Thursday, August 18, 2005

The More Things Change

I started buying Marvel comics in late Spring/early Summer of 1964 (I remember the comic and I looked up the cover date). At that time, Marvel's line of superhero comics consisted of:

  • The Fantastic Four
  • The Avengers
  • Spider-Man
  • Thor (and Tales of Asgard)
  • Iron Man (Tales of Suspense 1st feature)
  • Captain America (Tales of Suspense 2nd feature)
  • Giant Man (Tales to Astonish 1st feature)
  • The Hulk (Tales to Astonish 2nd feature)
  • Human Torch and the Thing (Strange Tales 1st feature)
  • Dr. Strange (Strange Tales 2nd feature)
  • The X-Men (bi-monthy)
  • Daredevil (bi-monthly)

plus Sgt. Fury & the Howling Commandos, three Western comics, and Millie the Model.

Here's how Marvel's web site describes their current line-up:

  • Avengers
  • Black Panther
  • Captain America
  • Daredevil
  • Doctor Strange
  • Fantastic Four
  • Ghost Rider
  • Hulk
  • Iron Man
  • Punisher
  • Spider-man
  • Squadron Supreme
  • Thor
  • Wolverine
  • X-force
  • X-men
Not a lot of change there. Even less when you realize that the Squadron Supreme are an Avengers spin-off first created in the 1960s (as the Squadron Sinister). The Punisher is a 1970s Spider-Man character. Wolverine started as a 1970s Hulk opponent and was developed in the late 1970s in the X-Men, volume 2. X-Force is the newest thing on the list but the link does not show any current titles.

Things get a little better when you look at individual titles. There is a Cable/Gambit limited series. Both of these characters are from the 1990s. The current Thor title stars Beta Ray Bill who was introduced in 1983.

The current X-Men are almost all from the 1960s-1980s. The newest character in the "New Avengers" is Spider-Woman and she is from the late 1970s as is Wolverine. Cage is from around 1970. Daredevil was also in for a short time.

The one new character is the Sentry who was originally created as a retro-Stan Lee character.

So, where are the new characters? In the 1970s Marvel was taken over by martial arts and supernatural characters (Shang-Chi, Iron Fist, Dracula, Werewolf By Night, Morbius the living vampire, Ghost Rider, Man Thing, the Living Mummy, and the Zombie) plus Conan and Red Sonya. In the 1980s they added a few new heroes like Power Pack. In the late 1980s and early 1990s they added a half dozen mutant titles.

So, where is the current creativity going? Where are the new characters?

I'll tell you what I think has happened in my next post.

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