them the same man.[5] However, according to The Twelve #1, the Witness of World War II was put in suspended animation during the year 1945, suggesting that the two are in fact different characters.[6] This is further confirmed in the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe A-Z Vol. 14.[7]

This series lasted only one issue, but the character went on to narrate essentially anthological suspense stories in Ideal #4 (Jan. 1949), in a seven-page tale penciled by Gene Colan;[8] Captain America Comics #71-72 (March–May 1949); Amazing Mysteries #32 (May 1949);[9] and Marvel Mystery Comics #92 (June 1949).

Marvel announced in July 2007 that the Mystic Comics Witness would return in the 12-issue miniseries The Twelve, by writer J. Michael Straczynski and artist Chris Weston.[10][11]

Fictional character biography[edit]

The Witness is a Chicago detective who accidentally shot an innocent man in the line of duty. After serving two years in prison, he attempts to commit suicide. However, a mysterious voice tells him it is not his time, and charges him with the task of seeing a tragedy about to occur beforehand. He will then watch the impending victim for several days to judge if the person deserves saving, in which case he would either try to prevent the tragedy, or simply witness the event without becoming involved.[12]

Another incarnation of the Witness was merely a passive observer of crime and humanity's foibles, which he would report on a radio program.[13]

Other versions[edit]

The X-Men[edit]

Main article: Gambit (comics)

A character called the Witness (whose real name is LeBeau) has appeared in X-Men continuity, in XSE #4 (Feb. 1997), Bishop: The Last X-Man #3 & 14 (Dec. 1999 & Nov. 2000), and Gambit & Bishop #2-6 (April-Aug. 2001). The character is hinted to be a future version of Gambit.

New Universe[edit]

The Witness
Publication information
Publisher Marvel Comics
First appearance D.P. 7 Annual #1
Created by Mark Gruenwald
Paul Ryan
In-story information
Alter ego Nelson Kohler
Abilities Invisible and intangible, able to possess mindless bodies, able to detect other paranormals.

The Witness (Nelson Kohler) is a fictional character appearing in the comic books published by Marvel Comics, as part of the New Universe imprint. The Witness is a ghostly figure, an onlooker drawn to paranormal events.

Fictional character biography[edit]

Nelson Kohler was driving when the White Event occurred. He lost control of his car, crashed and was hospitalized, critically ill. He was later declared brain-dead and his life support system was switched off. His body died but his paranormal powers manifested, leaving him a bodiless ghost.

He felt an irresistible pull towards people who were developing paranormal powers, although he could not be seen or heard. Among those whose manifestations he witnessed were characters regularly published in the comic book DP7 (Randy O'Brien, David Landers, Stephanie Harrington, Charlotte Beck, Lenore Fenzl, Jeff Walters, and Dennis Cuzinski). He also felt drawn to the disaster known as The Pitt, after which he had strange experiences with other ghosts and other people seemed to be able to see him.

Powers and abilities[edit]

Kohler has no physical body that can be perceived by normal humans. He himself and a few paranormals can see a body, even seeing a trenchcoat and hat, but it cannot interact with the physical world. This "body", however, is capable of flight and can pass through solid objects.

Kohler is drawn to people who are manifesting paranormal powers, and witnessed the development of the people who would later become D.P. 7. He was also drawn to what became known as the "Black Event", when Ken Connell attempted to rid himself of the Star Brand and destroyed the city of Pittsburgh in the process.

When Randy O'Brien's "anti-body" first left his sleeping body, Kohler was able to take possession of O'Brien's body. The anti-body returned, however, and Kohler's morality compelled him to leave the body. The exact nature of this ability is not expanded upon; the body was not, as Kohler assumed, "empty" as O'Brien's anti-body possessed a separate will from O'Brien himself and therefore the body was not "uninhabited."

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ a b The Witness (Timely Comics) at the International Catalogue of Superheroes
  2. ^ Mystic Comics #7 at the Grand Comics Database
  3. ^ Lamiek Comiclopedia: Stan Lee
  4. ^ a b The Witness #1 at the Grand Comics Database
  5. ^ Witness at Nevins, Jess, A Guide to Golden Age Marvel Characters. WebCitation archive of latter
  6. ^ The Twelve #1
  7. ^ Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe A-Z Volume 14
  8. ^ Atlas Tales: Ideal #4
  9. ^ Amazing Mysteries #32
  10. ^ SDCC '07: Newsarama.com (no date) Marvel's The Twelve Revealed", by Chris Arrant
  11. ^ Newsarama.com (Aug. 1, 2007): "12 Days of The Twelve: The Witness", by Matt Brady
  12. ^ Mystic Comics #7 (Dec. 1941), The Twelve #5 (July 2008)
  13. ^ The Witness #1 (Sept. 1948) and other comics; see "Publication history"

References[edit]