Welcome back to My Hero, where we admire custom action figures of the comic characters who escaped the notice of Kenner & Toy Biz back in the day! Today, we’re looking at a work-for-hire villain who got his start battling a demonic Spirit of Vengeance – the aquakinetic Water Wizard.
Fighting Hellfire with Water
Ghost Rider #23 was the middle part of The Enforcer’s three issue battle with the burning biker, and the second time (though the first on-panel) that he hired another costumed crook to help him out. This time it was Water Wizard, AKA Peter van Zante. Wounded in Vietnam, van Zante was undergoing an experimental treatment aboard a naval vessel when it was struck by lightning. Since this is the Marvel Universe and a story from the 70s, this confluence of events naturally gave him the power to manipulate water with his mind.
Embarking on a career as a costumed mercenary, Water Wizard accepted Enforcer’s contract on the Spirit of Vengeance. Unfortunately, normal water proved ineffective against Ghost Rider’s hellborn powers and he managed to hand both villains their rear-ends by the end of #24. Water Wizard would next join Justin Hammer’s army of super-mercs in Iron Man #126-127, but the gaggle of uncoordinated operators proved no match for the well-armed shellhead.
After an abortive attempt to avenge himself against Ghost Rider, which ended with the hero kidnapping him to build a well in the midwest (really), things weren’t going particularly well for Water Wizard. His crappy car even broke down on his way to an important meeting of super-villains at the Bar With No Name in Captain America #319…and it saved his life. He arrived on the scene of the Massacre at the Bar With No Name in #320 to discover the handiwork of the brutal Scourge of the Underworld (who had previously murdered his ex-employer The Enforcer). All eighteen or so villains who’d attended were dead. Water Wizard immediately reported the crime directly to Captain America and consented to being taken to prison, shaken by the whole experience.
I would have first learned about Water Wizard while reading the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe Deluxe Edition, which was chock-full of references to the then-recently wrapped Scourge of the Underworld storyline. A few years after that tale, Fabian Nicieza would re-name him “Aqueduct” in the pages of The New Warriors. I personally hate the name, as it trades comic book whimsy for a generic noun, but it has stuck around for the better part of 30 years now. Water Wizard was working with a gang of environmental terrorists-for-hire called the Forces of Nature while battling the Warriors. Water Wizard himself has never gotten more focus than he did while fighting way outside his weight class with Ghost Rider or narrowly surviving Scourge. He’s mostly crowd-scene filler, but his pivotal role in the Scourge story earned him a spot in our Custom Action Figure Collection AND in my heart as My Hero this week.