The Puppet Master (real name: Phillip Masters) is a villain from Marvel Comics. He is one of the Fantastic Four's primary enemies.
The Puppet Master uses radioactive clay to make puppet of people that he can then control, attaching them to strings and moving them as puppets; presumably he has some sort of psionic ability that enables him to do this. He has a deep hatred of the Thing, who is romantically interested in his stepdaughter, Alicia Masters. He once tried to take over the world but was thwarted in this effort by the Fantastic Four.
His first appearance was in Fantastic Four volume 1 #8 (November 1962), and he was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. His origin was told in Marvel Team-Up volume 1 #6 (January 1973).
Phillip Masters, the man who would become the Puppet Master was born in the small fictional Balkan nation of Transia, in Dragorin. He moved to the United States at the age of eight. He was socially maladjusted and had no friends. (According to Spider-Man Family #4, his mother died when he was young and he was often picked on, causing him to turn to his puppets as "friends".)
After he finished college he went into business with Jacob Reiss. Philip was jealous of Reiss' wealth and of his family and decided to sabotage his workplace, but Reiss caught him in the act and when the two fought Reiss was accidentally killed in an explosion. Reiss' daughter Alicia was caught in the explosion and blinded as a result.
Playing the explosion off as an accident, he started a relationship with and then married Reiss' wife, Marcia, and adopted Alicia. When his wife died it was more than he could bear and he lost his sanity. It was at this time that he first began experimenting with radioactive clay that he was somehow able to use to psionically control specific individuals' bodies. He thought to exploit this talent to the fullest and drew up a plan to take over the world. He didn't get very far with the plan before the Fantastic Four stopped him. He succeeded in capturing the Invisible Girl, and masterminded a mass jailbreak using the warden's trustee. He fell from a window after tripping over Alicia's hand, and appeared to have been killed.
The Puppet Master was revealed to have survived, and after months was released from hospital. He then controlled Namor, and used him to battle the Fantastic Four. He also pitted the Human Torch and the Thing against each other. He teamed with the Mad Thinker, and used the original X-Men to battle the Fantastic Four. Teaming up again with the Thinker, who would become his frequent ally, he battled the Thing and the Torch again, and even used animated life-size mannequins to battle the pair.
The Puppet Master was later seen among a group of criminals assembled by Doctor Doom. He then controlled Namor again. He opposed the original X-Men through the mind-controlled Mimic. He also fomented a battle between the Hulk and Namor by controlling the Hulk.
The Puppet Master next allied with the Mad Thinker and Egghead in their attempted blackmail of the U.S. He forced Iron Man to battle Captain Marvel. He again teamed with the Thinker, and attacked the Fantastic Four using androids of their past foes. He controlled Ballox the Monstroid, and battled Spider-Man and the Vision. With the Thinker, he battled Spider-Man and the Thing. He then forced Thor to battle the Fantastic Four. He then controlled the Wrecker and Power Man. Eventually, the Puppet Master returned to his homeland, where he encountered Modred the Mystic.
With Doctor Doom, the Puppet Master trapped the Fantastic Four within the miniature artificial city of "Liddleville"; their minds were trapped inside tiny robot bodies. He was defeated by Doom in Liddleville, however, and was seemingly destroyed by Doom. His mind was then resurrected in a body of living radioactive clay. He battled the Thing on the mental plane, and his living clay body was destroyed. He was eventually resurrected in his original body by the Sphinx.
He was once thought to have been killed when he fell out of the window of a fairly tall building, but he miraculously survived. The Puppet Master has exhibited an uncanny ability to cheat death, dodging mortal threats that have included bomb blasts, drownings, and even a giant squid attack. Liddleville would later be used against the Micronauts and X-Force.
On several occasions the jealous Puppet Master would use his clay to manipulate the lives of the Fantastic Four where his stepdaughter was concerned, in particular to "guard" his precious Alicia from marrying the likes of the Thing. But he was just as outraged when she became engaged to Johnny Storm, also a member of the FF.
With the Thinker and the Wizard, Masters attempted to disrupt the wedding of the Human Torch and Alicia. The plan was to launch an attack on the church after the wedding ceremony, but Masters was so overcome with remorse when he saw how happy Alicia was to marry Johnny that he turned against his associates, launching the Dragon Man against them: his wedding gift to Alicia and Johnny.
He was later revealed to have reformed, remarried, and to have a stepson; the toys he crafted for his son inadvertently caused a battle between Power Pack and the alien Ciegramites. Masters would later reveal to the Thing that he had discovered that the Alicia Johnny had married was actually a Skrull.
The Puppet Master has been shown on two occasions attempting to leave his (overtly) criminal life behind. In the first, he found some measure of spiritual enlightenment in the service of the billionaire philosopher/cultist Satori, who employed Masters to construct a "perfect man" from his clay that would then receive life and the power cosmic from the Silver Surfer and absorb Satori's mind, that he might survive his body's death and serve as a proper leader to his flock. Masters at some point left this cult, and entered a S.H.I.E.L.D.-maintained witness protection program, using his abilities to aid the government through the dulling of memories of other so-protected criminals' previous associates. Masters reached out through his powers to control Ben Grimm and Alicia, duping Ben into a "married life" with his despondent daughter, whom Ben had stopped seeing years before. Ben was freed, but the Fantastic Four were prevented from taking any measure of revenge upon Masters, given his S.H.I.E.L.D. affiliation.
The Puppet Master was seen to have returned to criminal life and affiliated himself with the Mad Thinker. Utilizing a device constructed by Mad Thinker, he was able to control a large number of non-super-humans, most notably members of the Yancy Street Gang to escalate a battle between the two different factions in the superhero Civil War.
He revealed in this issue that he always planned to kill the person he was working with in his past team-ups and that he has anger management problems. Mad Thinker gives him the number of a good therapist. This exchange seems to contradict previous interactions between the two.
The Puppet Master is shown to now be in the business of selling slaves (primarily females). Some of them are superhuman females captured by members of the Chilean Army under his control. Among those held captive are Dusk, Tigra, Silverclaw, Stature, and Araña. The Puppet Master is shown having random male slaves fight to the death. The Puppet Master is presumed killed when he detonates explosives hidden beneath the house he used as a base while still inside, in battle against Ms. Marvel.
During the Fear Itself storyline, Puppet Master is seen in a comatose state in the Raft's infirmary. It was revealed that Purple Man was the one who had Puppet Master manipulate Misty Knight's Heroes for Hire organization to establish a criminal organization for him while he was in jail. Before he could kill Puppet Master, Elektra and Shroud arrive and prevented Purple Man from killing Puppet Master. Purple Man spared Puppet Master and took control of some inmates to attack Elektra and Shroud before escaping from the Raft.
Puppet Master later appears by Misty Knight's side where he uses the villains on Misty Knight's side as payback on Purple Man.
Powers and Abilities
The Puppet Master has no revealed superhuman abilities, but he has a gifted intellect and was once a brilliant biologist with a doctorate in biology. He is an extremely talented craftsman and very gifted in experimental science. His greatest strength was his ability to create extremely lifelike marionette puppets with extreme speed that he modeled after real people. Through intense concentration, he is able to control the physical actions of anyone after whom he models one of his puppets. How he did this was never adequately explained other than he used some type of special radioactive mixture. The clay he used in this mixture was magical, slightly radioactive, and came from a remote area near Wundagore Mountain, Transia, site of the prison of the elder god Chthon. The Puppet Master may have some type of psionic ability which complimented this process, enabling him to control his victims, although the process may be entirely the result of the magical properties of the clay. He cannot control the actions of essentially mindless creatures, and his control can be broken by beings with supremely strong will-power. His control is limited to one person at a time, and the degree of control decreases with the distance from the person controlled.
- The Puppet Master appeared in the Sub-Mariner portion of The Marvel Super Heroes.
- The Puppet Master appeared in the 1982 Incredible Hulk episode "Bruce Banner: Unmasked", voiced by the late Bob Holt. He gets control of the residents in Mesa City while also attempting to control the Hulk - his Hulk "doll" even allows him to exert some slight influence over Bruce Banner, although Banner simply feels uncomfortable rather than falling under the Puppet Master's control - simultaneously causing the Hulk's true identity to be revealed, although even when the Hulk is in his natural state his sheer strength of will allowed him to eventually throw off Puppet-Master's influence. The only person that he doesn't make a puppet of is his stepdaughter Alicia, which allows Bruce and Rick to track him down, Rick subsequently using the Puppet Master's equipment to erase all memory of the Hulk's true identity prior to its destruction.
- The Puppet Master appeared in the two-part Fantastic Four episode "Origin of the Fantastic Four", voiced by Neil Ross. Unlike the comic version, this Puppet Master despised Alicia, treating as a burden and a pawn to be used against the Fantastic Four. He took control of the Thing and used him to capture Invisible Woman. Mister Fantastic freed the Thing from his control and defeated the Puppet Master. Upon returning to his apartment to reclaim his final doll, he ended up in a fight with Alicia, and then he apparently fell to his death from the apartment window. The Fantastic Four weren't able to find his body and claimed that he "vanished from Earth."
- The Puppet Master appears in Fantastic Four: World's Greatest Heroes TV series, voiced by Alvin Sanders. As is the case with Alicia, the Puppet Master is African-American in this series. Debuting in the episode "Puppet Master," he was a sculptor whose clay was hit from a fragment of the same space station where the Fantastic Four were in when they got their powers. After touching his clay, he discovered he can manipulate the person of whoever he sculpts, resulting in him taking over the Thing and kidnapping the award-winning artists and Alicia. When the other Fantastic Four members arrived, the Puppet Master sculpted the Human Torch and took control of him until Alicia broke the sculptures and the Puppet Master is jailed. However, the ending hints at him escaping, as he disguised some clay as a pair of sunglasses. In the episode "Strings", he had manipulated his guards into bringing him enough of his clay to control all of the city officials, allowing him to have the FF evicted and turned into wanted criminals. He ultimate goal was to have Reed Richards enhance his powers, but he was foiled. In the final scene, while locked up in the Vault, he removes some clay from under his false teeth, only for Invisible Woman to appear and take it from him.
- In the extended edition of the Fantastic Four DVD, the Thing notices puppets in a scene with Alicia Masters at her art gallery. She says they belong to her father.
- The Puppet Master appeared in the 2005 Fantastic Four video game voiced by James C. Mathis III. Although you do not fight him directly, he sends several exhibits at a museum (ex. mummies and dinosaurs) after you to protect Alicia. In the end, after the heroes destroyed the statue of Horus, he escapes to the back door. His last line is "Next time, fantastic fools, the Puppet Master will not fail." The heroes aren't aware that he was responsible for the disaster, believing it instead to be a side-effect of the cosmic rays that gave them their powers. In the instruction booklet that comes with the game, Puppet Master's bio is given, explaining that he uses radioactive clay to control whoever he chooses. This is probably how he made the exhibits in the museum come to life and attack the Fantastic Four.
- The Puppet Master has appeared in the animated series Fantastic Four: World's Greatest Heroes.