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The future Malleus was a brilliant geneticist whose perfect life was shattered when his 7-year old son Alex developed a rare, incurable neuromuscular disease. When convention treatments failed, the geneticist looked for a cure in the emerging field of nanomedicine, in which nanomachines are used to combat disease. After extensive study, the geneticist learned how to design his own nanomachines called "organic nanobots" that he infused into Alex. Unfortunately, a flaw in the nanobots made them unstable, causing his son's condition to worsen. The geneticist's disillusionment was compounded when his dismayed wife Barbara divorced him and went into hiding with Alex.[1]

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Finding a cure for Alex

The geneticist was now more determined to cure Alex to prove to his estranged wife that his efforts were not in vain. Through further experiments, the geneticist discovered his organic nanobots had the potential to mutate and enhance DNA. His curiosity piqued, he infused some lab animals with the nanobots and was amazed with the results. Out of the test subjects, 35 perfect died via molecular disintegration while the rest of the animals developed a range of paranormal abilities: flight, force fields, intangibility, etc. However, 15 percent of these animals soon died of stress-related illness caused by their new abilities while the others became uncontrollable, forcing the geneticist to euthanize as many as he could. [1]

The animal experiments still did not point to a cure for Alex, but did inspire the geneticist to pursue a new approach. He realized that powerful figures would pay handsomely to enlist the services of custom-made, metahuman mercenaries. Such money would replenish the geneticist's dwindling research funds. Even more valuable to the geneticist than money was gaining access to these figures' information networks that he could use to find his missing wife and son. The geneticist used saving Alex to rationalize employing his genius to the benefit of those unethical or outright criminal.[1]

The geneticist concluded prison inmates would make the perfect subjects to be turned into metahumans given the right incentive: freedom. So, the geneticist posted advertisements in various prisons asking for volunteers for a medical experiment in exchange for a reduced sentence. Dozens of inmates quickly signed up for the experiment, whose true nature was revealed by the geneticist. All he asked in return was that the volunteers serve him in his mercenary army. [1]

The volunteers agreed to these terms so the geneticist infused them with the organic nanobots. Most survived the mutations triggered by the nanobots, gaining metahuman abilities and sometimes bizarre appearances. The geneticist dubbed his creations “Man-Melds” because they were humans spliced with mutated DNA. He then hired out the Man-Melds' services to clients ranging from national governments to organized crime.
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Creating the Man-Melds

The geneticist's impressed clients praised his work to their peers, who in turn demanded Man-Melds of their own, leading to brisk business. During this time, the geneticist adopted the alias Malleus to ensure his illicit activities would not be traced back to his public identity. [1]

A drawback of beings as powerful as the Man-Melds was that they could betray Malleus either due to their own volition or persuasion by his clients. [1] Thus, Malleus equipped the organic nanobots empowering the Man-Melds with a "failsafe switch.” [1] Upon receiving an activation signal, this switch caused the nanobots to self-destruct, killing their host via molecular disintegration. [1] To avoid suspicion, Malleus lied to his Man-Melds that the sudden disintegration of their comrades was due to defects in their mutated DNA. [2] The Man-Melds accepted Malleus' story so much so that they pledged loyalty to him in hopes he could cure the "defects." Malleus viewing the Man-Melds as expendable pawns marked his transformation from being somewhat amoral to truly malicious and deceitful. [1]

Eventually, Malleus decided to become a Man-Meld himself and subjected his body to a series of organic nanobot infusions. These nanobots granted Malleus a superhuman physique and formidable shapechanging powers that made him a match for any Man-Meld. A side effect of the nanobot infusions was Malleus taking on a fearsome, bestial appearance, making him as monstrous on the outside as within. The geneticist was oblivious to this irony and fully embraced his transformation. [1]

Despite his newfound power, Malleus was frustrated by his inability to find a cure for his son.[1] Malleus then was contacted by famed industrialist and inventor Edwin Alva, who was secretly a major crimelord.[2] From various underworld figures, Alva had heard of the Man-Melds and the one responsible for their amazing powers. Alva had also deduced that Malleus had created the Man-Melds with the goal of developing organic nanobots to help his son, Alex. The industrialist offered the resources of Alva Technologies to fix the flaw in the organic nanobots that prevented them from curing Alex’s disease.[2] In exchange for his help, Alva asked Malleus to perform a favor for him in the future. If Malleus accepted this deal, Alva would also sell him 36 cryogenic chambers and parts for a prototype reusable rocketship.[3] Malleus was suspicious of Alva’s motives, but still accepted the deal for Alex’s sake. (Malleus' suspicions would be vindicated years later when he learned that Alva's favor was for him to stop creating Man-Melds for Alva's crimelord rivals.[2]) Thus, Alva began his research to find and eliminate the flaw in the nanobots; this project would prove a challenge even for someone of his impressive intellect.[2] Alva also used accounting tricks so the rocketship’s intended customer, the Pentagon, would not realize it instead had been sold to Malleus.[4]

Thanks to the new resources from Alva, Malleus embarked on his most ambitious project yet: Transformation Station, a secret orbital genetics laboratory.[4] As the first step, Malleus ordered two of his most loyal Man-Melds, Archer and Duke, to establish a base from which to launch the rocketship that he named the Doctor Moreau.[3] [4] The Man-Melds found the perfect base in an ancient Chavin temple in a Peruvian rainforest.[3] Alva had the parts for the Doctor Moreau as well as the cryogenic chambers covertly shipped to the temple, where it was assembled under heavy guard by an army of local guerrillas hired by Archer and Duke.[3] This army was supported by the Huenta Aires, a huge winged serpent created by Malleus to eliminate trespassers not deterred by the guerrillas.[5]

After the Doctor Moreau was assembled, the rocketship was used to transport the pressurized modules for Transformation Station into low orbit. Man-Melds and human workers then built the station in a remarkably short time. A pleased Malleus soon boarded the completed Transformation Station, which now served as his permanent home as well as laboratory. Malleus was assisted in his experiments by dozens of personnel while security was provided by a mix of human guards and the elite of the Man-Melds. During this time, Malleus gained a new ally in Origami, whose teleportation powers served as a backup means of transit between Earth and Transformation Station.[1]

Malleus' smoothly run operations ended when the Pentagon discovered Alva’s illegal sale of the Dr. Moreau though they did not know the buyer's identity.[4] Malleus began eliminating evidence tying the rocketship back to him. He also ordered Archer and Duke to begin evacuating temple base and then destroy it with crates of nitroglycerin to further cover his tracks.[5][4] Malleus then learned a computer file containing Alva's bill of sale to Peru had wound up among the files of Alva's protege, Curtis Metcalf, at Hard Company.[3] Malleus hired the teen computer genius Lender to use the Chavin temple's computer network to steal the file from Hard Company before it was discovered.[3] In exchange, Malleus promised to turn Lender into a Man-Meld.[2]

However, Lender's attempted theft was thwarted by Hard Company computer expert Deacon Stuart so Malleus dispatched the armored Man-Meld Fuselage to steal the file by force.[3] Fuselage fared no better than Lender when he was defeated in battle by Hardware (secretly Metcalf). Unlike other Man-Melds, Fuselage was transformed against his will and begged Hardware to not let others share his fate.[3][1] This exchange was secretly monitored by Malleus via a listening device hidden on Fuselage. Malleus promptly activated Fuselage's failsafe to kill him before Hardware learned of his existence.[3]

Ironically, Fuselage's death made Hardware more determined to identify who was behind the attacks on Hard Company. Hardware got a lead when Stuart found and opened Alva's file which pointed the armored hero to Peru to begin his investigation.[3] This information was also learned by the Preventative Measures Agency (PMA), who had secretly infiltrated Hard Company's computer network on behalf of the Pentagon to find leads on the Doctor Moreau’s location and then reclaim the rocket.[4] PMA's infiltration went unnoticed by Deacon Stuart, who had been distracted by Lender’s hacking. However, Lender did notice the infiltration and realized the PMA would soon track his hacking back to Peru. Lender alerted Archer and Duke, who accelerated evacuation of the temple base.[5]

Unfortunately, Hardware and his ally Sanction arrived in the vicinity of the temple base sooner than expected and killed the Huenta Aires after a grueling battle.[5] The guerrillas captured the pair and brought them to the temple, where they were imprisoned with the nitroglycerin that was rigged to explode when the Doctor Moreau launched.[4] Then, the temple was attacked by a squad of PMA agents, thus providing the perfect diversion for Hardware and Sanction to break out of their cell. Archer, Duke and Lender fled the temple aboard the Doctor Moreau despite an attempt to abort the launch by Hardware, who wound up as an unwilling stowaway.[4] The temple was destroyed by the resulting explosion, but the PMA had already evacuated the temple thanks to Sanction's warning them about the nitroglycerin.[4]

Lender secretly sent a radio warning to Transformation Station about Hardware being aboard the Doctor Moreau.[4] Malleus decided to personally lead a team of Man-Melds to meet the one who had caused him such trouble. Once the ship docked, Hardware could barely defend himself before he was attacked by the Man-Melds, stripped of his armor, and thrown into the station's brig.[4][1]

Though angry with Hardware's interference, Malleus still had a begrudging respect for his foe's skill and tenacity, traits that would be useful in a Man-Meld. Thus, Malleus infused Hardware's armor with the same organic nanobots that permanently bonded Fuselage with his armor. These nanobots were programmed to activate and begin turning Hardware into a Man-Meld when he next donned his armor. Malleus then had one of his Man-Melds let Hardware escape the brig while making it look accidental. Hardware fell for the ruse and found his unguarded armor which he used to blast his way out of Transformation Station and into space.[1]

Malleus implemented the next step of his plan by ordering Origami, Barnacle Bill, and Melt to engage Hardware and take away from the station. Of course, the geneticist arranged this battle to occupy Hardware long enough so the organic nanobots could bond him to his armor. This worked better than expected when Origami teleported Hardware along with himself and his allies to the Moon so the armored hero could not cause more damage to Transformation Station.[1]

Besides the nanobots, Malleus had also hidden a listening device in Hardware's armor. Just prior to Origami's teleport, Malleus overheard a radio conversation between Hardware and Sanction, who warned that PMA had discovered Transformation Station's once secret location and had deployed their weapons satellite to destroy the station. Malleus immediately ordered everyone to evacuate Transformation Station and return to Earth aboard the Doctor Moreau. He did not warn Origami and his comrades since that would have thwarted his plan of turning Hardware into a Man-Meld.[1]

Malleus was furious that he was about to lose another valuable base in so many days. His anger was compounded by the stress of overseeing the transfer of station personnel and equipment to the Doctor Moreau. Thus, Malleus was near the breaking point when he was confronted by Lender, who complained that he still had not been transformed into a Man-Meld. Malleus finally snapped and fatally shot Lender, shocking a nearby Archer. Malleus dismissed Archer's disgust and told him to focus on the evacuation. [2]

The PMA weapon satellite then arrived and began slicing into Transformation Station with its particle beam, causing numerous deaths. Malleus was nearly among them as he barely got on the Doctor Moreau, which escaped just before the station was completely destroyed. As the Doctor Moreau departed, the flight crew was alerted that someone had opened the outer door for the airlock. The airlock had been opened by Barnacle Bill and Melt, whom Origami had teleported back to Transformation Station at the cost of his life. Accompanying the Man-Melds was Hardware, who had shed his armor before it permanently bonded to him. [2]

Malleus was displeased Barnacle Bill and Melt had brought his hated enemy aboard the Doctor Moreau and pressed a hidden transmitter to activate their failsafe switches. To Malleus' surprise, Barnacle Bill and Melt were still alive and unharmed. Hardware explained that he had examined the organic nanobots in Fuselage's remains and discovered a flaw that caused Man-Melds to suffer spontaneous molecular breakdown. Fortunately, Hardware had developed a serum to correct this flaw in the nanobots and had just injected Barnacle Bill and Melt with it. Hardware then berated Malleus for such "shoddy work" that had cost too many Man-Meld lives. Enraged, Malleus accidentally revealed in his rant that he had created the flaw to control the Man-Melds. Hardware already knew this, but wanted Malleus to admit it before the Man-Melds, who were furious at being deceived. Facing a mutiny, Malleus tried to use his transmitter, but it was destroyed by the Man-Melds, who seized him. Archer then suggested loading Malleus into the rocketship's escape pod and jettison it toward the Sun. Suddenly, Malleus broke free from his captors, took Hardware hostage, and escaped in the pod that he programmed to land on Earth. [2]

Now alone, a gloating Malleus asked Hardware if he had any last words before his impending death. Hardware replied he knew of Alva's unsuccessful attempts to eliminate the flaw in the organic nanobots. However, Hard Company's Cheryl Saltz and nanotech expert David Kim had figured out how to make the nanobots function properly and cure Alex's disease. Stunned by this news, Malleus learned the price for this cure was surrendering himself to the PMA. Malleus accepted the deal, but thought it was moot since he did not know where Alex was. Hardware promised that Sanction could find Malleus' son.

After the escaped pod splashed down, Hardware contacted Sanction who soon located Barbara and Alex through his numerous contacts. Though not wanting to see Malleus again, Barbara still agreed to have Alex transferred to a medical suite at the Organitek Building, where David Kim and Cheryl Saltz infused him with the modified nanobots. With Hardware and Sanction, Malleus anxiously waited to hear the results and was overjoyed when Kim announced Alex was finally cured. Malleus wanted to see his son after them being apart for years, but the reunion quickly turned sour. Alex hated Malleus because his father's flawed nanobots had trapped him a vegetative state and would require him to endure years of physical therapy even after being cured. Before leaving the suite, Alex swore to kill Malleus the next time they met.

Malleus fell into despair and then rage after Alex's rejection made him realize that all he truly cared about was now gone. Unwilling to admit to causin all this loss, he instead blamed and attacked Hardware, who quickly defeated him. PMA then took Malleus into custody under heavy guard.

Malleus was soon jailed in Davy Jones Locker, an undersea prison for metahuman criminals. He is currently awaiting trial in a special cell designed by Hardware whose energy field makes it painful to change shape.[2]

Powers

The organic nanobots in Malleus' body have radically mutated his DNA, granting him a range of metahuman powers.[1] His enhanced musculature endows him with superhuman strength and a particularly strong vice-like grip. He also has razor sharp claws that he uses as natural weapons in battle.[1]

Malleus' most formidable ability is changing his shape at will, thus granting him the potential for any metahuman physical power.
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Malleus shapeshifting

He can extend the length of his claws, sprout bat-like wings for flight, and grow tentacles from his body to immobilize or fatally constrict an opponent. Malleus can also render his entire body extremely malleable so he can stretch his limbs over incredible distances.[2]

Normally, Malleus' shape-shifting is under his conscious control. However, he has pre-programmed the nanobots in his body to automatically adapt his form to dangerous or unexpected situations. For example, when Transformation Station suffered a hull breach, Malleus' body instantly grew a prehensile tail to anchor him so he was not blown out into space.[2]

Abilities

A scientific genius, Malleus is among Earth's greatest living geneticists and possesses considerable knowledge of nanotechnology. Due to this unique scientific background, Malleus has made strides in genetics far surpassing those of mainstream science. His greatest discovery is organic nanobots, microscopic robots which can artificially mutate human DNA to grant their host metahuman abilities.[1]


Weapons

Malleus carried a transmitter on his person that activated the failsafe switch in the organic nanobots in a Man-Meld's body, killing him or her.[2] This device had a fairly short range, requiring Malleus to be close to his target .[2] Transformation Station was equipped with a larger version of this transmitter that could destroy a targeted Man-Meld from orbit. [3]

Malleus sometimes carried a handgun, primarily used to execute disloyal subordinates.[2]

  • Malleus first appeared in shadow in Hardware #34 before he was fully seen.
  • Malleus has enlarged canine teeth (fangs) and clawed fingers. Before his transformation, he had blue eyes and brown hair.[1]
  • When they are reunited, Malleus called his son “Scott” instead of Alex. This is likely a mistake missed by the editor.[2]
  • Malleus smokes when he is nervous. [2]

Related


Footnotes