Morituri warriors, past and present. Artist: Brent Anderson.


Medium: Comic books
Published by: Marvel Comics
First Appeared: 1986
Creators: Peter B. Gillis (writer) and Brent Anderson (artist)
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Anyone who habitually enjoys stories in the superhero genre must at least occasionally wonder what super powers would do to the human body. Would The Flash's

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… super speed accelerate his metabolism and age him prematurely? (This was expected to happen to Lightning, the super-speedy T.H.U.N.D.E.R. agent.) Would The Atom's extreme fluctuations in size and mass stress him to the breaking point? (Ant Man did have some problems along these lines.) Would The Elongated Man's gingold, Captain America's super soldier formula or Atomic Mouse's U-235 pills have unwanted side effects, like a lot of real-life drugs? (Hourman's miraclo did.)

In Marvel Comics' Strikeforce Morituri, the down side of super powers was clearly spelled out. The "Morituri Process", which conferred super powers on an individual, would also ensure that individual's death within a year, maybe sooner. And not just any death, but usually rather a flamboyant one, as the body rejected the altered metabolism imposed on it and, the original metabolism having been removed, de-constructed catastrophically, without warning. (The question of what it means to remove or replace a metabolism was never addressed.) The first issue, written by Peter B. Gillis (Shatter, The Eternals) and drawn by Brent Anderson (Ka-Zar, Astro City), was dated December, 1986. The title came from what was allegedly said by gladiators in the death games of ancient Rome: "Ave Caesar, Imperator! Morituri te salutant!" (Hail Caesar, emperor! We who are about to die salute you!)

Obviously, any reasonably well adjusted person would need extraordinary motivation to undergo the process. Since nobody wants to read comic books about morbid losers, extraordinary motivation was provided. The series was set in the middle of the 21st century, when Earth was dominated by an alien race known as The Horde. Horde raiders would loot, pillage, murder, enslave, etc. at will, their superior technology rendering them immune to attempts at resistance. Only Strikeforce Morituri, which started out as an elite squad of six warriors, was able to faze them.

Naturally, they were instantly acclaimed worldwide as heroes. Equally naturally, their number was quickly reduced, as one of them self-destructed as early as the fourth issue. But a couple of issues after that, a new batch of Morituri warriors was there to replace them. And so it went, a constant cycle of death and replenishment, as long as the series lasted. The only character who remained prominent through its entire run was Dr. Kimmo Tuolema, who invented the process, and who was constantly wracked with guilt over destroying the lives of so many young heroes.

Since this was a Marvel comic, the Morituri acted less like a military outfit than a bunch of superheroes. Instead of a spiffy uniform, each wore an individual costume. Also, each took on a superhero name, which seems especially pointless since they didn't maintain secret identities. And of course, rather than give each recipient an expected range of abilities, the process gave them random super powers, as inexplicable and as varied as those of the average character in X-Men. This series went through superhero concepts at almost the same rate as Dial H for Hero.

Of necessity, the focus remained on the series concept, rather than on the individual stars. This goes against the grain at Marvel, where promotion tends to be centered on characters, and may have contributed to the marginalization of the series. The Horde was eventually defeated, and tho there were other menaces to fight (mainly in the form of Earth's government, known as The Paideia, turning out not as benign as originally thought), Strikeforce Morituri wound down. The last issue was #31, dated July, 1989. An additional five-issue mini-series, Strikeforce Morituri: Electric Undertow, ran from December, 1989 to March, 1990, but that was the end of it.

There's talk now of adapting it into a series for cable TV's Sci-Fi Channel, to be titled 1,000 Days (possibly because TV viewers aren't expected to be as well educated as comic book readers, and thus wouldn't recognize the Latin word "morituri"). Nothing has come of this so far, but it could turn up any year now.


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Text ©2004-10 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Marvel Comics.