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The first Death-Stalker was Philip Wallace Sterling. An enemy of Daredevil, he first appeared as the Exterminator in Daredevil #39 (April 1968); he first appeared as the Death-Stalker in Daredevil #113 (September 1974).
Fictional character biography
|First appearance||(as The Exterminator) Daredevil #39 (April 1968)
(as Death-Stalker) Daredevil #113 (September 1974)
|Created by||(The Exterminator) Stan Lee, Gene Colan; (Death-Stalker), Steve Gerber, Bob Brown|
|Alter ego||Philip Wallace Sterling|
|Team affiliations||Unholy Three|
|Notable aliases||Exterminator, Death's-Head|
Death grip gloves grant ability to kill a person upon contact
Philip Wallace Sterling was born in Riverdale, Bronx, New York. He was a wealthy man prior to embarking on a career as a professional criminal. When he first appeared as the Exterminator, he recruited the Unholy Three. He constructed a "time displacer ray" ("t-ray") which could teleport its target into another dimension (possibly the Limbo from which Immortus hails). The Exterminator led the Unholy Three in a series of criminal activities and battled Daredevil. When Daredevil defeated the Exterminator and his agents, he also destroyed the t-ray, accidentally bombarding the Exterminator with its strange energy, and seemingly killing him.
Sterling found himself trapped between two dimensions, able to return to Earth at will but only for a few hours at a time; furthermore, the mutation caused his skin to become chalk-white. He stole a pair of gloves from AIM that gave him a "death-grip," and began calling himself "Death-Stalker." He tried several times to kill Daredevil and build a new t-ray machine, but most of his battles with Daredevil ended in a draw.
He was allied with Gladiator against Daredevil. The Death-Stalker traveled to the Florida Everglades in search of papers relating to Ted Sallis's experiments, and encountered the Man-Thing. He later stole a set of ancient Lemurian mirror lenses from various museums, and used them to create a powerful gun in order to destroy Daredevil. However, Daredevil destroyed the gun, and in the midst of their battle, Death-Stalker was mysteriously discorporated by the Sky-Walker. He reappeared in a third costumed guise as the new Death's-Head, gifting an enforcer called Smasher with super-human powers, and kidnapping Karen Page in order to force her to give him the original Death's Head's research. He was defeated by Daredevil and the Ghost Rider, killing Smasher with his touch during the battle.
Sterling resumed the Death-Stalker identity, and assembled a large gathering of criminals to take part in an undisclosed theft, presumably of T-Ray components. Daredevil found out about the gathering, and in the resulting confrontation Death-Stalker touched (and thus killed) one of his underlings, frightening the others away. Seeing no point in battling Daredevil at this time, he teleported away. Angered at this latest interference with his plans, he created another Smasher and sent him to kill Daredevil. The new Smasher failed, and Daredevil refused to imprison him, knowing that Death-Stalker would have entered the prison and killed him for his failure. Turning to a new plan, he stole a newly developed scientific apparatus from Stark International.
Death-Stalker attempted to kill Daredevil while the crime-fighter was hospitalized, but was stopped by the Avengers. He created a new Unholy Three and had them kidnap Matt Murdock, whose secret identity as Daredevil he had learned by observation from between dimensions. Daredevil was taken to St. Stephens Cemetery, and there, Death-Stalker killed the Unholy Three and attacked Daredevil. Unable to overcome Death-Stalker's superior abilities, Daredevil knocked out the nearby street light, thus enclosing the cemetery in darkness. Fighting blindly, Death-Stalker dematerialized, unknowingly fell into a tombstone, and materialized while his waist was still intersecting with the tombstone. The impact cut Death-Stalker in half, killing him instantly.
Death-Stalker (Villains for Hire)
A new Death-Stalker appeared in the first issue of "Villains for Hire" (the villain counterpart of Heroes for Hire). This Death-Stalker's true identity is unknown. She is among the villains hired by Purple Man to help him start his new criminal empire. Death-Stalker was almost shot in the head by Crossbones and shrugs to him by stating "you can't kill what is already dead." Death-Stalker later survives the explosion of the boat she was on.
Powers and abilities
Accidental exposure to an overdose of "T-radiation" altered Sterling's physiology, making it so that he normally existed in a dimension congruent to Earth. While in this realm, he could watch and listen to events on Earth without being observed from Earth by any means. By willing himself to do so, he could shift into the Earth dimension to varying degrees. He could become visible, but intangible, or visible and tangible as he desired. He could shift from one state to the other instantaneously. Also, while completely in his interdimensional state, he could cover distances more rapidly, enabling him to disappear from one Earth location and reappear at another far sooner than if he had traversed that same distance on Earth. The Death-Stalker could not continuously manifest in the dimension of Earth for more than several hours at a time. His "cybernetic death-grip" device, stolen from AIM, was worn in his gloves, which emitted a dose of microwave radiation when activated by mental command, crippling or killing (depending on the duration of contact) any living creature in contact with it. This self-described "touch of death" energy has been described as microwaves, but seems to have properties of both lightning and truly intense cold. The Death-Stalker, however, had to materialize tangibly, and in full, on Earth for the device to be effective -- a "lone weakness" which Daredevil learned he could exploit to attack Sterling. All in all, Philip Wallace Sterling was a brilliant criminal mastermind—running a global "espionage syndicate"--in addition to being an accomplished inventor and scientist with extensive knowledge of advanced scientific apparatus.
The second Death-Stalker can teleport and has a microwave "death grip."
- Daredevil #39-41
- Daredevil #113
- Daredevil #113-115
- Daredevil Vol. 1 #128
- Daredevil Vol. 1 #138; Ghost Rider Vol. 1 #20
- Daredevil Vol. 1 #148
- Daredevil Vol. 1 #149
- Daredevil Vol. 1 #152
- Daredevil Vol. 1 #156-157
- Daredevil Vol. 1 #158
- Villains for Hire #1
- Death-Stalker at the Appendix to the Handbook of the Marvel Universe