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Doctor Who is one of the most popular science-fiction properties of all time. The show has been on television since 1963 and has legions of fans dedicated to it. In 1982, Marvel saw Doctor Who’s popularity and decided to try and replicate it on the pages of Power Man and Iron Fist #79. This comic opens to our titular characters, Power Man (Luke Cage) and Iron Fist (Danny Rand), admiring a set of robot props, called Dredlox back stage at an old theater. Luke and Danny then have a conversation with their actor friend Bob Diamond, who’s acting in the play The Day of The Dredlox as the lead, Professor Justin Alphonse “J.A.” Gamble. After leaving for an afterparty, a disgruntled janitor at the theater disappears in a blinding flash of light. The next day, after a training session with Danny, Bob confides in the Heroes for Hire that there have been several disappearances at the theater and hires them to investigate. After a day of investigating, Bob calls Danny in a panic and disappears while talking to him. The Heroes for Hire go to find Bob, and are attacked by the Dredlox, seemingly having come to life. Escaping, Luke and Danny take refuge in a small old bookstore (that’s bigger on the inside), where they meet a man claiming to be the real Professor J.A. Gamble.
Gamble reveals to our heroes that he is a time traveler who wrote the play The Day of The Dredlox under the pseudonym Sergius O’Shaughnessy as a way to earn money (for no specified reason). He hadn’t anticipated that the Dredlox, his archenemies, would use the play to get close to him. While Danny is very open to the idea of a time travelling professor who fights robot trashcans, Luke is much more skeptical, challenging the Professor’s story. After a pot of tea and some more exposition, Danny, Luke, and Gamble see the Dredlox carrying Bob and the other kidnapped people into the theater. Gamble realizes that the Dredlox think Bob is the real Gamble and want to use him to fix their time machine and allow them to stay in the 1980s. Gamble unveils his plan to use a Temporal Polarization Destabilizer, a device of his own creation, to send the Dredlox away and keep them away. Danny and Luke are able to cause a distraction while Gamble plants the Temporal Polarization Destabilizer in the center of the room. The pan is successful, sending the Dredlox back to their time and save the kidnapped people. After the police show up, Gamble and his bookstore mysteriously disappear, leaving Luke and Danny thoroughly confused.
I love this issue. It’s a comic book from the Bronze Age that feels like it belongs in the Silver Age because it’s wacky, insane, and just plain fun. Not to mention that this is a blatant rip off of Doctor Who, as The Dredlox, Gamble, and the bookstore are all analogs of the Daleks, The Doctor, and the Tardis, respectively. This comic was the first and only time that Marvel used Professor Gamble and the Dredlox, and Luke and Danny don’t seem to remember the incident, which is a shame, in my humble opinion. Marvel could use Gamble to really lean into the inherent craziness of comic books and tell some great and high-concept science-fiction stories, much like its inspiration, Doctor Who. Plus, he was only used once, so his history and characterization is a ball of wet clay to shape any way a writer would see fit. This is an amazing concept that Marvel is just sitting on, waiting to be turned into a best-selling comic title.