In The Avengers #120-123, our heroes took on the crime cartel known as Zodiac, based on the constellations. Now only two of these guys had super powers and they had some advanced weapondry from somewhere. But I vividly recall how seven of them, and not even the ones with powers, fought the Avengers whose line-up included Thor, Iron Man and the Vision and made a good showing for themselves. I'll get into specifics later but just because you dress like a lion or a crab doesn't mean that you can battle Thor!

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Tell that to Mr. Hyde.

But Hyde had Class 50 strength, incredible durability and a goatee that could disappear!

Anyway, Zodiac started off well with Scorpio revealed to be Jake Fury, Nick Fury's brother (one of a series of evil siblings that heroes seem to have). I believe that he appeared in Sgt.Fury also. Scorpio arranged to have Nick assassinated in the last issue of his Agent of SHIELD title. The Zodiac team proper was introduced in The Avengers #72 (Ja'70). Most weren't even formally identified but it was easy to figure out who was Taurus and who was Pisces! *SPOILER ALERT* Nick wasn't really dead but he was disguised as Scorpio.

The roster was as follows:

Aquarius: had his own Age! Supposedly used water based weapons but was never seen with so much as a garden hose! Died in Ghost Rider #7. Guy in Costume.

Aries: first leader of Zodiac. Possessed the Zodiac Key. Horns on mask super-hard. Led an invasion of Manhatten in Avengers #82. Failed and died. Replaced by rebellious African-American who later merged with X-Men baddie, Lucifer in Captain America #177-178 and battled the Falcon. Died. Guy in Costume.

Cancer: wore "power-pincers". All the time. Couldn't dial a phone or tie a knot! Guy in Costume.

Capricorn: apparently had green skin. "Horns" on mask could elongate and ensnare opponents. How he did this without snapping his neck is unknown. Guy in Costume.

Gemini: had a real origin in Astonishing Tales #8. Could control his good brother and double his strength! Still no match for Captain America or the Black Panther but had a legimate super-power.

Leo: dressed in lion costume with an enormous head. Supposedly uses his claws as weapons. Wolverine's not losing any sleep! Guy in Costume.

Libra: after saying barely a word, comes into his own. Gets an origin in Avengers #123 where he is revealed to be the father of Mantis. Really blind but can "see" anyway. Martial Artist and posseses mystic senses. Super-powered.

Pisces: Zodiac's underwater brawler. Namor must be shaking in his Speedos! Guy in Costume.

Sagittarius: Not even an archer which would have been something! Guy in Costume.

Scorpio: after Jake Fury, replaced by Frenchman who excelled in mediocrity. Later revealed to be Jake in diguise. Not really clear on that. Guy in Costume.

Taurus: Zodiac's freight train. Massive fighter with goring horns. Actually Cornelius Van Lunt from Avengers #77 and #80 but not revealed until #120. Borderline super-villain with his stellar-energy weapons.

Virgo: Lone female on the team so the Wasp and the Scarlet Witch have someone to fight. Gal in Costume.

So could these guys even give Cap's Kookie quartet a good fight, let alone handle Thor, Iron Man and the Vision? I kept waiting for them to gain some powers so they could have a believable battle but it never happened!

I was always amazed at how pedestrian the Zodiac was when, thematically, each had decent-enough potential. I mean even Captain America's Serpent Society foes, who were similarly shackled to a specific theme, were a lot tougher than these guys.

I think the main issue with the Zodiac is that they were (apparently) built as foes for agents of SHIELD, and not the superhero population in general. That meant they had to be low-powered as well. But by the Bronze Age, SHIELD had primarily become a support agency for superheroes, and was rarely shown "adventuring" on its own. Thus when the Zodiac appeared, usually in superhero books, they were hopelessly out-gunned (or at least should have been). They probably would have made decent foes for Daredevil.

Does DC have a Zodiac group? What did they look like and do?

DC had Doctor Zodiac and Madame Zodiac from World's Finest.

Zodiac as SHIELD enemies does make sense as Scorpio debuted in Nick Fury. They may have been intended to replace HYDRA and AIM, being more individualistic to combat the specific agents. (Taurus vs Dum Dum, Virgo vs Val, etc).

The crossover that started in Iron Man #35 to Daredevil #73 and ending in Iron Man #36 featured Nick Fury as he, Shell-Head and DD battles the formidable trio of Capricorn, Aquarius and Saggitarius. The latter two were identified by each other names and it made no difference to the story!

 

That's a really good summary, guys.

I just wish someone could apmlify how Capricorn's head-dress/horns worked...or if it was a superpower....

and just what the actual plot for IM 35-DD 73-IM 36 was.  Does anyone know?

Aries: first leader of Zodiac. Possessed the Zodiac Key. Horns on mask super-hard. Led an invasion of Manhatten in Avengers #82. Failed and died. Replaced by rebellious African-American who later merged with X-Men baddie, Lucifer in Captain America #177-178 and battled the Falcon. Died. Guy in Costume.

Cancer: wore "power-pincers". All the time. Couldn't dial a phone or tie a knot! Guy in Costume.

Capricorn: apparently had green skin. "Horns" on mask could elongate and ensnare opponents. How he did this without snapping his neck is unknown. Guy in Costume.

Leo: dressed in lion costume with an enormous head. Supposedly uses his claws as weapons. Wolverine's not losing any sleep! Guy in Costume.

Pisces: Zodiac's underwater brawler. Namor must be shaking in his Speedos! Guy in Costume.

As Reed Richards stated in Fantastic Four, I think it was about issue 167, the term super-powers is vague. Iron Man is a guy in a costume for example, Ben Grimm at that time in an exo-skeleton was a guy in a costume. Green Lantern is a guy in a costume. I don't have the issues you cite here but there would seem to be evidence of hightened abilities derived from the costume in the cases I selected from your list above. Most of them admittedly are lame although Aries with the Zodiac Key would be in the same category at least as Green Lantern.

A few minor points...

There remains, I think, to this day, some speculation as to whether there was one "Scorpio" or two, between NICK FURY #1 & 5.  The guy was seen BLOWN TO ATOMS at the end of the 1st issue.  However, especially with the force-field he displayed in #5, the assumption was that it was the same guy, who had miraculously escaped death. There seemed to be indications in #5 that he was someone Nick knew, but his identity remained a mystery and he seemed to get killed in a HAIL OF BULLETS at the end of #5.  (Then again-- the exact same thing happened to CAP at the end of CAPTAIN AMERICA #111-- by the same writer!!)

As an aside-- Hydra hired "Bullseye" to assassinate Nick in NICK FURY #15. It was to be the signal to launch a full-scale attack by the reformed organization against all of Manhattan.  But... inexplicably, the then-current Supreme Hydra CHANGED HIS MIND halfway thru the issue, but didn't bother to tell his hired hitman this.  Bullseye wasted an entire afternoon following Fury all over Manhattan, when he could have killed him at any point, before gunning him down in a very crowded Central Park, and was SHOT DEAD by SHIELD agents while trying to escape. One of the stupidest hit-men in history, I'd say.  (An entirely different Bullseye debuted in DAREDEVIL some years later.  That book was known for multiple instances of different character, both heroes and villains, reusing old names. like that.)

In AVENGERS #72, Roy Thomas decided to wrap up loose ends from NICK FURY and CAPTAIN MAR-VELL, both of which had been cancelled at the time. In an immensely convoluted story, The Avengers were captured by Scorpio, who revealed to them the Zodiac crime cartel, and then revealed that he was really Nick Fury in disguise. And then Nick revealed that he'd found out that Scorpio was really his brother Jake, who (as far as he knows) WAS killed in that hail of bullets in NICK FURY #5.  There was no explanation at all for Jake's actions, and Nick came across as a real "heel" for the way he put the Avengers' lives in danger without even letting them know what was going on in advance.  (Nick was increasingly written as a very unlikable person the more the 70's went on. NOT the hero I'd come to admire so much from his 60's adventures.)

When David Kraft decided to bring back Scorpio in THE DEFENDERS, he revealed that Jake was NOT the real Scorpio!!  The real guy-- who apparently was one of the founding members of the Zodiac cartel-- HAD gotten blown to atoms in NICK FURY #1.  Jake happened to be on the scene, saw it happen, and got ahold of the Zodiac Key, which fell from the explosion right into his hands.  I think Kraft finally explained why Jake was out to kill Nick... but I haven't read those stories since the 70's.

To this day, I really wonder what Jim Steranko had in mind. Whatever it was, those various AVENGERS issues were a pale shadow of the potential displayed in those 2 original installments.

I've read that Steranko has insisted Jake Fury wasn't Scorpio so that's probably why Kraft established he wasn't the real guy.

Unfortunately none of this ended up mattering since Zodiac was killed off in the 80s by robots built by a robot Jake Fury. Except van Lunt, who was then killed by a then totally insane Moon Knight that stalked him like Jason Vorhees until he got him. To me this ended Zodiac for good.

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