For a brief period of time in the '90s, Peter Parker hung up the identity of Spider-Man. However, unlike previous storylines where he gave up the superhero lifestyle, this one saw our beloved hero take up not just one, but four costumed personas. This occurred after Spider-Man was framed for a crime he didn’t commit by Norman Osborn and the Trapster. With a bounty on his head, Peter was forced to adapt to his circumstances by adopting the brand new identities of Prodigy, Dusk, Ricochet and the Hornet.
Eventually, Spider-Man was able to clear his name and Peter adopted his main persona once again. As for Prodigy, Dusk, Ricochet, and the Hornet, their stories continued when four teenagers took up the identities as a superhero team known as the ‘Slingers’. Though the team’s appearances in comics have been sporadic over the years, they’re due to return in a one-shot in February. With their return to the Marvel universe soon approaching, let’s look back at the origins and history of the team and what the future could hold for them.
The original identities each had their own abilities and personality. Ricochet used agility and small discs that would ricochet off objects, while Dusk’s costume was from the negative zone and allowed Peter to blend into the dark so it looked like he was invisible. The Hornet’s design used a jet pack designed by Hobie Brown, aka the Prowler, and sedative darts that Peter took from Ben Reily’s Scarlet Spider costume. The Prodigy had a golden age superhero personality and super-strength, with Peter using it to make giant leaps in the air that looked like he was flying.
The costumes were later retrieved by the Golden Age hero Black Marvel, who recruited a misfit group of teenagers to mentor into a superhero team. Hornet was now Eddie McDonough, a freshman suffering from cerebral palsy who used the high-tech suit to become a hero. Prodigy was Ritchie Gilmore, an athletic loner whose costume was now mystically improved. Johnny Gallo, a mutant with superhuman agility became the new Ricochet. Cassie St. Commons a rich Goth girl from Connecticut became the new Dusk but died during the group’s first initiation trial. She then mysteriously came back to life, with the ability to teleport.
The original Slingers series by Joseph Harris, Chriscross, and Rob Stull lasted for 12 issues and revealed that Black Marvel had made a Faustian deal with Mephisto to obtain the costumes to lead the group of young heroes. On his deathbed, Mephisto ends up claiming Black Marvel’s soul, with the Slingers going into Mephisto’s realm to free their mentor and allow them to die in peace in the final issue of the series. Members of the team would make brief guest appearances in other Marvel comics over the years. The Hornet would eventually die fighting a brainwashed Wolverine in Wolverine Vol. 3 #23 by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.
The Slingers returned as a fully-fledged team in 2018 in an arc in Ben Reilly: The Scarlet Spider, which saw a seemingly restructured Hornet robbing a casino in Las Vegas. Sensing that someone is dishonoring the identity of their friend, the other Slingers come together to investigate with the help of the Scarlet Spider and Kaine. The Black Marvel also returns mysteriously, but is later revealed to be a demon with no soul and the new Hornet is the villain Cyber in disguise. The Slingers fight Cyber, while Ben and Kaine get a priest to perform an exorcism so that the demon Black Marvel disappeared from the Earthly realm. Cyber manages to evade capture when being chased by Prodigy in the sewers.
Recently, it was announced that the Slingers will be returning, possibly to aid Ben Reilly in his new role as Spider-Man. The team is slated to appear in Amazing Spider-Man #88.BEY, with Hobie Brown, aka the original Prowler, taking on the role of the Hornet. Given Hobie’s recent troubled past and having a link to the wider Spider lore, this new return appearance by the Slingers could result in subsequent appearances with a larger role for the team in the Spider-titles and wider Marvel universe.
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