I Mean, he’s Basically Just Rambo if you Think About it
So, almost miraculously, I’ve managed to get myself juuuuuuuusssst enough free time/internet signal to myself to get an article out this week! Lucky you! Of course, I probably could have just written it ahead of time, but eh, what are you gonna do. Anyways, this week’s article was a suggestion from u/zerozzz, who I’m actually kind of struggling to come up with a shitty joke about their username for! So, uh, go zerozzz, I guess.
Nuke is a character that, despite being relatively obscure, a lot of people might actually have some knowledge of, thanks to his recent appearances in the Jessica Jones Netflix show. Now of course those appearances, while actually a pretty good representation of the character (for most of the lesser characters in the MCU, at least), leave a lot to be desired, from the lack of a big-ass American Flag tattoo on his face to the fact that he isn’t even paired with his main nemesis. But we’ll get to all that in a little bit. For now, let’s fake an education in comics!
The Name so Nice we Dropped it Twice
SCENARIO: Oh geez. Ok, let’s see, uh, I guess this time let’s say that you know someone who’s complaining that there’s no reeeaaaaallly fucked up war vets in the Marvel Universe except for maybe the Punisher, and you need to show them what for. Idunno, that’s the best I got.
Whatever,no one reads this part anyways, it’s fiiiiiine.
NOTE: In my research, I also came across an older Squadron Supreme character named Nuke, but since I was not provided a secret identity name alongside this request, I’m just gonna assume that they meant the slightly more popular one.
Step One: The Simpson Project
Frank Simpson has had what some might call “a pretty fucking raw life”. Born to a rich, upper class, abusive, mentally deranged, alcoholic woman in Ohio, Frank always managed to fill out every spot on the “going to be a fucked up kid” checklist. Over time, Frank would go on to develop a creepy-ass obsession with his babysitter, who would, in turn, develop a creepy-ass obsession with Frank’s father. So right off the bat, you can tell shit is not about to go well. Of course, shit hit the fan just about as hard as it possibly could when Wolverine (who was, at the time, a pretty colossal dickhole), under the contract of the Weapon Plus Program, created an elaborate series of events that led to Frank becoming an easily mentally conditioned orphan. After being kidnapped and, you know, mentally conditioned, Frank was shoved ass-first into the Vietnam war, eventually becoming a P.O.W. Of course, instead of being tortured by your run of the mill Viet Cong, Wolverine showed up to do what he does best: torture (Other things Wolverine does best: hog spotlights, murder, casual alcoholism, being thrown/groped by much larger men). After hours of torture, Wolverine encoded the words “No V.C.” as a trigger phrase in Frank’s mind, and carved an American Flag into his face because, eh, why not?
So hey kids, let’s have a quiz: If you were in the Vietnam War and wanted to indicate to an ally that you were not the enemy, what would you yell?
If you answered “No V.C.”, then congratulations, you get a gold star! If you answered anything else, well, uh, you don’t. Unless you managed to remember what the Viet Cong yelled to denote that they weren’t US troops, in which case, hey, congrats on winning the war!
So yeah, the very first noncombatants that Frank ran into after being freed yelled his trigger phrase, and Frank proceeded to murder the shit out of the surrounding jungle for the next couple hours or so. After this, Wolverine became his handler for a little while under Project: Homegrown, a subsidiary of the Weapon Plus program designed to create a new super soldier in the vein of Captain America, except easier to control. And like, waaaaayyyy more fucked up and evil. As the years went on, Nuke would get all sorts of goodies pumped into his body, from a second heart to all sorts of cyborg parts, but his most iconic gift (besides his tattoo, at least) has to be his pills coming in three colors, they regulate his adrenaline through his second heart and all kinds of other bullshit, giving him increased murder powers, as well as the ability to make me think I’m talking about Nitro every time I bring him up for a couple seconds. Of course, the pills come in the most American of colors, with red increasing adrenaline, white bringing him down, and blue as a sort of relaxation thing. Over time, he would face off against all manner of Marvel heroes, most notably Daredevil, Wolverine, and Captain America, featuring in several important storylines such as Wolverine: Origins and motherfucking Daredevil: Born Again. So I guess you could say he’s kind of a big deal.
Over time, Nuke would get beat up more and more severely with every mission, up to a point where he was basically just entirely robot parts, all ramping up to his death by internal explosions. Of course, he managed to be alive anyways by the time Death of Wolverine came about (with no explanations, because character ensembles in a Death story are more important than continuity I guess?), but we’ll get to all that later.
Step Two: Is Nuke the World’s Most Interesting Punching Bag?
So this is something that I’ve actually been thinking about pretty much since I finished Jessica Jones: Nuke is basically the epitome of the “punching bag henchman” trope. He’s the guy who, no matter what, just keeps getting back up after the heroes beat him down, but is almost never at the head of his own operations. He’s easily manipulated, beefy, angry, unstable, and visually striking, in short, he’s a pretty compelling antagonist. Even on Jessica Jones, where an attempt is made to humanize the character of Frank Simpson and play him off as a sort of tragic hero figure, the most interesting things about him are watching him go completely nuts and then watching him get beat up for five minutes at a time. And honestly, that’s a role that most of the heroes he mugs for don’t really have filled. Almost all of Daredevil’s villains are crime bosses, ninjas, or Mr. Hyde, Wolverine’s big unkillable guys (Sabretooth and Cyber) are both too smart and in control to be punching bags, and Cap, well… let’s just say Cap has an iffy track record with memorable villains. I suppose you could argue that Crossbones or Batroc could be Cap’s punching bag, but again, they’ve masterminded too many of their own plots.
Carrying on a noble tradition led by such iconic foes as The Russian or Bebop and Rocksteady, Nuke shows up pretty much whenever a hero needs to be physically pushed to their limit. But with his deranged war veteran backstory, Nuke isn’t just a hulking slab of meat to be done away with, he’s also a really compelling character in his own right. He’s a sort of dark mirror to Captain America, all of the ugly underbelly of American politics and patriotism crammed into one man. Even in Ultimate Captain America (which was, shall we say, not ideal), he was the dark mirror of that world’s jingoistic Cap, attempting to show him the ugliness of the country he held so highly. Truly, Nuke is a fascinating subject, and that compounded with how god damn fun it is watching him get slapped around is what makes him, in my opinion, the greatest punching bag character of all time.
But anyways, back to the character overview and shit.
Step Three: You’ve Been… THUNDASTRUCK
Oh, in case you’re wondering why Cap is looking so bizarre in the background there, I’m like, eighty percent sure that it’s actually USAgent. So, you know, who the fuck cares.
Anyways, when Norman Osborn was doing his whole “I’m in a position of major power again for some stupid reason” thing a couple years back, he had his own team of Thunderbolts at his command, made up of such characters as Ghost and Headsman. Feeling the intense, burning desire to round out his roster of edgy names but unable to find legendary mercenary “xX_poonhound_Xx”, Norman adds a man named Scourge to his team, with the intent of having him take command. If you haven’t already guessed, Scourge is totally Nuke. Like, given the context of this article, that’s pretty much a given. But hey, Norman god damn Osborne didn’t know that somehow, so I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt on that one.
Anyways, his time with the Thunderbolts was mostly the same as his time anywhere else: murder, get beat up, rinse, repeat. He did keep several interesting holdovers from his old identity though, such as Betsy, his comically oversized machine gun. Tried and true to his “murderer of the future” ways, Nuke kept an LED counter on the side of Betsy that he used to count how many confirmed kills he had with her, as opposed to just notching it into the side of his gun like most other crazy soldiers. I can’t find an actual number for his confirmed kills anywhere, mind you, but I’m pretty sure it was close to, if not in the middle of, the triple digits. He also obviously kept his face tattoo, because come on, but he kept it under his mask most of the time. After causing numerous, numerous cock ups for most of his missions, he was eventually brainwashed to try and assassinate Norman Osborn, but was accidentally triggered too early after seeing a video recording of his face, causing Nuke to kill Cleavon Twain instead. Despite this, he would remain with the team all the way through to major(ly forgettable) event Siege, in which he would fight Luke Cage and severely dismember USAgent, because again, fuck that guy.
Step Four: Further Adventures, I Guess
After his time with the Thunderbolts, Nuke sank into a coma for a little bit, which mainly just served the purpose of having USAgent finally convince Cap that Frank wasn’t worth the attempt to rehabilitate. He would not reawaken for a decent amount of time, giving us plenty of opportunities for great scenes of Cap confronting the fact that he was the basis for the creation of Nuke. Of course, this wouldn’t last, as Nuke eventually woke back up and worked for the Iron Nail in Eastern Europe, powermurdering his way across the continent until Cap stopped him. He was taken into S.H.I.E.L.D. custody and promptly killed by Dr. Mindbubble, who, as stated previously, set off a big-ass explosion inside of Nuke.
You would think this would have finally stopped him, but again, the power of character death story arcs is far stronger than continuity, and Nuke found himself once again alive and in pursuit of Wolverine. Personally, although I think it’s really dumb that they resurrected him just so that he could pop up for a (admittedly really fucking cool) fight at the beginning of Death of Wolverine, I did appreciate having such an important part of Wolverine’s past there, as DoW was as story about Wolverine’s past catching up with him above all else.
Of course, in keeping with the theme of unexplained bullshit, Nuke hasn’t shown up anywhere else since, even though he’s pretty much the only villain that Wolverine spared in that story arc.
I don’t have all that much left to say here, once again. If you feel like reading any Nuke, he’s almost exclusively in big, fairly well done story arcs, plus the absolute masterpiece that is Born Again, so feel free to knock yourself out. Honestly, you could probably skip his time on the Thunderbolts, but apart from that it’s all pretty serviceable.
Feel free to come back next week, and I’ll see you all then!