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The Parasite(pop culture)
“Presenting the most dangerous villain Superman has ever faced!” blurbed the cover to Action Comics #340 (1966), depicting the Man of Steel being smacked around by the nemesis who “feeds on living energy”: the Parasite. Created by writer Jim Shooter, then a teenager who sold handdrawn scripts to DC Comics editor Mort Weisinger, the Parasite, drawn in his debut by Al Plastino, doesn't look that formidable—with his purple pigmentation and lime briefs, one might imagine him posing for a Fruit of the Loom underwear ad—but he does indeed live up to the cover hype. He is actually Raymond Maxwell Jensen, a sticky-fingered handyman snooping for the secreted payroll in his place of employment, a research lab, and finding instead a container of biohazardous waste. Transmogrified into the Parasite, the irradiated evildoer who absorbs the energies of anyone he touches, he puts the grab on the Metropolis Marvel. After weakening Superman, the Parasite's power play to consume the hero's entire strength backfires as Jensen overloads and is blown to bits. This tale was adapted for television in a 1966 episode of the animated series The New Adventures of Superman. By Action #361 (1968) Jensen had reassembled his atoms, returning to drain Superman's energy in more conservative doses. For the next twenty years, the Parasite occasionally surfaced to battle the Man of Tomorrow. After Superman's 1986 Man of Steel reboot, a new, green-skinned version of the Parasite (who later returned to his original purple form) premiered in The Fury of Firestorm #58 (1987). In an origin siphoning from the 1966 version, the supervillain was now ne'er-do-well Rudy Jones, a custodian at Pittsburgh's S.T.A.R. Labs, who stuck his hand in the “cookie jar” and was exposed to a radioactive brew concocted by none other than Darkseid. In the grimmer DC Universe of the late 1980s, this reinvented Parasite became a life-force vampire, depleting victims' vigor and discarding their withered husks. Like the 1966 origin, this version was reworked for animation, in the 1996 “Feeding Time” episode of the WB's Superman cartoon, with Brion James playing the Parasite; the villain appeared in additional episodes. The Parasite tussled with Firestorm, the Suicide Squad, and the fifth Starman before encountering Superman in 1991. Drunk with the notion of consuming Superman's vast superpowers, the Parasite was a recurring menace to the Man of Steel, also challenging Super-allies Superboy, Supergirl, and Steel, and hooking up with the Superman Revenge Squad. In Action #715 (1995) the Parasite drained the life essence of Dr. Torval Freeman, retaining not only the scientist's intellect but also remants of his benevolent personality. Despite consequent crises of conscience, Parasite continued his destructive ways. His absorption of metahuman powers caused him to grow into a behemoth who towered over Superman. His closest encounter with the Man of Steel occurred in a 1997 story arc in which he kidnapped Clark (Superman) Kent's wife, Lois Lane, using his powers to assume her identity to get within striking distance of the hero. He succeeded, but unknowingly absorbed kryptonite poisoning from the contaminated Man of Steel, perishing as a result (Superman vol. 2 #127, 1997). In the 2000s teenage siblings Alex and Alexandra Allston have become Parasites, one green, one purple, guaranteeing that the Parasite legacy will continue to plague Superman—as seen in 2005's Adventures of Superman #645, where the energy-vampire was recruited for roguery by Lex Luthor. A 2005 Parasite action figure from DC Direct presented a new interpretation of the villain designed by artist Alex Ross. The villain, voiced by Marc Worden, appeared in the 2005 season finale of the Cartoon Network's Justice League Unlimited (2004–present).