There really isn’t any BIG summer event for Marvel Comics except for a few “under the radar” crossovers (I.e. Utopia/War of Kings/Messiah War, Dark Reign tie-ins), but the publishing company is releasing comics with a theme celebrating their 70th Anniversary. The company started in 1939 and are celebrating their most acclaimed icons. So for kicks, I’ve been reading some of the earlier historic comics (can‘t wait for the retelling of the first issue of Marvel Comics #1). Here are three essential heroes/icons/titles:
Namor, The Submariner
Namor’s been around since the first issue of Marvel Comics #1. Since then, he’s been characterized everything from the lovelorn anti-hero, hero of World War II fighting Nazis, and a villain thanks to his Silver Age revival in the classic Fantastic Four #4. He’s been making strides as a main political figure in Norman Osborn’s Cabal and his Ultimate version as been modernized as more menacing, sexier, and ruthless than ever. But back in his first appearance, he was only a hybrid of the sea and land who ruthlessly kills anyone in sight. He hated humans, and was an intriguing patriarch of the sea. The first issue was short and sweet with a mere 12 pages, but laid the ground for the first mutant in the Marvel Universe who still makes power moves in the modern Marvel universe.
Captain America, Sentinel of Liberty
Captain America’s origin as been told a billion times, but still leaves inspiration and chills. In 1941, America needed a super soldier capable of fighting the Nazis and inspiring America, so they got a skinny frail teen and gave him serum that enabled him superhuman strength, agility, and endurance. The first issue of Captain America is notably suspenseful and quite racist to the Germans, but what wasn’t racist back in the 1940s. In every retelling of Captain America, this origin remains only to be revived as a pivotal figure in the Marvel Universe (look up the classic Avengers #4). Even in death, the Captain America legacy still carries on.
The Fantastic Four
The Fantastic Four debuted in 1962 as the first wave of the modern “flawed” superheroes. I usually don’t like Stan Lee’s first foray of his original creatures in the Silver Age, but this issue blew me away. The characters are more human and flawed as atrocities of science: rocky monster, an invisible girl, a boy on fire, a man with grotesque skin. These people fight regularly and are mutated because of their own fears and vanity while living in a world full of paranoia, thanks to the possibility of nuclear war, the Red Care, scientific terrors, and Communism. The first issue feels epic as the quartet deal with B-movie sci-fi concepts like gigantic monsters, terrifying aliens, cosmic rays, and underground creatures across the globe and in space. Violence is everywhere, but the four citizens still function as a family unit. As a precedent, it’s unusual to see a comic with so much psychological flaws, paranoia, and fear. Thumbs up for the first issue that birthed the Modern Marvel Universe.
And with each tribute, there’s also talks of bring the original Human Torch back to the Marvel Universe. His first appearance was, of course, in Marvel Comics #1. Bring it on!