Puppet Master (Marvel Comics)
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|First appearance||Fantastic Four #8 (Nov. 1962)|
|Created by||Stan Lee
|Full name||Phillip Masters|
Extremely talented craftsman
Ability to construct dolls with radioactive clay which to physically control people
The Puppet Master uses radioactive clay to make puppets in the likenesses of real people, whom he can then control by attaching the clay puppets to strings and moving them about. Presumably he has some sort of psionic ability that enables him to do this. He has a deep hatred of the Thing, who is romantically interested in his stepdaughter, Alicia Masters. He once tried to take over the world but was thwarted in this effort by the Fantastic Four.
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The Puppet Master's first appearance was in Fantastic Four volume 1 #8 (November 1962), and he was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. His origin was told in Marvel Team-Up volume 1 #6 (January 1973).
Fictional character biography
Phillip Masters, the man who becomes the Puppet Master, was born in in Dragorin, a town in the small fictional Balkan nation of Transia. He moved to the United States at the age of eight. Growing up he was socially maladjusted and had no friends. (According to Spider-Man Family #4, his mother died when he was young and he was often picked on, which caused him to turn to his puppets "friendship".)
After he finished college he went into business with Jacob Reiss. Philip was jealous of Reiss' wealth and of his family and decided to sabotage his workplace, but Reiss caught him in the act. The two of them break into a fight which results in an explosion that kills Reiss and blinds his daughter Alicia, who was also caught in the blast.
Phillip plays the explosion off as an accident, and then starts a relationship Reiss' wife, Marcia. He marries Marcia and adopts Alicia. Later, Marcia dies and it is more than he can bear and he loses his sanity. It is at this time that he begins experimenting with the radioactive clay puppets that he is able to use to psionically control specific individuals' bodies. Intending to exploit this talent to the fullest, he plots to take over the world. He doesn't get very far with the plan before the Fantastic Four stop him. He succeeds in capturing the Invisible Girl, and masterminds a mass jailbreak using the warden's trustee. He then falls from a window after tripping over Alicia's hand, and is thought to have died. 
But the Puppet Master survives, and months later is released from hospital. He then controls Namor, and uses him to battle the Fantastic Four. He also manages to pit the Human Torch and the Thing against each other. He also teams up with the Mad Thinker, and uses the original X-Men to battle the Fantastic Four. Teaming up again with the Thinker, who would become his frequent ally, he battls the Thing and the Torch again, using animated life-size mannequins to battle the pair.
The Puppet Master is later seen among a group of criminals assembled by Doctor Doom. He then controls Namor again. He opposes the original X-Men through the mind-controlled Mimic. He also sparks a battle between the Hulk and Namor by controlling the Hulk.
The Puppet Master next allies with the Mad Thinker and Egghead in their attempt to blackmail the U.S. He forces Iron Man to battle Captain Marvel. He again teams with the Thinker, and attacks the Fantastic Four using androids of their past foes. He controls Ballox the Monstroid, and battles Spider-Man and the Vision. With the Thinker, he battles Spider-Man and the Thing. He then forces Thor to battle the Fantastic Four. He then controls the Wrecker and Power Man. Eventually, the Puppet Master returns to his homeland, where he encounters Modred the Mystic.
With Doctor Doom, the Puppet Master traps the Fantastic Four within the miniature artificial city of "Liddleville"; their minds trapped inside tiny robot bodies. He is defeated by Doom in Liddleville  and seemed to be destroyed by Doom. But not for long. His mind is then resurrected in a body of living radioactive clay. He battles the Thing on the mental plane, and his physical clay body is destroyed. He is eventually resurrected in his original body by the Sphinx.
He was once thought to have been killed when he fell out of the window of a fairly tall building, but miraculously survived.[volume & issue needed] The Puppet Master has exhibited an uncanny ability to cheat death, dodging mortal threats that have included bomb blasts,[volume & issue needed] drownings,[volume & issue needed] and even a giant squid attack.[volume & issue needed] Liddleville would later be used against the Micronauts and X-Force.[volume & issue needed]
The jealous Puppet Master often uses his clay to manipulate the lives of the Fantastic Four, especially where his stepdaughter was concerned. He is particularly concerned with guarding his precious Alicia from marrying the likes of the Thing.[volume & issue needed] But he is later just as outraged when she is engaged to Johnny Storm, also a member of the FF.[volume & issue needed]
With the Thinker and the Wizard, Masters attempts to disrupt the wedding of the Human Torch and Alicia. The plan was to launch an attack on the church after the wedding ceremony, but when he sees how happy Alicia is to marry Johnny, Masters is overcome with remorse and turns on his associates, launching the Dragon Man against them: his wedding gift to Alicia and Johnny.
Later, Masters is reformed, remarried, and has a stepson; the toys he crafts for his son inadvertently caused a battle between Power Pack and the alien Ciegramites. He reveals to the Thing that he had discovered that the Alicia Johnny had married was actually a Skrull.
The Puppet Master has been shown on two occasions attempting to leave his (overtly) criminal life behind. In the first, he found some measure of spiritual enlightenment in the service of the billionaire philosopher/cultist Satori. Satori employs Masters to construct a "perfect man" from his clay, which would then receive life and the power cosmic from the Silver Surfer and absorb Satori's mind, so that he might survive his body's death and serve as a proper leader to his flock.[volume & issue needed] Masters at some point left this cult, and entered a S.H.I.E.L.D.-maintained witness protection program, using his abilities to aid the government through the dulling of memories of other so-protected criminals' previous associates. Masters reached out through his powers to control Ben Grimm and Alicia, duping Ben into a "married life" with his despondent daughter, whom Ben had stopped seeing years before. Ben was freed, but the Fantastic Four were prevented from taking any measure of revenge upon Masters, given his S.H.I.E.L.D. affiliation.[volume & issue needed]
The Puppet Master returned to criminal life and affiliated himself with the Mad Thinker. Utilizing a device constructed by Mad Thinker, he was able to control a large number of non-super-humans, most notably members of the Yancy Street Gang to escalate a battle between the two different factions in the superhero Civil War.[volume & issue needed]
In that same issue he reveals that he always planned to kill the person he was working with in past team-ups and that he has anger management problems. Mad Thinker gives him the number of a good therapist. This exchange seems to contradict previous interactions between the two.
The Puppet Master is then in the business of selling slaves (primarily females). Some of those under his control are superhuman females captured by members of the Chilean Army, and among those held captive are Dusk, Tigra, Silverclaw, Stature, and Araña. The Puppet Master also has random male slaves fight to the death. Once again the Puppet Master is presumed dead when he detonates explosives hidden beneath the house he used as a base, in a battle against Ms. Marvel.
During the Fear Itself storyline, Puppet Master is seen in a comatose state in the Raft's infirmary. It is revealed that Purple Man was the one who had Puppet Master manipulate Misty Knight's Heroes for Hire organization to establish a criminal organization for him while he was in jail. Before he could kill Puppet Master, Elektra and Shroud arrive and prevented Purple Man from killing Puppet Master. Purple Man spared Puppet Master and took control of some inmates to attack Elektra and Shroud before escaping from the Raft.
Puppet Master later appears by Misty Knight's side where he uses the villains on Misty Knight's side as payback on Purple Man.
Later, the Puppet Master has been murdered, with all evidence pointing to the Thing as the person responsible. The crime took place in a sealed room that even Mister Fantastic could barely enter with Alicia as the only witness, and even she cannot decipher what has happened. Although the Thing claims innocence, he allows himself to be locked up. As it turns out, the dead Puppet Master was a decoy and the real Puppet Master had been hidden away by the Quiet Man, the mastermind behind The Thing's framing and other misfortunes the Fantastic Four had suffered. Mister Fantastic later finds the real Puppet Master captive in the Quiet Man's building.
Powers and abilities
The Puppet Master has no revealed superhuman abilities, but he possesses a genius-level intellect and was once a brilliant biologist with a doctorate in biology. He is an extremely talented craftsman and very gifted in experimental science. His greatest strength was his ability to create extremely lifelike marionette puppets with extreme speed that he modeled after real people. Through intense concentration, he is able to control the physical actions of anyone after whom he models one of his puppets. How he did this was never adequately explained other than he used some type of special radioactive mixture. The clay he used in this mixture was magical, slightly radioactive, and came from a remote area near Wundagore Mountain, Transia, site of the prison of the elder god Chthon. The Puppet Master may have some type of psionic ability which complimented this process, enabling him to control his victims, although the process may be entirely the result of the magical properties of the clay. He cannot control the actions of essentially mindless creatures, and his control can be broken by beings with supremely strong will-power. His control is limited to one person at a time, and the degree of control decreases with the distance from the person controlled.
In other media
- The Puppet Master appeared in the Sub-Mariner portion of The Marvel Super Heroes.
- The Puppet Master appeared in the 1982 Incredible Hulk episode "Bruce Banner: Unmasked", voiced by Bob Holt. He gets control of the residents in Mesa City while also attempting to control the Hulk - his Hulk 'doll' even allows him to exert some slight influence over Bruce Banner, although Banner simply feels uncomfortable rather than falling under the Puppet Master's control - simultaneously causing the Hulk's true identity to be revealed, although even when the Hulk is in his natural state his sheer strength of will allowed him to eventually throw off Puppet-Master's influence. The only person he doesn't make a puppet of is his stepdaughter Alicia, which allows Bruce and Rick to track him down, Rick subsequently using the Puppet Master's equipment to erase all memory of the Hulk's true identity prior to its destruction.
- The Puppet Master appeared in the two-part Fantastic Four episode "Origin of the Fantastic Four", voiced by Neil Ross. Unlike the comic version, this Puppet Master despised Alicia, treating as a burden and a pawn to be used against the Fantastic Four. He took control of the Thing and used him to capture Invisible Woman. Mister Fantastic freed the Thing from his control and defeated the Puppet Master. Upon returning to his apartment to reclaim his final doll, he ended up in a fight with Alicia and then he apparently fell to his death from the apartment window. The Fantastic Four weren't able to find his body and claimed that he "vanished from Earth."
- The Puppet Master appears in Fantastic Four: World's Greatest Heroes TV series, voiced by Alvin Sanders. As is the case with Alicia, the Puppet Master is African-American in this series. Debuting in the episode "Puppet Master," he was a sculptor whose clay was hit from a fragment of the same space station where the Fantastic Four were in when they got their powers. After touching his clay, he discovered he can manipulate the person of whoever he sculpts, resulting in him taking over the Thing and kidnapping the award-winning artists and Alicia. When the other Fantastic Four members arrived, the Puppet Master sculpted the Human Torch and took control of him until Alicia broke the sculptures and the Puppet Master is jailed. However, the ending hints at him escaping, as he disguised some clay as a pair of sunglasses. In the episode "Strings", he had manipulated his guards into bringing him enough of his clay to control all of the city officials, allowing him to have the FF evicted and turned into wanted criminals. He ultimate goal was to have Reed Richards enhance his powers, but he was foiled. In the final scene while locked up in the Vault, he removes some clay from under his false teeth only for Invisible Woman to appear and take it from him.
- In the extended edition of the Fantastic Four DVD, the Thing notices puppets in a scene with Alicia Masters at her art gallery. She says they belong to her father.
- The Puppet Master appeared in the 2005 Fantastic Four video game, voiced by James C. Mathis III. Although you do not fight him directly, he sends several exhibits at a museum (ex. mummies and dinosaurs) after you to protect Alicia. In the end, after the heroes destroyed the statue of Horus, he escapes to the back door. His last line is "Next time, fantastic fools, the Puppet Master will not fail." The heroes aren't aware that he was responsible for the disaster, believing it instead to be a side-effect of the cosmic rays that gave them their powers. In the instruction booklet that comes with the game, Puppet Master's bio is given, explaining that he uses radioactive clay to control whoever he chooses. This is probably how he made the exhibits in the museum come to life and attack the Fantastic Four.
- Fantastic Four #8
- Fantastic Four #14
- Strange Tales #116
- Fantastic Four #28
- Strange Tales #126
- Strange Tales #133
- Fantastic Four Annual #3
- Tales to Astonish #78-79
- X-Men #27
- Tales to Astonish #100
- Fantastic Four #14; Avengers #63; Captain Marvel #14
- Fantastic Four #100
- Marvel Team-Up #5
- Marvel Team-Up #6
- Marvel Two-in-One #9
- Fantastic Four #168-170
- Marvel Two-in-One #74
- Fantastic Four #236
- Micronauts #41
- Fantastic Four #246
- Thing #4
- Thing #6
- Thing #34
- Fantastic Four #300
- Power Pack #60
- Fantastic Four #357
- Fantastic Four #538 (August, 2006)
- Ms. Marvel #18
- Ms. Marvel #20
- Heroes for Hire #9-10
- Villains for Hire #3
- Fantastic Four (vol.5) #7
- Fantastic Four (vol. 5) #8
- Fantastic Four #645
- Fantastic Four extended edition DVD
- "Top 10 Oddest Marvel Characters". Time. August 31, 2009.