Pre-Marvel Prototypes

Written: 23 September, 1997

[This post was written in response to a thread on Alvaro's Avengers board, where there had been a suggestion that a new Avenger had originally appeared outside the Marvel universe. Someone brought up the idea that it could be a "pre-Marvel" prototype -- a character who appeared in one of the monster/fantasy tales prior to FF #1. Another person noted that Hank Pym first appeared in a fantasy tale.]

Yes, Hank Pym debuted just a few months after FF #1. Pym was introduced in the story "The Man in the Ant Hill" in Tales to Astonish #27 (Jan. 1962) while FF #1 was cover-dated Nov. 1961. But in the TTA #27 story, there was no indication that Pym would ever actually meet the FF, or even return again in another story at all, anywhere! That makes it more a "pre-Marvel" story rather than a "MU proper" story, in my opinion.

That first Pym story (reprinted, by the way, in Marvel Collector's Item Classics #22, Aug. 1969) was typical of the pre-Marvel fantasy stories, with a scientist, unappreciated by society, discovering a fantastic invention and then abandoning it by the end of the story. In the end, he was saved from death by a lone ant (Stan Lee loved playing up these ironic and tragic touches in his stories) and concluded his serum was too dangerous for man to mess with, so he dumped it all down the drain. Yikes! Maybe there are more Krangs (pre-Marvel giant ant) out there!

Some price guides indicate that certain pre-Marvel characters were prototypes for later, successful Marvel Universe characters. Well, yes and no. Yes, they introduced some ideas that would later seem to foreshadow things later introduced in the Marvel superhero comics. But for the most part there was no strong relation.

Let's run down some of these so-called "prototypes," according to info in the Wizard 1995 Price Guide Annual. I have put a (*) mark next to those stories that I wonder have been reprinted or not.

Amazing Adult Fantasy #14 (July 1962): Professor X prototype in "The Man in the Sky!" Wizard says a character named Tad Carter in that story is a prototype of Peter Parker. This story was reprinted in Marvel Age issue of Marvel Age I wanna get!

Journey into Mystery #62 & 66 (Nov. 1960 & March 1961): Hulk prototype. I dealt with this on the Hulk board. The similarity was basically in name only. He later reappeared as Xemnu the Titan.

Journey into Mystery #70 (July 1961): Sandman prototype in "The Sandman Cometh!" (*)

Journey into Mystery #73 (Oct. 1961): Spider-Man prototype in "The Spider Strikes!" (*)

Journey into Mystery #78 (March 1962): Dr. Strange prototype in "The Sorcerer!" (*)

Journey into Mystery #79 (April 1962): Wizard calls "The Midnight Monster" a Mr. Hyde prototype in their 1995 Price Guide. I call it a Hulk prototype, however. See my post on the Hulk board. The Hulk #1 was cover-dated May 1962, a month after this comic.

Journey Into Mystery #90: Overstreet Guide says this has an Aunt May prototype. If it was in the Ditko story in that issue, it was in "The Midnight Caller," which has never been reprinted as far as I know.

Strange Tales #67 (Feb. 1959): Quicksilver prototype in "I Was the Invisible Man!" (*)

Strange Tales #69 (June 1959): Professor X prototype in "The World That Was Lost!" This Kirby story was reprinted in Tower of Shadows #9. Linus Vermeer was a bald man who sat in a wheelchair with a cloth covering his legs, like the Kirby Prof. X. I suppose the only difference in their appearances was that Vermeer had slightly-pointy ears, and that he turned out to be a merman who returned to Atlantis by the story's end. The cloth covering his legs disguised the fact that he had " a fish!" A similiar idea was used in a later story titled "Goodbye to Linda Brown" (see below). Oddly enough, DC's mermaid, Lori Lemaris, who had a similiar story, debuted in Superman #129, around May or June, 1959!

Strange Tales #70 (Aug. 1959): Giant Man prototype in "A Giant Walks the Earth!" (*)

Strange Tales #73 (Feb. 1960): Ant-Man prototype in "Grottu, King of the Insects!" (*)

Strange Tales #75 (June 1960): Iron Man prototype in "I Made the Hulk Live!" (*)

Strange Tales #76 (Aug. 1960): Human Torch prototype in "I Am Dragoom! The Flaming Invader!" (*)

Strange Tales #77: "The Strange Magic of Master Khan!" I'm surprised the Guides I looked at didn't mention this story as being a Dr. Strange prototype. Reprints of this Ditko story can be found in Where Monsters Dwell #5 and Uncanny Tales #10 in the 1970s. Master Khan was a man who had supernatural powers like Doc. Chris Claremont resurrected him as a villain in 1970s Iron Fist.

Strange Tales #78 (Nov. 1960): Ant-Man prototype in "The Worm Man!" To my knowledge, this particular Ditko story has never been reprinted.

Strange Tales #79 (Dec. 1960): Dr. Strange prototype in "I Was in the Clutches of the Living Shadow!" (Overstreet Guide agrees with this.) (*)

Strange Tales #84 (May 1961): Magneto prototype in "Magneto!" (*)

Strange Tales #92 (Jan. 1962): Ancient One prototype in "Somewhere Sits the Lama!" (*)

Strange Tales #97 (June 1962): Aunt May & Uncle Ben prototypes in "Goodbye to Linda Brown" (two months prior to their debut in Amazing Fantasy #15). This prototype story was reprinted in Marvel Tales #83 (Sept. 1977). May & Ben, appearing a little younger than they did in AM #15, live near the sea with their neice Linda, who turns out to be a mermaid in the end, and leaves them for her old undersea home -- Atlantis or something, I presume.

Tales of Suspense #7 (Jan. 1960): Lava Man prototype in "I Fought the Molten Man-Thing!" (This story was reprinted in Monster Menace #1, circa 1993.)

Tales of Suspense #9 (May 1960): Iron Man prototype in "The Return of the Living Robot!" (*)

Tales of Suspense #16 (April 1960): Iron Man prototype in "The Thing Called Metallo!" (Overstreet Guide agrees with this.) This story was reprinted in Where Monsters Dwell #26. Metallo was a criminal who got access to a huge, hulking armor (the word "hulk" frequently appears in this story) and after having it tested by the military (it can withstand the depths of the ocean and atomic blasts), he uses it to commit crimes. But he finds out that he has a disease that can only be cured by radiation. The story ends with this ill man inside his powerful armor. (Sound familiar?) Other than that, Iron Man and Metallo were totally different.

Tales of Suspense #28 (April 1962): Stone Men prototype in "Back from the Dead!" This story was reprinted in Chamber of Chills #11, in the mid-1970s. The heads on Easter Island are the heads of an alien race (the rest of their bodies are buried in the dirt, only their heads are showing).

Tales of Suspense #31 (July 1962): Dr. Doom prototype in "The Monster in the Iron Mask!" (*)

Tales of Suspense #32 (Aug. 1962): Dr. Strange prototype in "Sazzik, the Sorcerer!" Overstreet Guide agrees with this. This story was reprinted in Dead of Night #9 (April 1975). I'd have to say that the Kirby-drawn Sazzik story bears little resemblance at all to Doc Strange; the only similarity is that they are both sorcerers. Sazzik was an evil magician who lived in Europe during the 15th Century. "Born of gypsy parents," the story explains, "Sazzik had an unusual talent for the mystic arts! By the time he was ten, his occult knowledge far surpassed that of his teachers! His black magic was supreme, and he soon ruled the gypsy camp, taking cruel delight in punishing those who defied him!" I think Victor Von Doom also grew up in a gyspy camp, if memory serves. Sazzik was in a "centuries old slumber" until summoned to life when an unscrupulous TV producer invokes the ancient name of Sazzik in a magic spell. The story ends with Sazzik banishing the TV producer into another dimension and then disappearing himself, to return to his "slumber."

Tales of Suspense #35 (Nov. 1962): The Watcher prototype in "The Challenge of Zarkorr!" (*) I've also heard that the 1940s Timely character The Witness was an early version of The Watcher; I've never seen a Witness story, however, and so have no idea.

Tales to Astonish #5 (Sept. 1959): Stone Men prototype in "I Was Trapped by the Things on Easter Island!" The story in the next issue is titled "I Saw the Invasion of the Stone Men!" The Jack Kirby Collector webpage has an article about Kirby's recurring use of stone men.

Tales to Astonish #7 (Jan. 1960): Toad Men prototypes in "We Meet in the Swamp!" (*)

Tales to Astonish #15 (Jan. 1961): Electro prototype in "The Blip!" (This story was reprinted in Fear #2.) The Blip turned up in a recent Flashback issue of Sensational Spider-Man, if memory serves, along with other pre-Marvel monsters.

Tales to Astonish #16 (Feb. 1961): Stone Men prototype in "Thorr, the Unbelievable!" This story was reprinted as "Thorg the Unbelievable!" in Where Creatures Roam #3. More Easter Island stone men. I think the reprint added the "g" to prevent confusion with Thor. Thor's first appearance also had an extra "r" in his name in the final panel, if memory serves.

In an article on early Marvel in Comic Book Marketplace, writer Will Murray states the following:

"For years there have been persistent rumors that the lead story in the August (note the month) 1962, Tales Of Suspense ("The Man in the Bee Hive", a re-work of "The Man in the Ant Hill", featuring a size-changing mutant bee-keeper named Lucius Farnsworth) was the pilot for a new Marvel feature called Bee-Man, and that rough sketches for a costumed superhero version floated around the Marvel offices for years. According to these same reports, the concept was ultimately scrapped because of its close similarity to Ant-Man.

"If true, this might seem to kill the Tales Of Suspense theory. But it's hypothetically possible that once Spider-Man was yanked from Tales Of Suspense #32, "The Man in the Bee Hive" story was created as a stopgap measure designed to set the stage for the revamped Suspense, when Stan found time to launch it. "

So, that's the story behind Bee-Man, the Marvel hero that never came to pass. Has "The Man in the Bee-Hive" been reprinted anywhere?

Additions and comments welcomed!! I'd be interested in seeing an index of these pre-Marvel stories or an index of Kirby's work (Bob Heer's webpage has the only Kirby index I know of).


[I had posted the following on Alvaro's Hulk board on Sept. 21, 1997.]

Here are some details on the pre-Marvel Hulk. (I briefly mentioned this previously on the Avengers board, but now I have the specific comics in front of me.)

In Monster Menace #2 (Jan. 1994), Jack Kirby wrote that a character named the Hulk appeared in Journey Into Mystery #62. "He was more of a hairy type creature, but never-the-less, was a predecessor of what was to come."

The Overstreet Guide says the following about Journey Into Mystery #62: "1st app. Xemnu (Titan) called "The Hulk."" This story was reprinted in Monsters on the Prowl #11 in 1971. I don't have that issue, but I do have the reprint of his second pre-Marvel appearance, which was reprinted in Monsters on the Prowl #14 (Dec. 1971). Examination of this reprint indicates that the word "Titan" was not in the original story, but added in especially for the reprint. I suspect the word "Titan" was used to replace the word "Hulk" which had been in the original pre-Marvel story. On page 8, panel 3, the word "Hulk" was accidentally left in the reprint version. As I say, the original pre-Marvel version said Hulk, but the later reprint was changed to say Titan so as to prevent confusion with the superhero named Hulk.

Roy Thomas (toldja he likes to resurrect obscure characters!) revived this pre-Marvel "Hulk" (now called "Titan" instead) in Marvel Feature #3 (June 1972), where he fought the Defenders (the group then only consisting of Dr Strange, Hulk, & Namor). My thanks to the poster named Batroc for sending me this issue recently! Xemnu the Titan appeared again in Defenders #12.

Having said all that, he was not like The Hulk we know at all, but an alien with telepathy powers and covered with white hair.

A pre-Marvel creature more like the real Hulk was shown (the reprint, at least) in Fear #6 (Feb. 1972) in a story titled "The Midnight Monster." This short story was about a scientist who drank a potion which turned him into a muscle-bound gray-skinned bald brute. His face as depicted in the last panel of page 3, when he was in mid-transformation and still had his hair, looks identical to the early Kirby Hulk. The Army tries to stop him, but their weaponry is useless against his strength. He is finally defeated by falling into a nearly-bottomless hole in Los Alamos. But he is said to be immortal and will someday be able to reach the surface again.

Most of the pre-Marvel stories in my collection are reprints, but I do have a few original issues, mostly in rough shape. I have Tales to Astonish #33, for example, which is cover-dated July 1962. Although Hulk #1 was cover-dated May 1962, the Tales to Astonish issue has two little plugs for the Hulk written at the bottom of the pages: "What is the Hulk?" and "The Hulk might be -- anywhere!"

Well, that's about all the information I have on the "pre-Marvel Hulk." Additions or corrections welcomed.