When Marvel hit it big in the early 60s, DC had to have noticed. It also had to address their existence. In Adventure Comics #350, Chameleon Boy morphs into a spider then winks at the reader and comments on Spider-Man (not named). Brave & Bold #74 (N'67) had Batman riff on Petey as well and the infamous B&B #68 (N'66) had the Bat-Hulk!

Justice League of America #75 (N'69) had supposedly Avengers-like foes though I never got that until fairly recently. #87 had the Heroes of Angor (Wandjina, Jack B. Quick, Silver Sorceress and Bluejay) who were counterparts of Thor, Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch and Yellowjacket. There were also the Marvel parodies with the Inferior 5.

Were they effective? Necessary? Cringe-worthy? And did I miss any?


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I noticed that several of the Crusaders from Invaders were named after Golden Age characters: the Spirit of '76 after a patriotic hero from Pocket Comics and Green Hornet Comics (Harvey); Captain Wings after Captain Wings from Wings Comics (Fiction House); Dyna-Mite after Dan the Dyna-Mite, T.N.T.s boy assistant, from Star Spangled Comics (DC). This led me to wonder if they all were.


Thunderfist was a character from a Canadian title, Active Comics (Bell Features). When Brian Cronin posted an item on the crossover one of his readers described "Tommy Lightning" as a good name, which makes me wonder if there's a pun I'm missing. Flash Lightning/Lash Lightning appeared in comics from Ace Magazines. I can imagine "Tommy Lightning" or "Tom Lightning" being the name of a western hero, but I haven't been able to find one. He could be subtly named after the hero of the newspaper strip Big Ben Bolt.


According to a poster in a thread on John Byrne's message board, most or all the characters in both versions of the Crusaders were named after Golden Age characters. He names another Canadian hero, Ghost Woman, as the source of Ghost Girl's name and pegs Americommando as after Mr. America/Americommando from Action Comics, Fireball as after a hero from Pep Comics (MLJ), and Barracuda as perhaps after Barry Kuda from Yankee Comics (Chesler) or Captain Barracuda, a Kid Colt opponent, or else not fitting the pattern.



There was an issue of the post-Crisis, John Byrne Superman (Superman #50, Vol. 2) in which Superman has to contend, once again, with Mr. Mxyzptlk ... and on one page, Mr. Mxyzptlk is across town "having fun with my new fantastic friends." We never see their faces, just parts of their bodies, but even though their outfits are purple and green, it's clear this group is the Fantastic Four. Moreover, Mr. Mxyzptlk shifts his form into weird shapes with a distinct "pop" noise, like a certain Impossible Man.


Speaking of the Fantastic Four, more recently, in an issue of Booster Gold, one of his missions to the past caused him to prevent a certain spacecraft from being launched -- and we see the crew debarking from the scrubbed mission, there's a tall, skinny brown-haired man with gray hair at the temples; a big, burly man who is the pilot; a young blond man who is overheating in his spacesuit; and a blonde woman.

Marvel homages, take-offs and parodies are a lot more evident in Bronze and Post-Crisis comics and Marvel, as stated, has really jumped on the bandwagon. How many Superman and Batman pastiches has Marvel churned out? More than Hyperion, Gladiator and Nighthawk, I'll wager!

Actually I am far more curious about what was the earliest Marvel reference in the Silver Age. Or the Golden Age for that matter? Did Simon & Kirby move Captain America to DC and rename him the Guardian?

When did Marvelesque themes, plots, characterizations and attitudes start seeping into DC comics? Was it Metamorpho? The Doom Patrol? Teen Titans? Was it new creators or older ones trying to be hip? When did the cracks first appear?

I think the Doom Patrol was certainly modelled after the Fantastic Four. (Four members, with a kind of family bonding but who also bickered, led by a super-genius, one member who can fly, one woman, one member who is a super-strong guy trapped in a body he hates). Moreover, they debuted around the time Fantastic Four #16 came out, when Fantastic Four's style was more like that of the Doom Patrol's feature.

I would think there's no doubt that the Guardian was modelled after Captain America. Simon and Kirby had also been involved with the creation of "Young Allies", the first kid gang feature. (Toonopedia tells me it grew out of the Sentinels of Liberty, a kind of 40s Teen Brigade from Captain America Comics. The GCD credits splashes in the first issue of Young Allies to Kirby.)

I thought House of Secrets became a split book under the influence of Marvel's split books, but it arguably adopted the format first. From Eclipso's introduction in #61 the page-count was split fairly evenly between his and Mark Merlin's features. At the time at Marvel Dr. Strange had just been introduced (in the back of Strange Tales), but his stories were only five pagers.

Great analogy, Luke. I've heard the Doom Patrol/X-Men comparisons many times but never equating the DP with the FF. Negative Man was similar visually to the Torch, and even the time limitation was something the early Torch had, though not to that extreme. Robotman was a super-strong, orange, non-organic body like Ben Grimm. You could even make a case that Elasti-Girl could alter her body like Reed's and shrink to near-invisibilty as per Sue. And the majority have always stated that Reed's true super-power was his intelluct as it was with the Chief.

How about the Challengers of the Unknown as pre-Fantastic Four. Ace's leadership skills and Prof's genuis combined as Reed, June for Sue, and really how much does it take to see Red and Rocky as the Thing and the Torch.

Philip Portelli said:

How about the Challengers of the Unknown as pre-Fantastic Four. Ace's leadership skills and Prof's genuis combined as Reed, June for Sue, and really how much does it take to see Red and Rocky as the Thing and the Torch.


I know it goes against the popular thinking, but I never saw the Challengers of the Unknown as a prototype Fantastic Four.  Folks make that association because of the convenient circumstance that Jack Kirby had a hand in creating both.  But the fact of the matter is that in creating the Challengers of the Unknown, Kirby and writer Dave Wood made use of common stereotypes for adventure teams.


Most teams of adventurers are populated with most or all of the following stereotypes:  the Leader; the Strongman; the Scientist; the Tyro---or youthful, impetuous one; and the Token Female.  Sometimes, one character will combine two of the stereotypes.


Look at the adventure teams that DC created after the Challengers, but before Marvel released the Fantastic Four, in Fantastic Four # 1 (Nov., 1961):


Rip Hunter, Showcase # 20 (May-Jun., 1959)---Rip Hunter (the Leader/the Scientist), Jeff Smith (the Strongman), Corky Baxter (the Tyro), and Bonnie Baxter (the Token Female)


the Suicide Squad, The Brave and the Bold # 25 (Aug.-Sep., 1959)---Colonel Rick Flagg (the Leader), Doc Evans (the Scientist), Jess Bright (the Strongman), and Karin Grace (the Token Female)


the Sea Devils, Showcase # 27 (Jul.-Aug., 1960)---Dane Dorrance (the Leader), Biff Bailey (the Strongman), Nicky Walton (the Tyro), and Judy Walton (the Token Female)


Cave Carson, The Brave and the Bold # 31 (Aug.-Sep., 1960)---Cave Carson (the Leader), Bulldozer Smith (the Strongman), Johnny Blake (the Tyro), and Christie Madison (the Token Female)


Note that in the case of both the Sea Devils and Rip Hunter's crew, the relationship between the Token Female and the Tyro as Older Sister/Younger Brother matches, and precedes, the same relationship in the Fantastic Four.


The use of such stereotypes for lead characters can be seen even before the debut of Challengers of the Unknown.  Many pulp heroes relied on the same stock performers.  For example, working for Richard "the Avenger" Benson (the Leader) were Mac (a druggist with a medical degree, i.e., the Scientist), Smitty (the Strongman), Nellie (the Token Female), and when he was introduced a few years into the series, Cole (the Tyro).


You can even find the same sort of thing in legend.  The traditional tales of Robin Hood, for example.  After Robin (the Leader), you have Little John (the Strongman), Maid Marian (the Token Female), and Will Scarlet (in the traditional legends, Robin and most of his Merry Men were considered to in their thirties or even middle-aged; Scarlet however was considered to be in his late teens or early twenties and was depicted as hot-headed and impetuous, hence the Tyro).


Moreover, many of the parallels between the Challengers and the Fantastic Four didn't manifest in the Challs until after the debut of the FF.  For the first thirty-five stories or so, none of the Challs emerged as the set leader.  In fact, when pressed about it by a fan's letter, editor Murray Boltinoff stated that the group had no established boss, that whatever Challenger was most capable, given the current situation, would take the lead.  Eventually, Ace would emerge as the team's leader, but that wasn't made official until Challengers of the Unknown # 46 (Oct.-Nov., 1965).


And Prof Haley didn't start out as the team's scientist; he was a master skin-diver.  He would eventually evolve into a general all-around egghead about the same time that Ace started taking over as the honcho.


June Robbins was present in about half of the Challengers adventures for the first couple of years but, unlike Sue Storm and her FF buds, June never went on missions as part of the group.  She was instrumental, often, in an adventure, but her rôle was that of a catalyst---either she got into some sort of trouble while involved in a situation on her own and the Challs had to come bail her out, or she would become aware of something bizarre and call them to investigate.


June didn't start wearing a Challengers costume and regularly accompanying the fellas until the 1970's, when PC-sensibilities directed putting a female on the team full time.


The squabbling between Rocky and Red didn't develop until that 1964-5 time frame, as well.


So, actually, one could argue that the Challengers of the Unknown copied the Fantastic Four, rather than the other way around.


Note, I'm not saying that Jack Kirby didn't use the Challengers as his template when the Fantastic Four was created.  I'm just saying it's not the sure thing that so many believe.  Perhaps Stan Lee took the basis for Reed, Ben, Sue, and Johnny from the Sea Devils, which were identical in character composition.  Or maybe Stan and Jack had just relied on the typical character stereotypes which had proven reliable for decades.




Wow! Four teams with the same make-up within twelve months of each other! Rip Hunter, the Suicide Squad, the Sea Devils and Cave Carson--DC was in a rut! Yet two of them (Rip and the Sea Devils) had good runs in their own titles.

I was going to try to be clever and say Reed was an early example of the Scientist as the Leader and the Hero as opposed to being a secondary character i.e. Flash Gordon/Doctor Zarkov and Buck Rogers/Doctor Hume. But the Commander knows far more than me about the subject, especially the timelines.

Of course, the Challengers weren't a direct predecessor to the Fantastic Four, despite the Kirby connection, yet there was the plane/rocket crash....

There were several direct parodies of Stan Lee from DC.  I think we're all aware of Funky Flashman, but there was also Stan Bragg, Sam Simeon's editor from Angel and the Ape.
Actually, it wasn't just a Hulk-riff in the Justice League cartoon.  They had an episode where Dr. Fate, Aquaman, and Grundy had to work together.  They did a DC version of the original Defenders!

Luke Blanchard said:

I understand Solomon Grundy was handled in a very Hulk-like way in the Justice League cartoon. Some of the creators of his stories of the 60s/70s may also have had the Hulk in mind.

The Silver Age Plastic Man's archfoe was Doctor Dome, which you might say reflects DC returning the favor as Mr. Fantastic is clearly inspired by Plastic Man (a character DC had acquired from Quality in the 1950s, but had done nothing with until 1966).

Philip Portelli said:

I was going to try to be clever and say Reed was an early example of the Scientist as the Leader and the Hero as opposed to being a secondary character i.e. Flash Gordon/Doctor Zarkov and Buck Rogers/Doctor Hume. But the Commander knows far more than me about the subject, especially the timelines.


And had you said that, I would have pointed out that Doc Savage was the Leader and the Scientist long before Reed Richards smoked his first bowl of pipe tobacco.  ;)

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