It would be an understatement to say that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby had a knack for creating heroes and villains. The Marvel Universe is populated by them to this very day. Heroes capable of saving planets and villains intent on destroying them. Many of these you would consider the ‘A-Listers’, the big names. Characters such as Galactus, devourer of worlds, and the Avengers, saviors of their own. Below this we have what is commonly known as the ‘B-Listers’. One could arguably throw Nova and Batroc the Leaper into this group. Further on down you have ‘C-List’ characters, ‘D-List’ characters, and then you have…
You could make the argument that Boomerang is one of those characters, similar to a cockroach, who refuses to die but is not worth one’s time, or energy, to deal with. This appears to be his lot in life. A two-bit villain who was once described by the Kingpin as “..a major league pitcher who always missed the strike zone — if the price was right”.
The Kingpin’s summation of Frederick Myers’ early career (aka Fred Slade, aka Boomerang, aka “Boomie”) is accurate. He was once a major league pitcher who had an incredible knack for getting it over the plate. His aim was impeccable… almost superhuman, as was his throwing strength, yet his focus was always elsewhere. Money. His arm could be bought and with it his soul. Frederick Myers’ spot in the Marvel Universe was solidified when he first appeared in Tales To Astonish #81 in 1966. This was back when each issue of Tales To Astonish told two stories. The first half of the book followed the exploits of the Sub-Mariner and the second half was given to Marvel’s newest sensation, the Hulk. It was in the pages gifted to the Hulk, in a Lee/Kirby offering, that Boomerang sprung out of the shadows in an attempt to make a name for himself. He was, of course, paid to do it, by a group who called themselves the Secret Empire. This was a group prone to infighting and power struggles. The Empire wanted the Orion Missile and the only way they could see to do it was to kidnap Betty Ross, daughter of the missile’s protector General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross. The Hulk is there to save the day and Boomerang’s debut ends in shambles, and a flood that appears to claim his life. His run in Tales To Astonish wasn’t a bad one for those days, seven issues, from #81-88, but after the flood he was forgotten , at least as far as the writers were concerned. We didn’t see him again for another 11 years (our time).
In 1977 Frederick Myers, sporting a new costume, is hired by ex-IRA members to do battle with Iron Fist (Iron Fist 11 & 13). Then again a year later to tangle with the Defenders along with a small group of fellow villains that included his future Sinister Six teammate, Shocker (Defenders #64). A year after that defeat he shows up again to face off against Nick Fury, the Black Widow, and Spider-Man (Marvel Team-Up #83-85).
It is in these years, 1977-79, that we see Boomerang carve out a niche for himself, at least as far as his place in the Marvel Universe is concerned. Here he is used as a sort of villain for hire who occasionally shows up for a few panels, bothers our heroes with a few well-placed Boomerangs, and is then easily subdued. Occasionally he dips his toes into a team situation as we saw when he battled the Defenders. It is the former, the team situation, that Boomerang will eventually find himself well-suited. He’s also found somewhat of a home as a villain often associated with Spider-Man despite his original appearance in the pages of a Hulk story.
It seems his writers agreed about his Spider-Man association. His next appearance, and almost all of his appearances in the 1980s, was in a Spider-Man book. In 1982 & 1983 he skipped through a few issues of Peter Parker: Spectacular Spider-Man (issues #67, 73, 78, 79, 81) and just as many panels, where he was hired by the Kingpin to kill our favorite web-slinger. It is here that the Kingpin compares Boomerang to another one of the Kingpin’s go-to men, Bullseye. Boomerang is a lot like Bullseye, minus the crazy. It is Bullseye’s insanity which sets him apart from Boomerang who is only driven by one thing…. money.
We see here, as we will continue to see for the next twenty years, brief appearances by Boomerang, and Frederick Myers (or Frederick Slade). He is arrested, brought before a grand jury, and thrown into prison where he meets up with the Punisher. The Punisher has been cooling his heels and planning a prison break. Having Frederick Myers in a nearby cell provides the missing piece to his plan. Boomerang serves one purpose in this story, to help the Punisher scale the walls of the prison, and he is then tossed aside (or betrayed by the Punisher depending on your point of view).
Fortunately for Fred he is busted out of prison himself by the villainous Max Stryker who is dying of cancer. The only thing which might cure Stryker is new research being done with gamma rays so who do you think he turns to, or coerces, to help him? Bruce Banner of course. Having to face-off against old green-skin doesn’t please Boomerang at all and, suffice to say, the Hulk quickly disposes of him (Hulk #294-295).
Boomerang eventually begins to hit his stride when he joins forces with the Sinister Syndicate to fight Spider-Man and Silver Sable (Amazing Spider-Man #280-281). This version of the Syndicate includes Speed Demon, the Beetle, Hydro-Man, and the Rhino, some of whom will play an even bigger part in Fred’s life 25 years later.
It is evident that Fred can’t decide whether or not he wants to work with a team or to fly solo. Either way he manages to prove unsuccessful. Perhaps his ego won’t allow him to share the spotlight (as if he ever had it) with others. After his brief stint with the Syndicate he turns to his old ways as an assassin-for-hire and this carries him through a short dry-spell between the years of 1988-1991. He shows his face in Spectacular Spider-Man (#144-145), Iron Man (#339-340), and Amazing Spider-Man (#345), until deciding that a team is the place for him in 1991’s Deadly Foes of Spider-Man (#1-4).
In Deadly Foes of Spider-Man he is reunited with his Sinister Syndicate pals as well as the Shocker. We are also introduced to his girlfriend Leila Davis who eventually transforms herself into the villainess Hardshell (Lethal Foes of Spider-Man, 1993). Deadly Foes of Spider-Man didn’t prove to be the blockbuster that Marvel was hoping for but this little group will redeem themselves under the guidance of writer Nick Spender twenty years later in Superior Foes of Spider-Man.
Boomerang’s identity as a team player is cemented with his time spent as a member of the Sinister Syndicate. He is traded to the Thunderbolts in 1999 (Thunderbolts #24-26) but his panel-time is extremely short-lived. Perhaps his greatest disappointment, and one which shows the lack of respect afforded his character, is in the pages of Daredevil #28. He doesn’t appear in costume, attempts to take Daredevil down, and is summarily dismissed in fewer panels than I have fingers on one hand.
Boomerang can’t pay for panels. He’s beaten up in 2005’s She-Hulk #1, and disrespected as a member of the Thunderbolts (Thunderbolts #156-174) and the Dark Avengers (Dark Avengers, 2010-2013).
And finally, in 2013, 47 years after his first appearance in the pages of Tales to Astonish, Boomerang’s career, and his bank balance, appears to skyrocket. In the very first issue of Superior Spider-Man (#1, 2013), he appears alongside some old friends in a new incarnation of the Sinister Six. This time it is Shocker, Living Brain, the Beetle, Speed Demon, and Overdrive. Although the Otto Octavius version of Spider-Man makes an example of this new group and beats Boomerang to a bloody pulp, it is the best thing that could have happened to him. He does end up in prison and in intensive care on the Raft but things are looking up for poor old Fred Myers. Alistair Smythe, renaming himself the Spider-Slayer, attempts to bring Otto down by rejuvenating and enhancing Boomerang’s powers (as well those of the Vulture and the Scorpion). This attempt is thwarted by Otto but a new, and unlikely, anti-hero is born… Boomerang.
In the summer of 2013, writer Nick Spencer provided Fred Myers with something he’s always yearned for. Respect. In Superior Foes of Spider-Man Spencer succeeds where Marvel failed twenty years before with Deadly Foes and Lethal Foes. He’s created a highly acclaimed and fan favored book that showcases the power of a good, character driven story. Boomerang is in his glory… for now.