Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Marvel Pre-History

So one aspect of the Marvel reboot I've decided on is that I'll be starting Year 0 as Year 1961. This is, of course, the year Fantastic Four #1 came out. It's also the year the words 'Marvel Comics' first appeared on the newstands, but I think you can forgive me for not starting my version of the Marvel Universe with Patsy Walker.

Of course, by starting in 1961 that leaves a lot of Marvel canon languishing in the past. All of the Golden Age and World War 2 stuff, for example, would have already happened before I even get to Year 0. While Marvel (then Timely) didn't have a huge Golden Age when compared to DC, they did have several heroes that came out pre-Fantastic Four. Most of them were relegated to the ash heap of history, occasionally brought out when Marvel is in a nostalgic mood, heroes like Captain America, Namor, and maybe even the original Human Torch, need to be acknowledged.

It's also interesting to note that Sgt. Nick Fury (and his Howling Commandos), though active in WWII, did not come out in comicbook form until 1963. I guess this shows how DC I am when I had sort of assumed that Fury was active in comics in WWII in some form before being brought back in the Silver Age as a super-spy S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. Speaking of S.H.I.E.L.D., HYDRA predates them by a few years, having been introduced in the 50s in Menace doing typically HYDRA things (stealing a bomb that turns people into monsters). Red Skull was from the 40s.

Out of all that mess, we need to do some clean up. If the characters listed above, only Captain America has any real need to be tied into the past. Nick Fury can howl his way across Korea in the early 50s, which leaves him plenty of background before he becomes a spy in 1965. Captain America, though, is just too iconic for his Nazi-punching to be shifted up to the Korean War. Even though they were part of the Invaders, Namor and the Human Torch don't really have the same Golden Age legacy - they came into their own through the lens of the Fantastic Four in the 60s.

So here's the deal: Captain America, Bucky, Red Skull, and all that happened back in WWII. Cap totally punched Hitler in March of 1941, which lead to Hitler authorizing the funding Johann Schmidt wanted for his own superscience programs. He figured that even if they couldn't come up with a counter to Captain America, they certainly could distract the guy with an endless parade of wacky schemes. One of those schemes went awry, which is why Schmidt's got a bit red in the face. Captain America (and Bucky) went missing soon after defeating the Red Skull in 1945 - there was a big explosion at a Nazi base, but eyewitness reports were conflicted. Maybe it was a rocket being launched from the base that the GIs saw, maybe it was just debris.

Namor might have been active during WWII, but if he was, he was just defending his undersea kingdom from German U-boats. No big team ups with him and Cap and the Human Torch (who despite his legacy as being the oldest of the Timely superheroes, I'm sadly confining to the scrap-bin of history - the first Torch anyone cares about will be Johnny Storm).

Red Skull's Sleepers are still active through out the 50s. These are little surprises he put in place when it looked like his beloved Reich would fall. The Sleepers, robots and bombs and so on, could account for the large number of "alien visitors" that appeared in the 50s. Maybe Schmidt knew something the rest of the world didn't? I've always liked the idea that HYDRA isn't just about recapturing the power of the Reich, but instead trying to rebuild and recollect some of the power of the organization's early days. Future leaders Strucker and Zemo know full well that they are living in the Skull's shadow and are agog at the amount of innovations that came out during his leadership (Hint: Step 1 - Create Time Dilation Technology). More on HYDRA to come!

So what about the rest of the Marvel Universe? I've decided that I won't worry about it much until I need to. While I'd love to flashback thousands of years to the creation of the Eternals, the Inhumans, and hell, according to Marvel Saga even Conan is part of the continuity, I'll deal with them when their characters actually step up onto the world stage. Otherwise, I may never get this thing off the ground! In between Chronology entries, I'll do separate ones covering the backstories of some of the setting elements that had just become relevant. No need to go into Asgardian history until it starts to matter with Thor's first appearance in 1962.

Crap, that's coming up soon, huh? 

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