D-Man is a comic book character that has been in existence for three decades, but has rarely been featured regularly in a series. This hero has experienced many hardships over the years and it’s certainly been interesting to read about what he’s endured. He’s been a wrestler, a sidekick, comic relief, and a pawn in villainous schemes. An unpopular character with such a rich backstory made D-Man a truly D-sirable choice for the D-list.
Created by Mike Carlin and Ron Wilson, Dennis Dunphy first appeared in The Thing Vol. 1 #28 in 1985. An athletic young man, Dunphy had dreams of playing in the NFL. That dream was dashed though, when no recruiters selected him for the major league during his college years. He began to pursue physical perfection at the gym until a man known as the Power Broker offered him an experimental treatment that would exponentially augment his strength. With the procedure a success, Dunphy, along with many fellow human experiments now enhanced with incredible strength, joined the Unlimited Class Wrestling Federation. The experiment came with a catch – test subjects were required to take pills to stabilize the potentially deadly side effects of the treatment. The Power Broker ordered Dunphy to attack the then-current Ms. Marvel or his necessary pill supply would be cut off. Though he knew withdrawing from the pills could prove fatal, Dennis would not attack the hero. He was hospitalized so he could safely endure the withdrawal process (so you could say he “D-toxed”).
Captain America visited the UCWF, as he believed there was a link between the organization, the Power Broker, and a potential adversary calling himself Super-Patriot. Dunphy was more than happy to tell Cap all he knew about the Broker, so Cap let Dennis aid in the investigation. The wrestler made a costume primarily modeled after Daredevil’s suit (with a dash of Wolverine for flavor), and took the code name “Demolition Man,” or “D-Man” for short. Proving his worth, he saved Captain America from the clutches of Power Broker’s mad scientist, Dr. Malus, when Cap was captured. However, he left Cap during the mission to get some food (don’t get him hangry, you wouldn’t like him when he’s hangry). When D-Man returned to Power Broker Inc., he was overpowered by a number of henchmen and taken to the villain’s mansion. The Broker decided to test the limits of the augmentative procedure on Dunphy and filled him with even more power. In an insane rage induced by the process, D-Man attacked Cap when he came to his rescue. Captain America refused to fight his friend, hoping that D-Man would simply tire himself out. Unfortunately, Dunphy only came to his senses because he suffered a heart attack. When the two escaped, D-Man was transferred to a trauma center to recover.
Shortly thereafter, Rogers gave up the mantle of Captain America and disappeared, since the Commission on Super Human Activities wanted to regulate his heroics. The commission decided to give the patriotic mantle to the aforementioned Super-Patriot instead. Worried about his friend’s whereabouts, D-Man recruited two of Steve’s buddies, Falcon and Nomad, to help search for the former star-spangled hero. Nomad severely disliked D-Man from the start and called the wrestler lazy and stupid on many occasions. Ever the cool-headed and exceptionally nice guy, D-Man never once lashed out in anger at Nomad. Illustrating his possible ineptitude for heroics, however, D-Man allowed the villain Titania to escape after a prison break rather than chance losing a fight to her (actually, he did try to fight her, but she threw him off of a mountain so he gave up). The hero was later defeated and subdued by the new Captain America’s sidekick, Battle-Star, and brought into federal custody along with his companions. When an opportunity presented itself, Nomad took the chance to escape, but Dunphy refused to flee as he felt it was the wrong thing to do. D-Man was questioned about Steve, but once it became apparent the hero had no idea where Rogers was, he was freed.
Soon after, D-Man and Rogers reunited outside of an abandoned Avengers base when Battle-Star arrived on the scene, seeking aid to rescue the new Captain America. The terrorist organization calling themselves the Underground Liberated Totally Integrated Mobile Army To Unite Mankind, or U.L.T.I.M.A.T.U.M. for short, devised a weapon that would create an electromagnetic pulse to disrupt all of the planet’s electronics. When Captain America and Battle-Star tried to thwart the villainous plan, Cap was captured. Rogers, D-Man and Battle-Star flew a jet to the terrorist’s compound, and Rogers asked D-Man to keep the plane safe as it was their only means of escape. When Rogers and Battle-Star infiltrated the building, they were met by Flag-Smasher, leader of U.L.T.I.M.A.T.U.M., who revealed that he actually wanted to stop the E.M.P. None of them could figure out how to switch off the machine, so Rogers asked Dunphy to set the jet to crash into the building and leap to safety before impact. Before D-Man had the chance, he noticed flying U.L.T.I.M.A.T.U.M. guards planting bombs on the wings of the jet. D-Man was left to make a life or death decision; set the plane to crash into the building and hope that the bombs don’t destroy the plane first, or disarm the bombs before they detonate and then set the plane to crash. Unfortunately, D-Man couldn’t make a decision in time and the plane crashed into the building, obliterating it, and himself in the process (D-Man D-stroyed).
Years later, Flag-Smasher contacted the Avengers looking for Rogers, who had since reclaimed his Captain America title. The villain told them that he had a hostage that would interest Cap. Steve was unavailable, but Falcon and U.S. Agent flew to Smasher’s compound and found that Dunphy was the hostage. D-Man survived the seemingly fatal explosion, spent some years on ice, and was living with a group of Eskimo’s at the Arctic Circle. The heroic duo rescued D-Man, but he was shown with the inability to speak or show emotion. A doctor examined Dunphy and concluded that the hero had suffered selective amnesia and brain damage from oxygen deprivation. In an attempt at normalcy, D-man was taken for a walk through Central Park (because nothing bad ever happens to New York City in comic books, right?!), but was attacked and landed in a cavern far below the surface. There, he met “the night people,” a group of homeless people living underground. Their founder, Brother Have-Not, told Dunphy that he was in a place called “Zerotown,” before placing him in a cage. His physical and mental capabilities returned, however, and D-man broke the cage open. Impressed, Have-Not invited D-Man to accompany some of the night people on a foraging run.
The group arrived at a convenience store that was closed for the night, and it became apparent that the night people planned to break in. Dunphy pointed out that it’s wrong to steal and that he disagrees with what Have-Not was commanding his followers to do. When D-Man tries to apprehend Have-Not, the villain revealed that he has the power to drain energy and promptly depleted D-Man of his strength. Have-Not stepped away from the hero to join in the fleecing of the store when Jikjak, a young night person, arrived on the scene. D-Man told the boy that Avengers Headquarters is nearby and asked him to get help. When the police arrived, Have-Not threw a lead pipe straight at an officer, but the object was deflected by Captain America’s shield. D-man and Cap defeated Have-Not, and Rogers told Dunphy how happy he is to have him back. However, D-Man decided to stay in Zerotown and serve as a protector to the night people.
Ben Urich, a reporter for The Daily Bugle, searched the sewers for D-Man after allegations that the hero was stealing pieces of property from the robberies he was thwarting. When Urich found D-Man, the hero took off a glove and touched the reporter, commenting that he has trouble determining what’s real. Concerned for Dunphy’s mental stability, Urich brought Daredevil to meet him. After the initial excitement of meeting an idol, Dunphy began to tell Daredevil about the “Cosmic Gamesmaster” and the “gems” that needed to be recovered. D-Man began speaking of the “quest” that he is on, but Daredevil assured D-Man that his quest is over and the two left the sewer together. It was becoming apparent that Dennis Dunphy was descending into madness.
Former super hero, Wonder Man, assembled a team of super-powered individuals that he dubbed, “Revengers,” (no surprise that “Wonder Man” is not a very creative guy) to shut down the Avengers. He believed that the group of heroes, of which he was once a member, had no right to determine what was in the world’s best interests, citing Ultron and Scarlet Witch as problems they created and unleashed upon innocents. D-Man was shown fighting alongside the Revengers until the group was beaten and brought in for questioning. D-Man once again spoke of the Cosmic Gamesmaster, his quest, and how the Avengers had ignored him when he reached out for help.
Later, a gun-toting masked man calling himself “Scourge” began murdering former villains who were currently under witness protection. A government employee and all around incredible jerk, Henry Peter Gyrich, is revealed to be responsible for Scourge’s actions, believing that America should not be helping super-powered felons. Gyrich implanted a remote controlled device inside Scourge’s head to keep him docile. While investigating how someone could learn classified witness information, Captain America discovered that it was a mole within S.H.I.E.L.D. who leaked the protected villains’ whereabouts to Gyrich. Henry was easily captured, but Scourge was still on the loose and shown to be targeting Roger Gocking, the reformed villain, Porcupine. Captain America saved Gocking’s life from Scourge’s assault and attacked the masked mystery man. S.H.I.E.L.D. member Dum Dum Duggan, tracked Cap via a locator and contacted Sharon Carter to aid the hero in the fight, as Scourge was clearly stronger than Cap and besting him in physical combat. Scourge berated Cap for defending super-villains as the two battled, but Cap was more interested in Scourge’s familiar fighting style. Cap’s fears were confirmed when he knocked off Scourge’s mask, revealing the familiar face of Dennis Dunphy. Dennis incapacitated Cap and commented that justice is worth killing for as he grabbed and lifted Cap’s shield, readying a fatal blow. Carter arrived just in time to save Cap by shooting Dunphy. Once hit, Dennis snapped out of his rage and confusion and died with Captain America by his side.
While D-Man initially appeared as a comical character, his story took a sharp, tragic turn. He was constantly berated by others and frequently shown to be incapable of making good decisions to a humorous degree. But what D-Man lacked in confidence and ability, he more than made up for in heart. He only wanted to help others, and never lashed out on those that mocked him and put him down. What was unfortunately not explored to a greater degree was the darker side of D-Man after he was released from his icy prison. What sort of mental illness did D-man suffer from? Was it the result of oxygen deprivation, or was it always within him? Was it PTSD? Schizophrenia? Unfortunately, these questions may never be answered with certainty, as D-Man was never afforded the true help that he needed.
Outside of one alternate timeline story, D-Man has never appeared outside of the mainstream Marvel 616 Universe. This character absolutely deserves a spot on the D-list, but I must admit that I only considered writing about him because he was requested by a reader (and I sincerely thank whoever that reader was). I believed that D-Man was a joke – a sort of comic relief within comics, having never realized exactly what he endured. He has quickly become one of my favorite characters and I believe that the established heroes of the 616 need heroes like D-Man. Not on the front lines to battle Dr. Doom or take the responsibility of leading a team of young Avengers in training, but to boost others’ confidence and lend a helping hand. The true tragedy of Dennis Dunphy is that he did his best to help others, but others weren’t there for him when he needed them most. Whether D-Man is resurrected for future storylines or not, at least we can read past stories of D-Man both aiding and demolishing the Marvel U…
As I was finishing this article, I found out that D-Man has been resurrected and is appearing in the new “Sam Wilson: Captain America” book! Now is the perfect time to jump on the D-Man bandwagon!