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From Golden Age to Marvel’s Silver Age by Alex Grand

Read Alex Grand’s Understanding Superhero Comic Books published by McFarland Books in 2023 with Foreword by Jim Steranko with editorial reviews by comic book professionals, Jim Shooter, Tom Palmer, Tom DeFalco, Danny Fingeroth, Alex Segura, Carl Potts, Guy Dorian Sr. and more.

In the meantime enjoy the show:

Welcome to CBH, today we’re talking about interesting Golden Age Precursors to Silver Age Marvel Characters. Marvel Silver Age Superhero’s are a lot of fun, and get a lot of screen time in movie theaters these days.  Some fans will check out the 1960s comic books and have a great time watching these characters being created by people like Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Bill Everett, Stan Lee, etc.

As incredible as these people were, they also read their own entertainment when they were younger, and a lot of that was found in earlier pulp magazines, newspaper comic strips, and golden age comic books.  This episode focuses as an introduction to some golden age comic precursors to some of our favorite Silver Age characters.  Just to clarify a point, there is no verification that the 1960s guys read all these particular comics, however they are antecedents and are astonishingly similar to the listed 1940s characters.

Read below and/or click to view the video:

In 1940, Jack Binder created the original Daredevil for Lev Gleason publications.  The original Daredevil had red hair, a yellow costume, was disabled with the inability to speak and was labeled the “master of courage.”



Jack Cole, the creator of Plastic Man, revamped him into a red suit, and his popularity really took off.   This Daredevil got removed from his comic due to waning popularity in 1950, and eventually Lev Gleason lost the rights to the use of the name Daredevil due to falling out of trademark.  In 2003, Stan Lee said in an interview that Martin Goodman told Stan to revive the character in 1964, and Bill Everett, Kirby, Ditko & Lee worked on the first issue also giving this new Daredevil red hair, yellow costume, a disability of blindness and was instead called “the man without fear.”  Much like the original Daredevil, he would subsequentily be changed from yellow to red by Wally Wood & Stan Goldberg.

Wally Wood was a fan of the Golden Age Daredevil showing here with his childhood sketches from 1941.


Prize Comics #58, March-April 1946, illustrated by Charles Voight also has an origin of a boxer named Moider Murdock who fell on the wrong side of the law as he was commanded to throw a fight for the mob.



1940 Golden Age vision was created by Jack Kirby and Joe Simon in Marvel Mystery Comics 13 as an alien cop from a smoke world dimension.  He was revived by Roy Thomas in Avengers 57, 1968 with a whole new origin as an android who can control his mass.  Roy has mentioned this freely in interviews.


The Human Torch first premiered in 1939, Marvel Comics 1 as an android created by Carl Burgos, and was written out of his comic in issue 93, 1949.  Young Men 24, 1953 had Martin Goodman’s pre-code 50s attempt to revive his golden age superhero triumvirate (Torch, Cap & Namor) for Atlas comics.

He wanted to compete with DC’s Superman and possibly start his own version of a 50s TV show, but it wasn’t successful.  The human torch revival that did stick however was the 1961 fantastic four 1, where this silver age take by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee was given a whole new origin and name.

The three Thor’s of Jack Kirby.  Jack Kirby had a long relationship with the norse God’s.  His first rendition of Thor was after his first Captain America run, the character he co-created with Joe Simon.



After leaving Timely comics he worked at DC and one story he made was with a Golden Age Thor in DC’s Adventure Comics 75, 1942, “The Villain from Valhalla.”  He would return to the character in DC’s Tales of the Unexpected 16, 1957, “The Magic Hammer.”  His official true Silver Age Thor was the one he co-created with Stan Lee in Journey into Mystery 83, 1962, “The Stone Men from Saturn.”  With Jack Kirby, there is a Thor for each decade.  Why would the third Thor fight aliens from Saturn?

Well something really fun about the first appearance of the Silver Age Thor and his defeat of aliens from Saturn, is that Jack Kirby and Joe Simon worked on a similar story for Fawcett’s Captain Marvel Adventures 1 more than 20 years earlier in 1941 where they had Shazam be referred to as the “Thunder God” as he fights aliens from Saturn.  Another prelude to Thor from Kirby is found from Young Romance 13, 1949 where a women fantasizes about a man she loves as a handsome Viking lover and note the headdress on the bottom of the first panel.

Speaking of Captain Marvel, the original Golden Age Captain Marvel originally appeared in Fawcett’s Whiz Comics 2, 1940.  Due to ongoing court battles with the company later known as DC Comics who felt that Captain Marvel was a plagiaristic copy of their Superman (I know, its total bullcrap) Fawcett ceased using the character in 1953.  The name hadn’t been used in over a decade,  so Martin Goodman, owner of Marvel Comics at the time wanted the name.  He ordered Stan Lee to write a Captain Marvel book and put it in use so they could take the name before anyone else, hence Marvel Super-Heroes 12, 1967 by Gene Colan and Stan Lee with a costume enhancement in 1969.

The company later known as Marvel, put their Tarzan pulp clone, Ka-Zar into his own Golden Age comic with its setting in Africa.  This was present in Marvel Comics 1, 1939.  More than 20 years later, Kirby & Lee revamped him into a new Silver Age version with a new first and last name and then combined him with a Tarzan themed Antarctic Savage Land in Uncanny X-Men 10, 1965 titled “The World that Time Forgot.”


Looking at black panthers, there were quite a few before the one we know created in 1966, and about to get his own movie.

The first was in Stars & Stripes 3, 1941 created by an unknown writer and artist, then the Tarzan newspaper strip had a run in 1951 with an evil black panther tribe, then there was Atlas comics’ Jungle Tales in 1954 by Rico & Pike about Waku the African prince who swears to his dead father to protect his people.   Then in Two-Gun kid 77, 1965 had a Black Panther type of character by Dick Ayers/Al Hartley.  Finally we have the definitive Silver Age Black Panther currently in movies that appear to fuses with the African tribe motif into the Fantastic Four 52, 1966 (Kirby/Lee).  Speaking of African American characters, the Silver Age Falcon premiered in costume in Captain America 117, 1969:



However that wasn’t the first time the company would use the name Falcon for their costumed characters.  In the 1940s, Timely Comics, formerly Marvel had their own Golden Age Falcon as well.  My buddy, Wiley found this one.



Marvel’s Cyclops premiered in 1963, and his visor with uncontrollable eye beam powers are certainly well known to most fans.


However he does appear to have a Golden Age literary ancestor which is found in 1940 Pep Comics 1, The Comet by Jack Cole.



Thru scientific self-augmentation, he constantly shoots laser beams from his eyes and needs a glass uni-visor to prevent everything he looks at from getting disintegrated.  This is the key gift/curse that also affects Cyclops.  Of course, there are as many differences as there are similarities between the Comet and Cyclops, this character has that Golden Age charm of flying and murdering criminals in a psychotic rage. The super-fast Quicksilver has been a Marvel Comics character since 1964 when he was created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, and although the official explanation for his powers changes throughout the decades, he also appears to have a literary ancestor.


This literary ancestor can be found in Quality Comics’ Quicksilver premiering in National Comics 5, 1940 also created by the incredible Jack Cole and Chuck Mazoujian.



Although he has a totally different origin, his name and powers of super speed are the same.  Something notable to look out for with speedsters is how their speed powers are drawn by the artist, its always both fun and interesting to watch. Electro is a name that certainly starts in the golden age with Victor Fox’s Science Comics 1, 1940 then in the Marvel company, Marvel Mystery Comics 4, 1940, then in 1954, Captain America 78, and then Tales of Suspense 13, 1961 then in 1964 Amazing Spider-Man.



There are many comic book characters who got their powers from “cosmic rays, notably Jack Kirby and Stan Lee’s Fantastic Four 1961.



However the FF’s power source appear to have a literary ancestor in Quality Comics’ Smash Comics 14, 1940.  Possibly written by Will Eisner and penciled by Lou Fine we have the Ray, a super human originally augmented by a cosmic glowing storm of light in a low level space trip in a “strato-balloon.”


This sounds remarkably similar to the FF’s cosmic ray exposure in a shuttle. Even the Amazing Spider-Man has a literary ancestor found in 1941, the “Tarantula” who is (I believe) comic’s first “Spider-Man” created by Mort Weisinger for what was later to be called DC comics.  He crawls, has a web-gun, and is out to get criminals.


Something interesting is a panel in this comic showing that he was actually called “Spider-Man” from a radio announcer.

This appears to be a precursor to Kirby & Simon’s Fly character 1959,


and Ditko and Lee’s Spider-Man 1962.

The modern Wonder Man was created in 1964 for Avengers 9 by Jack Kirby, Stan Lee and Don Heck.  His name is Simon Williams, imbued with power by ionic rays with super strength, and invulnerability.  His literary ancestor is the Golden Age Wonder Man for Fox Publications, made in Wonder Comics 1, 1939 by Will Eisner.


The Golden Age Wonder Man was named Fred Carson and got his powers from a ring of power in Tibet, with similar powers as the later Wonder Man.  He unfortunately only lasted one issue since DC Comics, then known as National sued Fox Publications to stop using Wonder Man because they felt it was an infringement on their Superman Copyright.  Wonder Man was killed off in his first appearance and the character wasn’t used until Avengers 131, 1975 ironically because DC Comics sent a cease and desist letter to Stan Lee because they felt the hero was too similar to their … Wonder Woman.  That’s right, this time Wonder Woman.  The curse of the Wonder Men would later be broken once Simon Williams was revived for good.  There is also another Wonder Man more similar to the Marvel one from the 1960s.  Mystery Comics 4, 1944 with a non Eisner and non Marvel Wonder Man, and an action packed Alex Schomburg cover. Schomburg is also credited with penciling the interior Wonder Man story which can make one think he’s more suited for covers. Regardless, it’s still a fun story loaded with physical perils. His green outfit and red W is similar to Wonder Man from Avengers 9, 1964.



Bruce Banner, scientist mutated by Gamma Rays into Jack Kirby and Stan Lee’s the Hulk in 1962 found a kid side-kick, Rick Jones which immediately endeared a lot of fans to the character.  The Heap, created by Harry Stein and Mort Leav for Hillman Periodicals in 1942 was a German pilot mutated by death, swamps, and a “will to live” into a horrifically changed anti-hero monster.


In 1946, the Heap also found a similar side-kick named Rickie Wood who wore very close to the same outfit as Rick Jones. The Heap also emotionally bonded with Rickie, as the Hulk did with Rick 20 years later because he subconsciously recognized Rick’s German model plane.  The Heap, as with the Hulk was both a friend, protector and a curse to the young sidekick.

Iron Man’s Golden Age precedent looks like it could be the 1942 Iron Ace, on a superficial level they are both armored hero’s and have the same title iron font with bolts on the outer edge, but on a deeper level they share the same type of origin.


In Tales of Suspense, 39 1963,  Tony Stark was holed up from Vietnamese soldiers and protected by a self-sacrificing Professor Ho Yinsen.  The Professor’s sacrifice allowed Tony to don his Iron Suit of science to fight off and then escape enemy soldiers becoming Iron Man.

Oddly enough, the same story structure is also apparent in Hillman Periodicals Air Fighters 2, 1942.  A person called Captain Britain was holed up from Nazi soldiers and protected by a self-sacrificing Dr LaFarga.  The Doctor’s sacrifice allowed the Captain to don an Iron Suit of magic to fight off and escape enemy soldiers becoming the Iron Ace.
There was an odd trend in 1960s Marvel where Kirby and Lee’s Dr Doom, & Dr Druid as well as Ditko and Lee’s Dr Strange all got their medical/magical degrees in Tibet.  Dr Droom (Amazing Adventures 1, 1961), Dr Doom (FF5, 1962), and Dr Strange (Strange Tales 115, 1963) went to these foreign medical mystical schools in the same area, and each had their own “astonishing” outcome.  Dr Droom actually turned from Caucasian to “Oriental.”


Roughly 20 years before, there was a Golden Age story of a wealthy playboy named Jethro DuMont who traveled to Tibet and was augmented by the transformative spirit of “Lamaism” becoming the Green Lama.

He first appeared in a 1940 pulp, and got his own comic in Green Lama 1, 1944 with art by Mac Raboy where kids could join the Green Lama club.


This has been another episode of Comic Book Historians.  Literary precursors are an interesting thing.  In some cases like the Golden Age Daredevil, there is a direct link established by interviews, and other times there aren’t.  So does that mean these characters were maliciously plagiarized or does that mean that they were probably read and subconsciously carried over or were they completely original both times or the names/origins were benignly and intentially utilized and the rest made new, or maybe there are some primal themes that genuinely arise from parallel thinking? Its really tough to guess what is exactly what without direct quotes, but its interesting and fun to see the lineage of these literary Super beings, and if its not a literary ancestor, then its at the very least a precedent, or antecedent.  Cheers.

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Images are not used to infringe on copyright, but rather for academic purpose.

Daredevil ©Marvel, Avengers ©Marvel, Marvel Comics ©Marvel, Young Men ©Marvel, Fantastic Four ©Marvel, Adventure Comics ©DC, Tales of the Unexpected ©DC, Journey into Mystery ©Marvel, Captain Marvel ©Marvel, Uncanny X-Men ©Marvel, Tarzan ©ERB, Jungle Tales ©Marvel, Two-Gun Kid ©Marvel, Fantastic Four ©Marvel, Amazing Fantasy ©Marvel, The Fly ©Simon, The Hulk ©Marvel, Tales of Suspense ©Marvel, Amazing Adventures ©Marvel, Fantastic Four ©Marvel, Strange Tales ©Marvel, Wonder Comics ©Public Domain, Photos ©Their Respective Copyrightholders


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