The Marvel Comics History of WONDER MAN Villain the Grim Reaper

One of the most well-known Avengers foes is about to arrive in live-action. It’s been announced via TV Line that Fear the Walking Dead actor Demetrius Grosse has been cast in the Wonder Man series as Eric Williams, also known as the Grim Reaper. Although the Grim Reaper is not quite on the Thanos/Ultron level, he’s been a thorn in the side of the Avengers for decades, often cited as one of their most persistent enemies. He first appeared in Avengers #52, back in 1968, created by writer Roy Thomas and artist John Buscema. Here’s the skinny on Wonder Man’s twisted brother and his Marvel Comics history.

Wonder Man’s Twisted Sibling

Eric Williams, Marvel's villainous Grim Reaper, wielding his scythe.
Marvel Comics

Eric Williams was born into the wealthy Williams family of New Jersey, which ran the company Williams Innovations. While his younger brother Simon was the favored son, Eric was always the troublemaker. While experimenting with chemicals once in the garage, Eric wound up burning down the family home. Simon felt responsible for his brother’s bad behavior but never could get his criminal tendencies under control. As they grew older, Simon took over Williams Innovations, while Eric moved to Las Vegas and joined the Maggia, the Marvel universe version of the mafia.

The childhood trauma of Eric and Simon Williams, also known as the Grim Reaper and Wonder Man.
Marvel Comics

Simon Williams’ time as CEO of the family company was short-lived, as he ultimately ran the business into the ground. He blamed competition from Stark Industries, and Tony Stark specifically, for his ruin. He agreed to become a test subject for superpowered experiments by Baron Zemo, who have him ionic powers. With these powers, he took on the identity of Wonder Man, with the intention of infiltrating Stark’s Avengers, and destroying them from within. But he had a change of heart, and ultimately died on the side of his new team.

Becoming the Grim Reaper

Avengers #52 from 1968, the first appearance of the Grim Reaper.
Marvel Comics

His brother Eric, however, blamed the Avengers for Simon’s death. Thanks to his Maggia connections, he had the criminal scientist known as the Tinkerer create a scythe weapon for him to take the place of an amputated hand. The scythe could project energy blasts, and spin at high speeds, becoming a deadly buzz saw. It could also induce death-like comas, thanks to a cerebral frequency generator. Taking the name the Grim Reaper, and wearing a very goofy helmet, he fought the Avengers in the name of vengeance for his dead brother. However, they ultimately defeated him, thanks to the Black Panther’s intervention.

The Grim Reaper kidnaps his brother Wonder Man and his surrogate brother the Vision in the pages of the Avengers.
Marvel Comics

Later, the Grim Reaper formed a supervillain team known as the Lethal Legion, and attacked the Avengers several times over the years. He eventually allied himself with the voodoo master Black Talon, who resurrected his brother Wonder Man as a zombie. Eventually, Wonder Man came back to life for real as a result, and much to Eric’s disappointment, his brother sided with the Avengers against him. The Grim Reaper now had deep animosity towards the Avengers and his brother. During one confrontation with the Avengers, he died in a fall from a cave ledge. But death was just the beginning for the Grim Reaper, as one would imagine might be the case with a name like that.

An Endless Cycle of Death and Resurrection

The supernaturally powered version of Avengers villain the Grim Reaper.
Marvel Comics

Eventually, the mutant Nekra resurrected Eric Williams, subsequently turning him into a zombie who did her bidding. This was the start of a pattern of the Grim Reaper dying and coming back to life over and over again. This continued in Avengers stories for years and years. With each supernatural resurrection, the Reaper gained new and more deadly powers. Eventually, he could reanimate the dead and make them do his bidding. He also gained teleportation powers, the ability to summon demons, and the power to create illusions. The techno-scythe he once had was replaced by a mystical one that could absorb life energy from his victims.

The Grim Reaper as a Horseman of Apocalypse, fighting the X-Man known as Rogue.
Marvel Comics

The Grim Reaper has fought the Avengers and died several times. He has a special hatred for his brother Simon and the android Vision. This was due to the fact that the Vision shares Simon’s brain patterns, and the two considered themselves brothers. Feeling replaced in Simon’s life with the android Avenger resulted in the Grim Reaper losing his mental faculties more and more. One of his last deaths was at the hands of the X-Man Rogue. He was then resurrected yet again, this time becoming one of Apocalypse’s Four Horseman. And yes, it was, of course, as the Horseman known as Death. Given his knack for never staying dead, he’ll likely continue plaguing the Avengers, and especially his brother Wonder Man, for the rest of eternity.

The Grim Reaper in the MCU

How will the MCU Grim Reaper differ from his comic book counterpart? So far, it seems all we know is that he’s still Eric Williams, brother of Simon Williams. We also know that the show will focus on Wonder Man as a superhero actor, something that happened much later in his career. Will the Grim Reaper simply be a mortal enemy who uses technology against his brother, or will they go the supernatural and undead route? We’ll find out when Wonder Man debuts on Disney+ in 2024.

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