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Grapplers - Marvel Comics - Auntie Freeze

Grapplers

(Part #2)


Power Level:
Game system: DC Heroes Role-Playing Game

Context

This is the second half of the article.

The first half is there.

You’re supposed to read it first.

Because it’s the first half.


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History (part 1)

The Grapplers were originally three female costumed wrestlers in 1970s New York City.

They were assembled and trained by Ann Fraley. Who wrestled during the 1950s and 1960s as “Auntie Freeze”.

Fraley’s career isn’t detailed. But it seems likely that it resembled the career of Mary “The Fabulous Moolah” Ellisor .

For those wanting to fully develop the Grapplers as characters (or even Player Characters ), the basics of Elissor’s career (and abuses) provides important context about what their lives may have been.

However, Ms. Fraley seemed markedly older than Moolah. She might have been born during the 1910s, or — more likely — had an accident or sickness that ended her career, and left her frail.

Get in the ring

The Grapplers presumably were with the National Wrestling Alliance World’s Women Championship (WWC) . To my knowledge it was the only promotion for lady wrestlers in the US until the 1986 launch of the aforementioned GLOW (Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling) .

The Grapplers were popular. They were technically accomplished, their ring personas worked (and were pretty much their actual personality), and they had a strong presence and crowd-working skills.

The Grapplers’ costumes were made at the Rogues Gallery Costumes shop in Bellingham, WA. But this establishment’s primary activity is to help small-time supercriminals disguise themselves to evade the police.

This *might* mean that Fraley had mob connections and/or criminal activities.


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Smooth criminals

Despite their popularity and Fraley’s pull, the Grapplers struggled to make ends meet. This mirrored insufficient compensation issues for contemporary real-world women wrestlers, such as Wendi Richter .

Disgruntled, they freelanced as muscle for New York City mobs. They were successful enough to develop their own underworld contacts.

During the late 1970s, Poundcakes thus ended up in the slammer. She shared her cell with a tough prostitute called Melissa “Mimi” Gold. Pouncy thought that Gold was good Grappler material.

Gold joined as “Screaming Mimi”, turning the Grapplers into a quartet.

Roxxon, those days are over

When seen in 1979, the Grapplers were trained and managed at Kowalsky’s Gym, a somewhat seedy establishment on the Lower East Side.

Grapplers - Marvel Comics - 1970s hospital fight

It seems possible that they had a temporary falling out with Ms. Fraley. There’s also an implication that Kowalsky was mobbed up, possibly as part of a laundering operation.

By that point, the Grapplers had also struck a deal with Roxxon, one of the largest oil companies in the world. One of their subsidiaries, the Brand Corporation, was a shady security operation that regularly experimented with creating superhuman agents.

One of Brand’s higher-ups was a wrestling fan. He approached them with an offer of money and discreet enhancements if they would do covert jobs for Brand.

The Grapplers took the deal. They likely ran a number of unchronicled jobs for Brand after that.

Femizoniaque

They briefly trained with a newcomer to wrestling, the towering Thundra.

Despite the efforts of her fly-by-night manager, Herkimer Oglethorpe, the session was a bit of a disaster. Thundra had massive superhuman strength, and couldn’t be bothered to follow the fight choreography.

The Grappler’s Brand Corporation contact researched Thundra. He realised that it was the same fighter who had thrashed the Thing at least twice, and that she came from the future.

Since Roxxon had some level of time-travel tech, it seemed possible to strike a deal with her.

Grappling at the Garden

The Grapplers’ Titania soon faced Thundra again, during a wrestling match at the Madison Square Garden . But it was rigged. Titania had a hidden needle with enough knockout drug to take even Thundra down.

The unconscious Thundra was thus kidnapped by Roxxon after the match.

(In the real world, the New York State Athletic Commission barred women’s wrestling matches until the 1970s. The pressure to overturn this came from several women wrestlers. In the Marvel Universe, Auntie Freeze may have been the one who took the Athletic Commission to court… or loudly and falsely claimed she had.)

(In the real world, the MSG was the first venue to host these newly-authorised matches, within weeks of the decision. Having the Grapplers perform there is another hint that they were top-card.)

PEGASUS

Thundra agreed to help with one mission. And she was powerful enough to make it feasible for the Grapplers to raid Project: PEGASUS.

Grapplers - Marvel Comics - vs. Dazzler

PEGASUS was a government research centre in alternative energy sources. And it had a particularly tough superhuman security – including the Thing, Quasar (Wendell Vaughn) and Black Goliath (Bill Foster).

Though Thundra and the Grapplers were arrested, the mission was a success. In particular, they delivered key Nth Projector parts for the traitorous Dr. Thomas Lightner to use.

Ryker’s Island

The Grapplers spent years imprisoned on the infamous Ryker’s Island pen. However, their skills, meanness and charisma made them the queens of the women’s quarters.

They had practically free rein at night, as they bribed or threatened the guards.

Secondary sources  state that the Grapplers were paroled. But then found out that the women’s wrestling scene had lost its momentum without them – and wasn’t paying livable wages anymore. They thus resorted to crime, but were arrested again.

(I find it a bit odd that they were paroled so soon, even with Roxxon lawyers. There were less than three years between PEGASUS and their next appearance, where they’re still in prison. So there’s nothing to bridge between the two.)

Dazzled

In 1982, the Dazzler (Alison Blaire) was imprisoned at Ryker’s. Word on the grapevine was that she had recently killed dreaded criminal Klaw (Ulysses S. Klaw).

The Grapplers decided to confront her right away, to establish dominance.

However, they did not know how Blaire’s powers worked. When Mimi used her scream on Dazzler, the sonic energy was absorbed. Ms. Blaire returned it as light, knocking the Grapplers out.

Yet, the Grapplers were soon free. Perhaps briefly ending up at the infirmary provided them with an escape opportunity.

Some Thing between us

In 1983, the Grapplers were part of the impromptu army of super-villains that attempted to have their revenge against the hospitalised Thing. They considered that he was responsible for their arrest at PEGASUS.

Grapplers - Marvel Comics - New Grapplers and Titania

Early on, they were unaware that other criminals were present. But they ran into Captain America (Steve Rogers), one of the many heroes guarding the hospital.

The Grapplers were somewhat, a bit holding their own against Cap. But they were forced to retreat when the X-Men showed up.

They regrouped with the other villains present, but were defeated when the assembled heroes counterattacked. The Grapplers likely spent two more years in prison.


History (part 2)

By the mid-1980s, a new wrestling promotion debuted. The Unlimited Class Wrestling Federation (UCWF) featured wrestlers with superhuman strength. It soon proved lucrative.

Most of the wrestlers had obtained super-strength via the risky Power Broker process.

Auntie Freeze negotiated a women’s division with this promotion. She then recruited the Grapplers, who agreed to undergo the Power Broker treatment. All four made it.

The now super-strong Grapplers were finally able to make good money as UCWF performers. And Auntie Freeze had enough pull to have the promotion star ex-cons.

(The UCWF’s women division being created with Fraley is vaguely reminiscent of the 1983 sale of the Women’s World Champions promotion to Vince MacMahon’s World Wrestling Federation .)

N00bz

Success meant an expanded roster. Eventually there were 15-ish Grapplers, as the name became that of the UCWF’s women division.

(These are sometimes called the “New Grapplers”, for clarity.)

This resulted in tensions. Other wrestlers felt that the original Grapplers’ criminal records were harming the whole stable’s income potential. Titania was thus challenged for leadership, and lost the position to Battleaxe (Anita Ehren).

Shortly after this defeat, Titania was murdered by a Scourge of the Underworld.

Weeks later, Sharon Ventura accidentally discovered the truth about the Power Broker. However, the UCWF as a whole survived this crisis in an unchronicled manner.

Aftermaths

Letha had left the UCWF in order to avenge Titania. But as she helped organise super-villains to go after the Scourge of the Underworld, she was herself murdered.

Grapplers - Marvel Comics - New Grapplers as Titania leaves

Screaming Mimi graduated to super-villain organisations such as the Masters of Evil. But that actually set her on a long and strange path to become a super-heroine, as Songbird.

Poundcakes eventually returned to making a living as a mercenary.

By the late 1980s, the original Grapplers were thus gone.

Some ex-Grapplers — Poundcakes, Mimi, Gladiatrix and Battleaxe — were invited by Superia (Deidre Wentworth) as she pitched her Femizons concept. But this project was derailed by Captain America before it launched.

Whether the UCWF continued to use the “Grapplers” name for the women’s division is unclear. It likely wasn’t good brand equity anymore.


History (part 3)

In 2009, the Hood (Parker Robbins) used Dormammu magic to resurrect those slain by the Scourge of the Underworld. That included Letha and Titania, though DeVito adopted a new alias as Lascivious.

Both DeVito and Feliciano received magic powers due to exposure to demon magic.

Lascivious and the others were sent after the Punisher (Frank Castle). They were told that Castle was the Scourge who had killed them. They were also told that the resurrection spell would only last 30 days – but that Robbins would renew it if Castle died.

However, the part-demonic resurrectees were unable to work with each other. The more arrogant and/or irrational villains splintered off.

Can’t keep a bad girl down

DeVito and Feliciano used their new powers to take over the remaining undead rabble. In particular, they used Bird-Man (Achille DiBacco) for aeromobile getaways and extractions.

Grapplers - Marvel Comics - 2000s resurrected

The first attempt — mostly using Mirage (Desmond Charne)’s plan — messily failed.

Letha and Lascivious then made another attempt on their own. They massacred a roomful of traumatized US military veterans to provoke the Punisher and draw him into a trap.

This wouldn’t have worked, but Spider-Man (Peter Parker) showed up. He proved susceptible to both Grapplers’ mental powers, and nearly killed the Punisher for them.

However, a stroke of bad luck forced Lascivious to evacuate with a wounded Letha.

Aftermath

Letha, Lascivious and other resurrected survivors of the Hood’s war against the Punisher remained alive after the 30 days limit. The Hood had likely lied.

(There’s also a No-Prize theory postulating that Daken’s killing of the Punisher took place within the 30 days, and fulfilled whatever covenant existed with Dormammu).

This is not a love song

In 2011, Poundcakes agreed to re-form the Grapplers with the two resurrectees.

They also strongarmed a teenage runaway named Lanie into becoming a new Screaming Mimi. Lanie was equipped with a throat harness that could duplicate the old Mimi powers.

Seeing the heroic Songbird as a traitor, they laid an ambush for her. But Melissa was now too strong and experienced for them.

The three main Grapplers managed to flee. But Songbird convinced Lanie to give up the Screaming Mimi identity.

A years-long bender

Letha and Lascivious then moved to Bagalia. This made them members of the version of the Masters of Evil organised by Max Fury and the Shadow Council. As such, they were possessed for a time by the Abyss.

After Fury’s fall, the pair stuck on Bagalia – which was now run by Aloysius Thorndrake of the Shadow Council.

They were still living there when Baron Helmut Zemo took over, though Letha finally left in 2016 or 2017.

Meemooooriiiiiiessss, all alone in the moooonnnn liiiiiight

In 2013, it seemed like a new, strange lineup of Grapplers was active as criminals – Poundcakes, Gladiatrix and Battleaxe. These were defeated by Captain Marvel (Carol Danvers) and Spider-Woman (Jessica Drew).

These weren’t the actual Grapplers. They were mental constructs built using Psyche-Magnitron energy wielded by Yon-Rogg. These were based on Carol Danvers’ memories.

Apparently, Carol had attended a Grapplers wrestling match back in the mid-1980s. She had bought merch as a souvenir, including dolls of these three Grapplers. Yon-Rogg used the dolls as a guide to manifest the constructs.


History (part 4)

By 2017, Letha and Poundcakes were back to working as legbreakers for New York City mobs. In this case, Mister Negative’s.

While raising protection money in Times Square shops, Poundcakes and Letha were defeated and wounded by the Wasp (Nadia van Dyne).

Van Dyne felt terrible about it. She offered them dropped charges and a job as unarmed security guards for her new G.I.R.L. lab. The two Grapplers took the offer.

Letha and Poundcakes thus helped repel an A.I.M. attack on van Dyne’s lab.

Wrestling with the alien

Feliciano and Pouncy also relaunched their wrestling career. They kept their ring names as Letha and Poundcakes, but they had new costumes and their tag team was called the Skrull Kill Krew (no relation).

The motif was that they exposed their opponents as Skrull impostors. This was apparently inspired by the harrowing misadventures of G.I.R.L. associate Mockingbird (Bobbi Morse).

It also meant that they could fight faces, but not as heels.

In their match we see them fighting men, which might mean they signed up with the Impact Wrestling  promotion.


Personality

Early on, the Grapplers use 1980s pro wrestling lines, play up their colourful personas, confidently chew the scenery, etc..

That soon receded. The Grapplers started acting like stock mercenary muscle, or basic thugs. Villain decay  is a terrible thing.

Bits of dialogues faintly imply that the Grapplers (except for Melissa) are bi. However, it was played for cheap luridness/exploitation, and lesbophobic clichés. So, pass.

The Grapplers aren’t the greatest at long-term thinking. They seldom have a real plan, and mostly adapt to their immediate circumstances.

DeVito, Feliciano and Pouncy seem to spend a lot of time drinking and socialising in shady dives patronised by super-thugs. They have the power of beer.

Crime no pay

The Grapplers aren’t too enthusiastic about being criminals. The main exception was early during their service with Brand Company, where they were more like industrial saboteurs – and they were enthusiastic about their new enhancements.

But once they had done hard time, their status as ex-convicts routinely got in the way of law-abiding employment.

What they actually wanted was to perform as pro wrestlers, but they often weren’t allowed on the card, presumably due to police heat. Or it paid too little to be their sole income.

By Sébastien Andrivet.

Source of Character: Marvel Comics.

Helper(s): Darci, Ericeick, Adam Fuqua.

Writeup completed on the 13th of June, 2021.

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