The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is arguably the biggest movie series in the world today. Marvel Studios, a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Studio, has currently produced 23 films for the MCU since 2008, and the number of movies they create will continue to get bigger as they haven’t scratched the surface of the multitude of Marvel characters created throughout the company’s history.
Before these Marvel characters were introduced in films, they first appeared as comic book characters that have been drawn in multiple titles published by Marvel Comics. Popular characters in the Marvel brand include Spider-Man, Iron Man, Captain America, Wolverine, and the Incredible Hulk. However, most of these popular characters were not even present during the birth of the Marvel imprint.
So, who are the first Marvel super heroes? The original Marvel superheroes first appeared in Marvel Comics #1, a comic that was published by Timely Comics in October 1939. Most of us may be familiar with some of these heroes, but a few can be quite obscure that haven’t even been in Marvel’s limelight in recent times.
Martin Goodman, a businessman and a publisher for pulp magazines and paperback books, saw the staggering increase of sales in comic books during the late 1930s, the period that is often referred to as the “Golden Age of Comic Books.”
Wanting to capitalize on the growing market for comics, Goodman hired a small company called Funnies, Inc. to supply comic book content for his company named Timely Comics in 1939. What came out of the deal between Timely Comics and Funnies, Inc. was Marvel Comics #1, the comic book that become so popular in the United States that Timely Comics eventually changed its name during the 1960s to the title of the famous comic book.
Marvel Comics #1 contained multiple stories, and one of the stories included is a comic book adaptation of a story named “King of Fang and Claw” that was written by Bob Byrd and was first published on October 1936 in Ka-Zar #1, a pulp magazine created by Martin Goodman.
The adaptation featured a Tarzan-like character named Ka-Zar the Great, who was raised by lions and subsequently became the lord of the jungle.
Before the jungle lord was known as Ka-Zar, he was first named David Rand by his biological parents who are John and Constance Rand. When he was three years old, he was brought along on a plane trip to visit his grandfather, but the plane crashed before they even reached their destination.
His mother died of injuries sustained in the crash and his father became mentally unstableafter a tree fell on his head when he was exploring the jungle. Now surviving alone, David Rand explored the jungle in search for food and eventually found Zar, a lion that he will subsequently rescue from a quicksand. Zar and David grew together, with the lion teaching the boy how to survive in the wild and how to protect himself against dozens of dangers in the jungle. Because of their tight bond, the animals have called David as Ka-Zar, which means “Brother of Zar.”
After years of experience fighting and surviving in the jungle,Ka-Zar became the strongest warrior in the jungle after beating ferocious foes like N’Jaga the Leopard and Bardak the Ape.
However, these vicious animals are not the biggest threat in the jungle, but the human natives that are being controlled by a rich man named Paul de Kraft, who wanted to scavenge and destroy the jungle to find emeralds.Most of Ka-Zar’s adventure revolves around protecting the jungle against Paul de Kraft and his men.
Created by Paul Gustavson, the Angel is a hero who has no superpowers and uses his superior intellect to outwit his enemies in combat or in strategy.
Besides being a great detective, the Angel is also a trained acrobat and a skilled martial artist. The superhero eventually gets the power of flight using an item called the Cape of Mercury.The Angel who first appeared in Marvel Comics #1 should not be confused with the superhero Angel who is part of the X-Men since that hero is a mutant that grew feathered wings on his back.
During the 1990s, the Angel became an anti-hero who formed a group of vigilantes called Scourges of the Underworld. The group’s purpose is to eliminate lowly criminals and obscure supervillains in order to lessen the presence of evil in the world. He was ultimately captured and arrested along with the other members of the group by U.S. Agent, a superhero who once was considered as the new incarnation of Captain America.
The Original Human Torch
A lot of people might know the Human Torch as one of the members of the Fantastic Four, a group of superheroes with bizarre superpowers created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. However, the Human Torch’s first appearance was not in the Fantastic Four but in Marvel Comics #1. The original Human Torch was created by writer and artist Carl Burgos.
Brought to life by a scientist named Phineas Horton, the original Human Torch was first depicted as a creature feared by people, similar to Frankenstein’s monster in Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein.
The android was first unveiled at a press-conference in Brooklyn, New York to show that Horton can create a man-made lifeform, but the presentation turned into a disaster when the android was exposed to oxygen, which turned into uncontrollable flames enveloping its body.
Because of the fear that he brought to the people of Brooklyn, the Human Torch was sealed in concrete to avoid its body to come in contact with oxygen. However, a small crack in the concrete enabled the android to absorb oxygen and destroy his prison by using a powerful explosion. The blast during his escape caused some parts of New York to become engulfed in flames, although it was not his intention for the city to burn.
Eventually, he learned to control the flames in his body and vowed to gain the trust of people by becoming a superhero and protecting the city against threats.
Namor the Sub-Mariner
Before appearing in Marvel Comics #1, Namor the Sub-Mariner was first intended to be introduced by its creator, Bill Everett, as a superhero in a comic titled Motion Picture Funnies Weekly. After finding out that his fellow comic book writer Carl Burgos was developing a fire-type superhero, Everett wanted to write and draw a hero that has powers that are opposite to the Human Torch, leading to the creation of the Sub-Mariner who has the power to control the seas and its creatures.
After the Motion Picture Funnies Weekly comic was unreleased due to a failed attempt to give it for free in theaters, Everett used the character again in Marvel Comics #1 after Martin Goodman hired them to provide content.
What’s interesting about Namor is that he was first depicted as a villain, wrecking ships and other structures because of his anger towards humanity. However, after finding out that he has both Atlantean and human DNA, he became a superhero who protects the people that are living not only in his kingdom of Atlantis, but also in other parts of the world.