A ‘Giant-Size’ beginning, 41 regular issues ,one Annual, from the 1970s, a follow up 4-issue mini-series and some significant tales in Captain America and Namor before a mini revival in the new millennium…!

 

We will be starting in June 1975 – with Giant-Size Invaders #1 , a 30 page special written by Roy Thomas with art in the individual style of Frank Robbins and inked by Vince Colletta.


World War Two heroes Captain America and Bucky, the android Human Torch and partner Toro and Namor the Sub-Mariner find themselves thrown together against the Nazi villainy of Master Man and no less a figure than Winston Churchill helps form the …Invaders!

 

I’d love to know what memories anyone has of this series before I summarise it issue by issue….anyone up for it? (I’ll wait a bit for people to locate their issues if you’d like…)

 

(First question I’ll throw out there – anyone else notice the mistake on the cover of Invaders classic tpk #1)

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AVENGERS #4 (03/64)

“CAPTAIN AMERICA Joins…The AVENGERS!”

Writer – Stan Lee illustrator – Jack Kirby

One of the most famous and most ‘homaged’ covers in Marvel’s history! – It is still beautiful and the angle remains unusual to this day!

After escaping the Avengers previously, the Sub-Mariner encounters Inuits worshiping a man in a block of ice in the North Sea

Angrily he casts the frozen man into the ocean.
While searching for Namor, The Avengers discover the body, which had been thawed by warmer waters.

 

They recover the figure and it turns out to be the hero of WWII, Captain America.

 

His body had been frozen and preserved after a failed mission near the end of the war.

 

The Avengers then attend a press conference where they are turned to stone by a creature with a mysterious ray.

 

Captain America meets civilian hanger-on Rick Jones and remarks on his physical resemblance to Bucky.

 

Owing his life to the Avengers, Captain America tracks down the alien and makes it restore the Avengers back to normal.

 

 

In return the Avengers try to free the alien's craft from the water and the Sub-Mariner attacks.
After fighting him off, they finish freeing the craft and the alien departs.

 

Captain America is then recruited as an Avenger!

 

This is one of the most important Marvel comics ever and literally every panel is iconic as a result!

It STILL stands up as a quality read!

 

From an INVADERS viewpoint it is especially poignant how it is Namor that finds the frozen figure and sets in motion the return of Captain America – whom we know was his long lost teammate in the Invaders – although neither hero will remember that for years to come!

That is a bit of a stretch that neither hero have all their WWII memories for many years – for Cap, I believe it’s blamed on the fact he was on ice for so long…fine…but…he remembers Bucky almost instantly and his own origin and a lot of his war record and so on…!

Anyway, swallow it and move on.

 

It is well known that Modern Marvel teased the return of Captain America in Strange Tales #114, in which the Human Torch battled a Cap impostor, it was due to the reaction to that story that Stan Lee, according to legend, decided to bring Cap back completely.

 

This is where we first discover, in a sequence that probably gets more flashbacks than the death of Uncle Ben, - Bucky and Cap tried to disarm a missile while fighting Baron Zemo but it explodes, sending Cap to his frozen fate and killing Bucky dead.

Yes, Bucky Dead!

D.E.A.D!

The death will haunt Cap for most of his career, feeling guilty for taking a non-powered youngster into battle and basically being responsible for his death!

He misses Bucky so much that he’s all over Rick Jones who he says bears an uncanny resemblance to Bucky!

I don’t believe this resemblance was actually retconned into anything more than that but I always expected to see a story that connected those dots…that Rick was related in some way to Bucky, or some other time-displaced/other-dimensional explanation would be discovered.

 

Rick was used as the ‘POV’ character in early Marvel and depending on the writing went from wet sap to whinging baby to brave plucky role model…gaining the actual costume and role of Bucky in those heady but short Steranko days…and then basically fizzled out.

(Isn’t he some blue version of the Abomination now?? – How disappointed must Mar-Vel be? – But that’s a whole other discussion- thread!)

 

It has been mentioned before in this thread before that Stan Lee wanted no kid-sidekicks, presumably because DC was rife with them or something.

It is due to that Stan Lee edict that Bucky is officially killed off but what does Rick Jones stand for if not the same character trait?

 

Avengers #56 looks deeper into the event that led to the missile explosion in Cap’s flashback here, covered within What If #4 above.

That event actually has later-Cap reacting with World-War-Cap and convincing Cap (and us readers) for many a decade that Bucky was indeed dead.

Killed in that event Bucky did not manage to…survive after having lost an arm and be used by the Soviets every now and then as a hit-man agent between being put in suspended animation …..

 

The awe and reverence that the Avengers display in the face of newly thawed out Captain America goes a very long way to shaping the special place Cap holds within Marvel hero’s hierarchy and indeed as a young reader never having heard of Captain America’s wartime record or comics I fully understood the standing in which he was being held here.

 

Somehow Cap comes over as compassionate, warm, driven and focused. I know he wavers a lot over the next several years and boy can the man bleat about his lot in life, but here he comes over as quite optimistic despite everyone and everything he knows being gone.

 

It doesn’t have to be said, (does it?) that the alien being that Cap fights in this issue of the Avengers is later revealed to be a member of the D'Bari alien race, that race being the one the Phoenix destroys when she turns ‘Dark’ …(the first time…!)?

 

Cap joins the Avengers in this issue, and that splash page is one of my favourites of all-time!

(Cap marching in as if to inspect the Assembled Avengers)

Cap effectively takes the Hulk’s place in the Avengers here, the first Invader to join their hallowed ranks.

He is later granted "founding member" status and indeed the Avengers as a team and a title shift up a gear from here on in.

 

The Avengers, with Cap now as a fully active member next appear in Fantastic Four #25, where their mansion is trashed by the Hulk. They are forced to battle their former teammate in New York City along with the Fantastic Four in Fantastic Four #26. – I mention those issues both to place Cap’s return to active super-heroics in context but also because they happen to be one of the greatest 2-parters EVER!!

 

Over the years Cap will eventually regain his memories of being an Invader, as will the Sub-Mariner, the revelation that Cap was ‘replaced’ by other heroes in his role after his ‘death’ will come out, as will the true fate of Bucky….


But…first…

 

Come back soon for…

 

Next… the return of The Original Human Torch ….

Strange Tales #114 was cover-dated November 1963 and was also by Lee & Kirby (who had left the Human Torch feature by then, IIRC). I guess Jack wanted to revive Cap himself though Cap looks a little...off.

Anyway four months is a short time to judge readers' reactions for Cap's return. Especially for the purpose of including him in The Avengers whose #1 was out for September 1963.

More likely Stan and Jack wanted to re-familiarize  readers with the character with Johnny pondering what happened to Cap.

It may be when Lee and Kirby put Captain America into Strange Tales they hadn't had the idea of putting him into The Avengers yet. They may have still be thinking in terms of bringing him back by giving him his own feature. Also, they may not have yet had the suspended animation idea, which became the foundation for his portrayal as a man out of his time.

At the time of Strange Tales #114 Marvel wasn't yet doing split books.(1) "Dr. Strange" had started in Strange Tales, but it was still a five page back-up feature.(2)

(1) Arguably the format was invented by DC when it introduced Eclipso's feature into House of Secrets with #62, and gave it roughly the same number of pages as the existing feature, "Mark Merlin" (more, initially). That issue came out a bit under three months before Strange Tales #114. Before that Detective Comics had been fairly evenly split between Batman's and the Martian Manhunter's features from #301 (1962), when it went to a two-feature format. Likewise Action Comics was often fairly evenly split between Superman's and Supergirl's features after it went to a two-feature format with #262 (1960), but the division there was irregular. (Sometimes Supergirl's feature even got more pages.)

(2) The feature started in #110 and skipped ##112-113.

Supergirl often got the cover in Action Comics.

Philip Portelli said:

I guess Jack wanted to revive Cap himself though Cap looks a little...off.

He either looked strange by accident or design. In the story it was revealed to be an imposter.

Philip Portelli said:

Supergirl often got the cover in Action Comics.

 

#339 even has a split cover. They usually put Superman onto Supergirl's covers in some form, though. But the Action Comics giants were Supergirl giants.

 

A number of issues of Gunsmoke Western had split Kid Colt/Billy Buckskin or Kid Colt/Wyatt Earp covers, but they also carried third features and/or non-series stories, so they weren't evenly split between a single story featuring each of the characters.

 

I was in error in saying Eclipso's feature began in House of Secrets #62. It was #61. I thought the initial shared issues had a third, non-series story but not really: #62 and #63 both had a short filler story of less than two pages.

 

(corrected)

On reflection I think Phillip's theory of using an imposter Cap to refresh the character in readers minds before his true revival seems more likely than the 'readers demamded' angle in view of the timescale.

Reconstructing my return to comics after a couple of years away, I started buying again (gradually) in October 1963. My first Avengers was the #4 return of Captain America, which went on sale in January 1964. Since I hadn't yet discovered fanzines my first exposure to the character was on the cover of #4. I didn't start rerading Strange Tales until #117(FEB64), which was on sale in November 1963, so I missed the imposter Captain America story at the time. I went in as a blank slate, and enjoyed the character immediately.

I think it still holds up today as a quality engaging piece of drama. I tried to convey that. There is a reason so many still have a positive reaction to / memory of this issue.

I totally agree. I never actually read this issue until about 3 years or so ago, and I thought it was pretty good.

Richard Mantle said:

I think it still holds up today as a quality engaging piece of drama. I tried to convey that. There is a reason so many still have a positive reaction to / memory of this issue.

FANTASTIC FOUR Annual #4 (11/66)
“The TORCH That Was!”

Writer – Stan Lee Penciller – Jack Kirby
Inker – Sol Brodsky

What a cover! What an issue.

Not only this original piece discussed below, but the above mentioned two-parter FF#25 & #26 reprinted AND the origin of ‘our’ Torch too! Wow!


I said this before and it’s still applicable…”The fact that this is an FF book means that most of the plot is superfluous to us Invaders –pilgrims, but for the completeists….”

...This Annual fits between regular issues of the FF # 56 and #57, I believe and finds the FF in mid-upset over Johnny Storm, (The Human Torch)‘s new girlfriend CRYSTAL, being cut off from our heroes by a mysterious barrier around the Great Refuge of the Inhumans..


Amidst the angst from Johnny, his best friend Wyatt Wingfoot (remember him?, kind of like a beefy version of Rick Jones…) and Lockjaw, we get the Thing answering mail and conveniently mentioning an older version of ‘the Human Torch’ from “more than 20 years ago”.
Reed also mentions he saw that Torch ‘a few times during the war”...

 

We cut to catch up with, believe it or not, the actual ‘original’ Human Torch the teammates had been discussing.

We find villainous Mad Thinker (They don’t name them like that any more do they!?) -reviving our Invaders hero.

 We get a flashback to the Torch’s unveiling by his creator Professor Horton and the unfortunate side-effect of exposure to oxygen, his bursting into,- controllable – flame!.


We hear that Horton buried the Torch in concrete but due to the slightest crack allowing in air – he could and did escape. but there his memory ended.

 

So, no memory of his illustrious career fighting against the Nazis and – of course – no mention of the Invaders.

No mention of Namor and his old rivalry and no mention of why he should not be able to remember his past, even the past that had been established by then...

 

Those silver-age coincidences strike again as Johnny-Torch heads into the desert to let off some steam over his love-life only to be confronted by Android-Torch who makes it quite clear he’s out to fight.
“I am the HUMAN TORCH! The first …the ORIGINAL Human Torch! The one who must now destroy you…”

There is a well matched dramatic battle until both parties are taken below ground into caves and their powers fade,
The Android explains his plight…”The THINKER brought me back to life... and will destroy me again… if I FAIL him!”
Which tips Johnny-Torch on to the fact that the Original is actually an Android-Torch.


They continue to battle and Johnny-Torch asks why Android-Torch is so afraid of the Thinker only to get the even more mysterious answer “Because of … Quasimodo!”


We learn via the Thinker that Quasimodo is the A.I housed in his greatest computers, who wants to be housed in the Android-Torch so as to approach real life and freedom, but the Thinker won’t allow it.

 

During their fight the Android-Torch decides he’ll try to take Johnny-Torch to the Thinker alive, thus not being a murderer and of course cherishing his humanity...


The rest of the FF arrive, with Lockjaw and everyone gets to the Thinker’s lab in a ‘PTOOFFT!”


The Thinker activates Quasimodo’s ‘destruct-eye’ which activates a detonator lever setting the Android-Torch’s powers off wildly and effectively burning him out!


The Thinker escapes, the Android-Torch is declared dead.


The FF return to their concerns over Crystal and her family and leave the inert Android-Torch and the confined to-the-computers Quasimodo behind…..

 

There is an awful lot crammed into this 19 page adventure and not all of it necessary which is why this just doesn’t work very well at all.


The idea of Quiasimodo being a computer program that wants to be a real person or at least an android –person is a bit of a stretch and does not come over as anything but an unsophisticated riff on Pinocchio.

 

The contrast between Human and Android Human Torches could have been more significant and poignant if there was much sympathy for the Android-Torch here.
Johnny-Torch appeals to him many times to give up the fight, explain his motivations and would clearly try to help prevent whatever tragedy he is afraid of, but the Android-Torch panics in a most unheroic manner, not really becoming any ‘hero’ let alone the revered War hero he should have been.

This is in a direct contrast to the way Captain America was treated in his revival.

 

Clearly this was an almost throwaway storyline to explain/remind any readers of the earlier hero adventures, but without any great depth of character or even detail of backstory.

This issue presented Human Torch vs Human Torch and that was clearly it’s only brief.

The topical references to the War and being 20years ago have obviously become big gaping plot-holes since production.

 

The art should be singled out for praise, however. – Yes, I know it’s Kirby and Sinnott and they can hardly be found wanting at any point but here they go beyond themselves, there is a distinct and noticeable difference in how the two Torches are drawn, the flowing hair and bigger build with a lighter flame look for the Android-Torch is very effective and the cover is an excellent example of this.

 

(I’m sure it’s been mentioned before but the last few issues in this thread highlight a little ‘quirk’ of Stan Lee’s….’introduce someone new/important in the fourth issue” – check it out, FF # 4 – Namor,
Avengers #4 - Captain America, FF Annual # 4 – Original Human Torch, it’s a theory that I’m sure I’ve read debated many times over…)

 

Okay, so Namor’s back, Cap’s back, Bucky’s dead, the Original Human Torch has been superceded by a newer version and is dead, again…..who’s next….?

 

Come back next time for the return of the Original Human Torch…again…? (You’ll see what I mean…!)...

So, no memory of his illustrious career fighting against the Nazis and – of course – no mention of the Invaders.

No mention of Namor and his old rivalry and no mention of why he should not be able to remember his past, even the past that had been established by then...

So now we're three-for-three. All three of the original Invaders have selective memory problems, seemingly remembering everything except the Invaders.

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