Falcon and the Winter Soldier are taken to a place that is very familiar to comic book readers: Madripur, a haven for supervillains from around the world. To sneak into Power Broker and get information about the new super-soldier serum, Sam had to disguise himself as an African burglar who looks like him, Conrad Mack, aka Smiling Tiger. In the comics, Smiling Tiger is actually smaller than Falcon, as the dialogue with Selby suggests… and he has many other endearing qualities that make him a very different winged superhero. Let’s look at it together.
Conrad Mack was born in Cambodia from an unlikely connection: His father is Collier Mack, a U.S. Army soldier whose unit, Half-Blood, has been sent deep into the jungle and stumbled upon the ancient temple of the Dragonbread cult. The cultists guarded the Source of All Things, a mystical source of primal power that they believed could heal the world and lead to a new civilization. Mack and the others were persuaded to join the cult, married a local priestess, and bore children who could channel the power of the source. Conrad was one of those children, and as a young man he returned to the United States to adjust to the Western way of life and, as a teenager, to build a cultural bridge between the old and the new, between the Good of all things and the ways of the West. Conrad, however, was different: His mutation gave him superhuman qualities, but also made him savage, and he grew up more like an animal than a human. His father taught him everything he knew, especially the combat techniques he learned while serving in the army, but the boy never learned to speak, and when his father died, he wandered the streets like a stray dog, surviving on what he could find. Years later, he was finally tracked down by the Left Hand, a fellow soldier of his father, who had stolen his comatose daughter’s connection to the Source and her powers. The left hand has gathered the treaty children into one group, hijacked their original purpose and turned them into a personal army to take over an entire civilization instead of healing it. Conrad, recognizing the man’s scent, decided he could be trusted and followed him.
One by one, the Left Hand collected all the missing children and found them all over the country: Soon, Conrad, who was called Smiling Tiger, was joined by Nightbreaker, Silhouette, Silk Fever, Bloodstrike, and Midnight Fire, all of whom were connected to Well and all of whom possessed superhuman abilities. Together they formed a folding circle, and were ready to do the work for which they were born….. Or rather, the task Lefty had said they were born to do. Smiling Tiger, who has always had trouble getting along with others, was convinced that working with the Folding Circle would help him find his own pack and finally realize his potential. While the left hand worked in the United States, the woman, Tai, did the same in Cambodia, and both planned to sacrifice children to gain control of the Source and its power to bend the world to their will. The Folding Circle, with the goal of stopping Tai, was taken to Cambodia, and there the group joined the New Warriors, an antagonistic group of young superheroes they had encountered before. In the ensuing fight, it was revealed that Nightcrusher and Silhouette had infiltrated the team and were actually trying to eliminate Linkerhand; ultimately, Folding Circle prevented him from becoming a living sacrifice, a privilege that fell to Tai and Linkerhand, who both died in the pit. Not wanting to stay to see if the New Warriors had better intentions for them, the surviving members of the Circle followed their new leader Midnight Fire and stole the Avenger Quinjet that the Warriors had stolen earlier and ran off. However, during their flight, the team ended up in Madripur, where they quickly adapted to their new surroundings. After defeating the mutant criminal Aardwolf, Smiling Tiger and others have taken his place and control much of the Madrid underworld. Perhaps Conrad has finally found a way to realize his true potential.
Conrad Mack is more beast than man, a wild mutant who follows his instincts without the aid of reason. As a Smiling Tiger, he possesses superhuman agility and dexterity, and enhanced senses. He is an excellent man-to-man fighter and has claws and talons in his armor, weapons he uses with deadly skill. Loyal to his pack and guided by elemental impulses, the smiling tiger follows the alpha, asks no questions and attacks anyone who threatens him or his pack: There’s not much else in his life.
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