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From Atlas Monsters to Marvel Superheroes 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:

In this episode of CBH, we’ll be discussing how many of the Marvel super characters from the 1960s or 1970s derived their names from older characters of the same company, either Timely 1940s, Atlas 1950s, or their Monster period under Independent News Distribution late 1950s to 1962.

read below and/or click the video:

The relevance of IND as distributor was explained previously in the 1957 Atlas Implosion episode.  The first character name we’re discussing is the most popular character in Marvel, and that is Spider-Man.



Although he was co-created by Steve Ditko and Stan Lee in 1962 (as discussed in the Steve Ditko – Marvel episode), the name Spider Man was previously used by the company when it was referred to as Atlas in 1954 in Uncanny Tales 26, 1954.  This story featured a scientist who raised and mutated gigantic monstrous spiders with the hope of taking over the world.  Although the plot had nothing to do with our friendly neighborhood wall-crawler, the name technically wasn’t new.


In Tales to Astonish 7, 1960 Jack Kirby and Stan Lee portrayed a monster called the Thing, one of many of their Independent News Monster age era.  At this point, they focused alot of comics on monsters before they felt that Superheroes would be fair game.  D.C. had sued Fawcett for using their Captain Marvel character in the past, so it’s no surprise monsters would be experimented with as far as popularity and using a great deal of names that would later be used on super characters.  When I say potrayed by Kirby and Lee, it is meant that Kirby penciled it and Lee word-smithed it, as far as who originated it, I’m keeping that out because a character is both the visual and the name and that debate can go on for days..



When Jack and Stan ushered in their Marvel Age by starting Fantastic Four 1, 1961 they introduced another monster type super hero also called the Thing shown on the cover.  Although they retconned the Human Torch to retool him into Johnny Storm, they used the power of the Invisible Scarlet O’Neill and Plastic Man into their characters, but fashioned the perfect monster-superhero gateway hero, the Thing, reusing the name.




Another fun character from Tales to Astonish 9, 1960 was the Godzilla type Lizard monster, Droom!  Who came up with these names?  That’s tough to answer, maybe it was Stan Lee, the character designs most likely from the penciler, Jack Kirby.  However, its tough to be certain who came up with the monster names.



The name Droom would be later used again pretty soon after in the creation of the company’s first Silver Age mystical hero, Dr. Droom.  Dr. Droom predates Dr. Strange and was created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee as a prototype mystic character whom was fomerly discussed in the Golden Age to Marvel Silver Age episode.  He went to Tibet before Dr. Strange and was transformed into a crime fighting psychic mystic.  This character didn’t do as well as their later characters and was forgotten for a while, and brought back into Marvel continuity as Dr. Druid.




Speaking of forgotten Marvel Silver Age characters, there was another one named Gorilla Man after an Atlas Age monster creature.  Named after the earlier Atlas Gorilla man from 1954, Men’s Adventure 26 which showcases a transformed creature called Gorilla Man by the great Robert Q Sale.  This Atlas era Gorilla Man would be later used in What If? 9, 1978 and the later modern Agents of Atlas series 2006



In 1962, Tales to Astonish 28 there was a transformed scientist hero-monster that was given the same name, Gorilla Man presented by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee.



This character was even revisited again in issue 30, however that was the last we heard of him. Imagine if they kept Dr Droom and Gorilla Man and put them into the Avengers in the 1960s. I guess something’s weren’t meant to be! In 1960, Tales of Suspense 10 contained a large monster called “Cyclops” by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee.  This Cyclops was frozen and brought back to life by explorers, however what makes this name interesting is that it was re-used.



The name Cyclops was used again in Kirby and Lee’s X-Men 1, 1963 on their repressed leader with a uni-visor.  This mutant superhero contained elements of the Golden Age hero, the Comet which was also discussed in the Golden Age to Silver Age CBH episode, and it was a natural fit to reuse the monster Cyclops name for this character.




In 1960, Jack and Stan created a monster in Tales of Suspense 9, 1960 from the Fifth Dimension.  Again these monster characters were residuals of the 1950s sci-fi monster movie phenomenon, however this name would be used again.




In 1964, Fantastic Four 30, the name Diablo would be used for a new villain that would fight the fabulous foursome.  Even though he is generally regarded as a B-list character, his name preceded him and was a re-used item from their previous monster comics.




As far as villains go, there is a monster on the cover of Strange Tales 84 in 1961 with the name, “Magneto” presented by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee.  This was featured in the Jack Kirby X-Men episode, and also fits well here in this presentation.  This Magneto is a monster that can levitate entire cities.


This name would be used again in another co-creation of Jack Kirby and Stan Lee on the cover of Uncanny X-Men 1, 1963 for their number 1 arch-nemesis, “Magneto” the mutant master of magnetism during their Superhero Marvel Silver Age.



In 1960, Jack and Stan created the Molten Man-thing and placed him on the cover of Tales of Suspense 7.  Another of their Lava type men, but this type in the form of a monster that caused the local towns people to run for their lives.




This name appears to have been split up and used for a couple other Marvel Age characters.  The first one is the Molten Man from Ditko and Lee’s Amazing Spider-Man 28, 1965.  This issue sports a memorable densely black cover, and shows the ominous B-list villain nicely on the cover.



The second half of Molten Man-Thing would be split off and the name, Man-Thing would be used for a Swamp based Marvel Monster anti-hero in the early 1970s, here is a cover for the humorously titled, Giant Sized Man-Thing 1, 1974, sporting BIG PAGES.  Man-Thing was an interesting character because he was created before DC’s Swamp Thing, and would be positioned as generally a Monster with a good heart, fighting other creatures as a troubled anti-hero which was a trend of that decade as discussed in the 8 Ages of Comic Books episode.




In 1960, Journey Into Mystery 62 showcased a scientifically created monster by Kirby and Lee on the cover.  He was furry with soft facial features much like the Golden Age character, The Heap who was referred to as a “Hulk” at times.  The Heap Hulk relationship was previously discussed in the Golden Age to Marvel Silver Age episode.



The name Hulk originally placed on this monster, would be used later in 1962, on the cover of the Incredible Hulk 1 also by Kirby and Lee.  Scientist Bruce Banner as augmented by science to become this monster anti-hero and his creative origins were discussed in the Jack Kirby Hulk CBH episode.  Similar to the Thing, he would be a merge between Monster and Super Anti-Hero.



In 1961, there was a gray monster called Elektro on the cover of Tales of Suspense 13 by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee.  The name Elektro is fascinating in the history of Marvel comics because not only was this name used for this IND era Monster comic, but it was also used earlier in 1954 in Captain America Comics 78.




This Atlas-era cover by John Romita Sr showcases a communist super-villain in the failed Commie Smasher run of this series.  This Electro was spelled with a C and he did have electric based superpowers.




This era of Captain America is seen as not the real Steve Rogers due to his punch first and ask questions later anti-communist cold war mentality that Marvel is currently demonizing.  The name Electro was also used during the Timely Era of Marvel Comics history in Marvel Mystery Comics 4, 1940 by Steve Dahlman of Electro, The Marvel of the Age.  This Electro was a Marvelous Robot created by Professor Zog.


The name Electro applies to this blog, because that name was used for the fourth time by this company during the Marvel Age in 1964 in Amazing Spider-Man 9 for Steve Ditko and Stan Lee’s character, Electro.  This super villain was electrically powered and enjoyed using his powers to rob banks which was common for villains of those days.  So the name Electro was used during all 4 eras of Marvel’s history, Timely, Atlas, IND Monster Age, and Marvel Age.




1961 Journey into Mystery 70 features a character by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee named the Sand Man, a Sand monster found by some inquisitive humans.  Again the same pattern of a Monster name in this IND Monster Era was reused in a Super villain.




In 1963, this name was used again for Steve Ditko and Stan Lee’s super villain, the Sand Man who was an enemy of Spider-Man introduced in issue 4.  This super villain is very memorable and was one of many rogues gallery created by this team which thankfully included Steve Ditko.



In 1961, Tales to Astonish 16, there was a monster called Thorr potrayed by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee which waited a million years to destroy the world.  His head was fashioned after the Easter Island Stone men whom Kirby revisited even as early as his DC days in the late 1950s.



In 1962, Jack Kirby and Stan Lee would create the Mighty Thor who would fight aliens from Saturn who were also fashioned after the Easter Island Stone Men.  We discussed the roots of Thor, the Easter island Stone Men, and the Thunder God fighting Aliens from Saturn in the Jack Kirby Thor CBH episode.  What is important here is that the name and stone men was reused in the Mighty Thor’s first appearance in Journey Into Mystery 83.



In Tales to Astonish 17, 1961 a scientist by the name of VanDoom creates a new creature using monster enriched science.  He was depicted as a mad scientist by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee in this issue.




In 1962,  Jack Kirby and Stan Lee would depict another mad scientist by the name of Von Doom as the armored arch villain of the Fantastic Four, Dr. Doom.  There is no plot relation between the two characters, but it is another fun example of how the Monster Era names were carried over and placed onto new Superhero or Supervillains in the Marvel Silver Age.




In 1962, Journey into Mystery 82, 1962 there was a large insect based monster named the Scorpion portrayed here by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee. Although this monster was fairly just filler for this issue with no real company relevance,



its name, Scorpion would be used again for a famous Super villain in Amazing Spider-Man 20, 1964.  This character was created by Steve Ditko and Stan Lee and became a reoccurring villain, fighting Spidey for decades, and is a fun example of how Monster era names were reused for Super powered individuals during the Marvel Age.




In 1961, Tales of Suspense 14 had a monster on the cover, an artificial creation called the Colossus which would cause the local people to Flee for their Lives!  Portrayed by Jack Kirby and word-smithed by Stan Lee, this name would also not go to waste.




In 1975, this name would be used again onto the Russian Marvel Superhero in the All-New All-Different Giant Sized X-Men 1.  Much like the Man-Thing, this name wouldn’t be used until the 1970s by Len Wein and Dave Cockrum for this hero who was too noble and shiny to be considered a tortured monster, but rather a shining noble mutant metallic knight whose power manifested in a transformative burst of energy.



Even Werewolf by Night had a precursor in Atlas Comic’s Marvel Tales 116, 1953.



Which is a name precursor to the famous bronze age character created by Roy Thomas, Mike Ploog and Gerry Conway from Marvel Spotlight 2, 1972. (My buddy Wiley found this one)



In discussing how the names of these pre-Marvel Monster characters were transplanted onto the buddenning Marvel Silver Age Superheroes, it is natural to want to see the monthly transition from one to another.




Going by cover dates 11/1961 to 5/1962, the Fantastic Four was the only super hero book for the company at this time, while the other titles were still going pretty hard for monster/sci-fi.  FF was a bi-monthly book while the other books were still monthly so FF was a successful experiment by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee which did well enough for the company to eventually drop from its monster comics and focus and build its buddening super-powered Marvel Universe and hence, reusing the Monster’s names.  These new Super characters with reused names were a tremendous success except in the case of Droom and Gorilla Man.  All those monster titles eventually changed to Superhero books and the Marvel Age would begin.  Difficult to prove who transferred the names over, but that was probably Stan Lee as editor or Martin Goodman as publisher overseeing the entire line of comics, or Jack Kirby as visual creator who remembered an old name for an old character.  As far as their origination, it’s difficult to prove who created those names and that is left to historical speculation.  Cheers.


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