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Capes On the Couch - Where Comics Get Counseling

Dec 14, 2022

Things get cosmic as we discuss GLADIATOR! Doc has no shortage of confidence when it comes to dealing with this Strontian - are you not entertained?

  • Intro

  • Background (3:50)
    • Gladiator of the Imperial Guard created by Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum in The X-Men #107 (Oct 1977)
    • Introduced as a member of the Imperial Guard of the Shi’ar Empire, serving under Emperor D’Ken, brother of the exiled Lilandra
    • Kallark is a Strontian, and the race is incredibly strong, but only when devoted to a principle - Kallark and other Strontians were vying for a spot in the guard, when they were ordered to return to Strontia and kill their elders - only Kallark obeyed without question, learning that it was a test of loyalty set up by the elders to protect the homeworld
    • He encountered several heroes along his journey, as he continued to serve whoever was in charge of the Shi’ar Empire - D’Ken, Lilandra, Deathbird, and Vulcan
    • Kallark defends the Empire against Vulcan and his assault, but when Vulcan leads a coup and takes over, Kallark is honor-bound to serve, although he has fleeting thoughts of doubt
    • On Vulcan’s orders, Kallark and the guard attack the wedding of Crystal and Ronan, intended to unite the Kree and Inhumans, though he sides with Lilandra to prevent her execution, he is unable to prevent a later assassination
    • He accepts the position of Emperor of the Shi’ar to prevent further bloodshed and war, but appoints two advisors to help him handle most of the logistics of running the empire
    • Joins the Annihilators to give himself an outlet for fighting, but refuses a leadership role
    • Joins the Galactic Council, where he decides that Earth must be destroyed to save the universe from incursions, but when it was restored, no memory remained of the destruction
    • Put a time-displaced Jean Grey on trial for her “future” crimes as Phoenix
    • After Xandra is discovered, Kallark hands over the throne of the Shi’ar empire to her and returns to his role as head of the Guard

  • Issues - More than you think you know (11:10)
    • The waxing and waning of his self-esteem and focus. It's a function of the Strontian species that their physical abilities are all directly tied to their confidence level and their belief in themselves and their purpose. When Gladiator believes he can do so, he is powerful enough to knock planets out of their orbit, burn Galactus with his heat vision, and is said to have once ripped a black hole in half. Which I really hope was just an idle boast, because there's many things wrong with that sentence. When he doubts himself, he becomes weak enough to get smacked around by Cannonball.
    • A slavish devotion to his sense of duty. Gladiator takes his oath of loyalty to the Shi'ar throne and his position as Praetor of the Imperial Guard VERY seriously. He begins his career of imperial service when the Emperor orders him and the rest of the cadets being evaluated with him to kill the Council of Elders of his home planet as a test of loyalty. Most of the rest of the cadets refuse the order and rebel. Gladiator obeys it without question. He's had to serve a string of emperors and empresses who were objectively very bad people, from T'Korr to D'Ken to Deathbird to Vulcan. He hates the things he's ordered to do most of the time, but is a loyal servant of the throne through and through, purposefully keeping his focus single-mindedly on his duty in order to keep his powers at their maximum level and best perform his duties. The only time he ever wavers is when he's ordered to execute Lilandra, which is a pretty high bar, all things considered. (18:38)
    • Lack of faith in his ability to lead anything that's not the Guard. When Vulcan and Deathbird are dispatched after War of Kings, Gladiator really doesn't want to take charge of what's left of the empire, and would rather anyone else be leader besides him. When he's with the Annihilators, he has no interest in any kind of a leadership role despite arguably being the team's most powerful member. When Professor X and Lilandra both die and someone has the bright idea to hatch a child from an egg made out of their combined genetic material, Gladiator's first response is, oh, thank God you’re here! YOU'RE the empress now! This is probably tied into the confidence-based nature of his powers, but even with all of his experience serving at the highest echelons of an interstellar empire that boasts over one million member states, he really seems allergic to the idea of being in charge of anything that's not in his comfort zone of the Praetorian Guard. (25:46)

  • Break (34:32)

  • Treatment (36:07)
    • In-universe - Get him out of his element
    • Out of universe - Compare to high-level athlete with the yips (39:14)

  • Skit (48:31)
    • Hello Kallark, I’m Dr. Issues. -Thank you for taking the time to see me, doctor. 
    • So, what can I do for you? -Forgive me my manners, but, we should at least shake hands before discussing more…personal items.
    • Ok, sure -*yell*Ow! You have quite the grip for a human.
    • Said…no one ever. Are you ok? I wasn’t even trying to -*abruptly* I’m fine. Everythings fine. Not everything, but my hand is fine. *whispering to himself* Have I truly fallen so far?
    • What was that? -Nothing. I…I need to see you because I have some questions that only a man of mental science can answer.
    • Mental sci…that’s unique. Anyhoo, go ahead. -Even though I am eons old, I pride myself on my…stamina. *hushed tone* do you understand what I’m saying? This is embarrassing.
    • Well, you might need a different specialist, then. Do you have a primary care provider? -The Shi’ar Empire has spared no expense to test me from crown to sole, and yet, they find nothing…but…I haven’t given them all of my…details.
    • Go on…*sigh* look, I’m a professional. This is all confidential. If this goes where I think it’s going, I may have ways to assist you. Continue -*deep breath* I am a proud member of the Imperial Guard. The proudest…member…if you will. I train my body constantly to serve in as many capacities as I can. And yet, I must admit…I may have cheated…oh the shame!
    • I’m not casting judgment. You cheated with whom? -No, no, I do not blame anyone besides myself, by my own hand.
    • Well, your hands may desensitize you if you aren’t using variation in technique. -You do sound like you know about this topic quite well, and without hesitation. Alright then! I’ll admit, I’ve resorted to using some natural remedies. Supplements if you will.
    • Oh really? Well, on Earth many of those products do more harm than good. -I have learned the…umm..hard way…that this is true throughout the galaxy. Sure, for a brief time I felt like I could tackle a whole army and have my way with them in any test of…accomplishment. But that feeling faded. Now I feel…weaker than any Strontian has any right to feel. I may look the same, but I can tell I lack…girth. Is this making sense?
    • Yes, and I definitely can help you. There is plenty of literature on my planet that shows some men have this type of adverse reaction to treatments for anxiety or depression. -Really? So they can’t get up what they used to? I could lift planets out of their natural orbit, you know.
    • Um…not the visual I would have wanted, but my point is, it’s treatable. I don’t know what the alien equivalent is, but here, it’s called sildenafil. There are some options, and I want to go over the risks and benefits of - *interrupting* I have no fear of risks! Just tell me the benefits, please.
    • Well, as you may have guessed, you’ll be able to function in that area again. It increases blood flow, but the typical formulation is only used as needed to avoid staying that way permanently. -What? As needed? But I am always needed. The guard never ceases their duties. How am I supposed to maintain a steady workload if I rely on this temporary aide? 
    • Well first you need to try a low-*interrupting* And what time of day do I take this…sildenafil?
    • On the days you use it…and ONLY on that day, you can take it up to 4 hours before any stimulation, but it’s best 30 minutes before -And what about my diet?
    • Don’t eat, you need an empty stomach, but you can drink water, it’s good to stay hydrated, anyway. -And what if I need to increase my…output. How many of these can I take?
    • Just one a day, but -And will this also affect my breathing if I am too vigorous?
    • Actually, for pulmonary hyperten -And what about if I am injured? If this affects my blood, will I suffer mortal wounds easier?
    •  I wouldn’t recommend -Plus I don’t…recover…as well as I used to. If I take anything else, will it affect those things as well?
    • I thought you didn’t care about side -How long do I take this, if I feel like my…body…is catching up to my…head? Sometimes I get a throbbing
    • STOP! ***breathing heavily*** Look, stop with the innuendo, alright? You’re talking about a sensitive topic, but you got through it. It’s not easy to penetrate your defenses, but I’ve kept a stiff upper lip for too long. You’re not going deep enough to get to the psychological basis of all of this. I can’t last much longer. We need to start talking in plain language, or this whole encounter ends in a meaningless discharge. Do I make myself clear? -*shouts* SIR YES SIR!
    • Good. Now, as I was trying to say before you unloaded all of your emotional content, erectile dysfunction is -*shocked* EXCUSE ME?!!!
    • *pause* Come again? -WHAT are you on about? I’ve been pouring my soul out about my decline as a defender of the empire, and you want to talk about…sexual matters? What is wrong with you?
    • I…I thought -You are a disgrace to your profession! And to think, I let myself believe that I needed your kind of help. I have tested the limits of EXISTENCE, and you have some sort of perverse motive to corrupt everything I stand for. How dare you!
    • But the…and your cadence…your tone…the embarrass…*sigh* You know what? I’m willing to cut my losses. I apologize for the misunderstanding. I can refer you to another clinician, and we’ll wipe the slate clean. Shake on it? -*pause* You drive a hard bargain.
    • *crunching sound* OOOWWWW Where did that come from? -My grip…that’s the grip I know that could choke out the Sun…YOU DID IT! I don’t know how, but I’m back to…to ME? I can trust my…head…as well as my body…with my hands…I’m so excited I could just explode! Thank you! The Empire thanks you. THE UNIVERSE WILL SHOWER YOU WITH JOY *swooshing sound to indicate flying away* YESSSSSSS! 
    • *sigh* I need a vacation.

  • Ending (55:09)
    • Recommended reading: War of Kings
    • Next episodes: Raven, Aquaman
    • Plugs for social



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