Welcome to the D-List: Lady Stilt-Man
Stilt-Man is a character who has existed for decades, but various miscreants have used the moniker over the years. The Stilt-Man armor augments strength and is equipped with telescopic legs that can extend over 250 feet. The original designer of the suit, Wilbur Day, frequently clashed with heroes in the Marvel Universe, and although he eventually sought redemption, the man was killed by the Punisher. By this time, Stilt-Man had become an ongoing joke instead of the serious threat he was originally intended to be. However, criminals still desired the suit’s capabilities, and two thugs each briefly donned the armor until nearly a decade ago, when a woman came into its possession.
Lady Stilt-Man is a criminal who has tried very hard to be taken seriously, but perhaps picked the wrong classic villain to idolize and emulate. While “Stilt-Man” already does not sound intimidating, adding “Lady” to the name hasn’t helped (not for sexist reasons, I promise). However, no writer has ever explored the villain’s history, granted her any unique characteristics, or utilized her to any sort of potential. The D-List has a tall order this month as we welcome Lady Stilt-Man.
Created by Joe Kelly and Eric Canete, Lady Stilt-Man first appeared in Amazing Spider Man #611 in January 2010, where the titular hero mocked her as they fought In New York City. An inept combatant, Lady Stilt-Man had trouble walking, and accidentally stepped on cars as she tried to attack the hero. The nameless woman inside of the suit obviously never practiced using it, and Lady Stilt-Man sobbed when one of her extended legs was caught in an open sewer and she fell (grow up, Lady).
While that situation was fantastically funny, it provided no reason for the criminal’s use of the Stilt-Man armor, nor any motivation for her villainy. While she was in custody, Steve Rogers remarked that she would probably benefit from rehabilitation, but would likely only prove useful on the team of losers, the Great Lakes Avengers (this was truly the height of her unpopularity). It seemed that Lady Stilt-Man’s initial appearances were meant solely for humorous purposes.
Lady Stilt-Man later fought Silver Sable and successfully beat the mercenary, but the criminal was bested by Black Panther in combat. She then worked for Misty Knight against the Purple Man, and successfully defeated multiple supervillains. Unfortunately, Lady Stilt-Man betrayed Misty and defected to Purple Man’s gang for more money.
While these comics still provided no insight into the villain’s history, at least Lady Stilt-Man was now a somewhat capable fighter who understood how to use the suit she wore, but she brought nothing new to the namesake. Was Lady Stilt-Man capable of modifying and enhancing the armor’s capabilities? It is unlikely that she was a proficient engineer since she did nothing to upgrade the suit (but she’d be perfect for a STEM program with those long stems). Nonetheless, Lady Stilt-Man tried to prove herself as a competent criminal when she migrated to the nation of Bagalia and joined the Masters of Evil. Unfortunately, the large team of criminals attempted to fight Nick Fury, and Lady Stilt-Man was quickly defeated.
Back in the United States, Deadpool was on his way to kill a businessman, but the man, named Gump, hired a group of mercenaries to protect him. Lady Stilt-Man kicked Deadpool off of a roof, but Spider-Man saved him, and the duo fought the group of villains. While Chance, Trapster, and Taskmaster were beaten, Lady Stilt-Man grabbed Gump and fled in order to take him to safety. Deadpool followed her, knocked her onto a roof, and attached explosives to her legs (I think those long legs were already the bomb). Although she ditched the suit, Wade restrained her by using Spidey’s web shooters.
It was certainly interesting to see Lady Stilt-Man as a mercenary fighting Deadpool, but of course, she was defeated again. Lady Stilt-Man could have been written as an asset within the Masters of Evil, and even though she was partnered with fellow D-listers, there was plenty of potential for stories featuring her as a member of a mercenary team. Sadly, Lady Stilt-Man was never able to commit a crime successfully (she could’ve given new meaning to the term “high crime rate”). Furthermore, the last comic in which she appeared showed her as a victim of very unfortunate circumstances, but her real name was finally revealed.
In an issue of Captain America: Sam Wilson, Claire Temple called Misty Knight at the request of the villain, because Lady Stilt-Man was in the hospital, and didn’t have any friends to help her. Although the villain, whose real name is Callie Ryan, was bruised, Claire was more concerned with Lady Stilt-Man’s mental state. Callie told Misty that someone had distributed pornography featuring Lady Stilt-Man, but it was not actually her in the video. The porn went viral, and Callie was now regularly ridiculed – even her family was aware of the video, and as a result, Lady Stilt-Man was extremely depressed. Misty investigated, and discovered that the man in the video used a life-model decoy of Callie, and the Slug was behind the production of this and other pornography like it. Misty defeated the Slug, turned him over to the authorities, then beat up others who had helped distribute the pornographic video. To my knowledge, Lady Stilt-Man has not been seen since this incident.
I am definitely happy that Lady Stilt-Man was featured in that Captain America story, and although she was a victim of terrible circumstances, a hero was willing to stand up for her. However, I wish Callie was shown after the incident, possibly willing to work with Misty Knight again. I believe there is much more potential to Callie Ryan than writers have ever allowed. If she was mechanically inclined, Callie could upgrade the armor to include extendable arms, furthering her reach, or mount weapons for additional long-range deadliness. I would at least like to learn how she initially came into the suit’s possession, and her motivation for crime. She has yet to be written as a serious threat, however, so I doubt that readers will ever learn Lady Stilt-Man’s origin (stop stunting her growth, Marvel).
I don’t believe that Lady Stilt-Man has ever appeared outside of Marvel Comics. I’m sure that she will never achieve the villainy status of Ultron or Apocalypse, but hopefully, a writer at Marvel will decide to do something more than write Callie Ryan as a joke. Even if she is used solely for levity, I could imagine her as a part of a team of entertaining but unsuccessful criminals, in the vein of Nick Spencer’s Superior Foes of Spider-Man (Nick Spencer, if you’re reading this, feel free to take that idea). At the very least, I hope that she is not completely forgotten, and fans can read more tall tales of Lady Stilt-Man in the Marvel Universe for years to come.