The world of the late 1960s was a terrifying place. The Vietnam War was becoming more and more unpopular. Civil Rights and political leaders were being assassinated. People were rioting in the streets. Only the Challengers of the Unknown, a super-hero quartet who faced supernatural threats on a weekly basis had the gall to take on what truly threatened our world: Teenagers. Teenagers and jukebox music.
The Times They Are A-Changin’ (is a song the Challengers would have HATED)
Look, I get it. I’m getting older. I started podcasting as a somewhat-with-it 20-something, but I’m now in my 30s and watching the internet mock us millennials. Seriously we get it from both sides now. Older people blame us for destroying the economy with avocado toast or whatever and 20-somethings laugh at us for not understanding TikTok.
What I’m saying is that anger and resentment between generations is not a new thing at all, in the world or in comic books
Enter Tino the Terrible Teen (FYI his name was spelled T-I-N-O, c’mon they weren’t hacks), the, quote, “Juvenile King of the Jukebox,” and the “Richest Teenager in the World.” They call him that because, well, he’s super-rich, because he’s not just a super-smart super-villain, but also a rock star making the 2022 equivalent of six-hundred grand per show to perform. He was also a super-smart engineer…when he wasn’t taking down superhero teams, of course.
Tino teamed up with Power Man, not the alias of the Marvel hero Luke Cage, but a villain that was, quote, “a criminal scientist” who had been working on a giant atom smasher and, when the cyclotron became overloaded was bombarded with a mass of wild energy. He turned blue, grew about four feet in height, and could draw energy from anything. For his misguided dabblings in super-science he earned the ire of the Challengers of the Unknown…but I guess didn’t earn a Wikipedia page. Tough break power man.
The Tino Team-o
Anyway, Tino the terrible teen showed up piloting a helicopter, which I guess he can also do, as the Challengers were fighting Power Man only to take pictures of them running away and sell it to the papers which he did, and they ran with the very first draft headline of “Challengers turn Chicken-gers” over a picture of the Challengers of the Unknown running in terror. Who says print is dead?
Later on, Tino rescued Power Man, out for a snack destroying a power plant, from the cops…because I guess tear gas could take down the monster…and together they defeated the Challengers of the Unknown. But, Tino wasn’t done. You see, for Tino Manarray, richest and most powerful teenager in the world, this was personal.
Before we get to the big reveal, you should understand that the challengers of the Unknown were just Pentagon scientists who survived a plane crash and, determining that they were living on borrowed time, decided to get extremely jacked and explore the past and present of the multiverse together. As you do. They were kind of bad at it, with a couple of them dying or becoming maimed, but it also explains how a teenager could catch them unaware twice.
There’s also a reason why Tino only stuck around for one issue. While youth culture was kind of a scary thing in the late sixties but…um…teenagers were probably the only people buying the Challengers of the Unknown comic book series and, quote, “all kids” being “nutty these days,” might not super resonate with that demographic, so Tino the Terrible Teen’s nefarious plots were limited to one issue. In said issue, he learned that his brother, Red, who was formerly one of the four Challengers, wasn’t killed by the Challengers, but died in the line of duty, sacrificing himself to save a continents worth of people. Realizing that his brother sacrificed his life but all Tino ever did was evil, Tino turned on Power Man, a villain he had goaded into draining the entire eastern seaboard of the United States to turn him into a massive blue monster.
The Shocking Conclusion
Tino realized that the only way to stop Power Man was to do what his brother did: sacrifice himself. He egged Power Man on, having the monster chase him into the sea. Despite being a criminal scientist, Power Man didn’t think that it might be a bad idea to be the walking embodiment of electricity and also walk into a lake. It sapped his strength, and a normal human washed up on the shore…dragged by Tino who didn’t die despite being right next to the confusing equivalent of, quote, “one hundred atom bombs” in the water.
The heroes offered Tino the Terrible Teen his brother’s spot as one of the four Challengers of the Unknown, a team that would be reworked at Marvel to turn into The Fantastic Four, but he turned it down, turning on every teenager’s real superpower: the ability to viciously own someone with a sentence, saying that he didn’t like their dorky uniforms or their boy scout schedules. To be fair, with black underwear over a yellow spandex, sleeveless bodysuit, he wasn’t wrong about the costumes. Fully in character, the thirty-something challengers told Tino the Terrible Teen to scram, and he did, leaving with only had his spandex free life of millions of dollars and crowds of adoring fans to console him.
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