William Baker was born in a rough neighborhood in New York. Abandoned by his father when he was three-years old, William stole and cheated his way through adolescence. Expelled after accepting a bribe to throw a football game, he was accepted by a gang that ran extortion and protection rackets and adopted the alias Flint Marko.
He soon became very successful in the New York criminal underworld, but was arrested, convicted, and forced to spend many years in solitary confinement. Upon his released he discovered that his long time girlfriend Marcy Conroy had left him for Vic Rollins, another member of his gang. In a rage he got revenge on Rollins and started a lone citywide crime spree. Marko was captured and placed in a maximum-security wing at Ryker's Island prison but escaped through an unguarded drainage tunnel. With the FBI and police on his tail, Marko traveled south and sought refuge in a place where he was unlikely to be found: an atomic testing site near Savannah, Georgia. As he rested on a nearby beach, the experimental reactor's steam system exploded, bombarding him with a massive dose of radiation and apparently bonding his body with the sand. Awakening after a brief period of unconsciousness, Marko discovered his newly acquired ability to transform into a sand-like substance he could manipulate and reshape at will. Now easily able to elude authorities, the Sandman was born.
Marko's criminal career was struck a major blow when he joined forces with Hydro-Man and in a freak mishap combined to form a grotesque, mud-like monster called the "Mud-Thing". The creature was subdued by the authorities and transported to a laboratory in Manhattan were scientists sought to analyze the composition of the unusual mud, but determined with the instruments at their disposal that it was inanimate. They decided to seal the substance in a container and dispose of it. As a delayed effect of the analytic procedures, the mud spontaneously separated into the two criminals, who burst free of their container.
The ordeal so traumatized Marko that he was stricken with a troubled conscience. Striking up a surprising friendship with the Thing of the Fantastic Four, the Sandman soon talked of abandoning crime. When he encountered Spider-Man fighting the Enforcers, the Sandman made good on his intentions and rescued the wall-crawler. Still a wanted man, the Sandman adopted the alias Sylvester Mann. He rented a room in Coney Island from a suburban family and decided to reform earning money as a contract worker for Silver Sable as a member of her Wild Pack. He joined the Outlaws for their brief time in existence, aiding Spider-Man. Though there was a period of suspicion as to whether his intentions were noble, he gained the public's trust and became a reserve member for the Avengers along with Spider-Man. Granted a pardon for his crimes, he returned to his birth name of William Baker. After he helped the Avengers defeat the sorceress Morgan Le Fay and stop the theft of military equipment, a minor misunderstanding with Captain America caused by his undisciplined temperament lead to his resignation from the reserve Avengers. However, the Sandman was determined to remain reformed. When Doctor Octopus blackmailed him into rejoining the Sinister Six, the Sandman turned against his former ally as soon as he had the chance.
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