Hank McCoy (Before the Fur)

Been working through the holidays. Kind of not fun.

Earlier this week- Omnicomic’s resident editor mentioned that Alex Ross had to be one of the hardest working comic book writers/ illustrators in the business. I gotta agree: I really gotta tip my hat on this whole Invaders thing, for example. It’s hard to explain just how Ross does what he does. It’s sort of like he writes these things with these lifelike illustrations that jump off the page; that make it feel like what’s happening COULD really happen.

And yet -somehow- it still FEELS surreal. As surreal as the Golden Era comic books felt. Part of you says ‘it’s really happening!’ and another part of you says ‘this could never be!’. Sort of like Santa Claus appeared in front of you and really embodied all of those ridiculous, magical qualities you imagined he would. But it was really happening. It’s an addictive trick and one that ensures that books with Ross’ cover sell like hotcakes.

I was psyched to hear that Ross was taking on an Invaders project. I sort of love this piece of Marvel history- I mean, partly, because Cap-mania is at an all time high. But I also love it because it is SO WEIRD. To this day, I am still kind of in awe of the bizarreness that is Namor the Sub-Mariner. I mean in a lot of ways, he’s one of the most well developed characters in the Marvel universe.

But, in a lot more ways, he’s sort of like the poster-child of the kind of science-fiction that was getting cranked out in the 1940’s and 50’s. Like the kind of thing you’d see on Mystery Science Theater 3K or something. It’s almost like you can picture some strapping actor in a black and white movie, with little wings attached to his feet and everything. And it’d be one of THOSE movies where the audience was sort of, kind of, almost supposed to sympathize with Namor, even though he was the villain, and in the final scene of the movie the ‘professor’ and the ‘girl’ would muse about how tragic it was that this all had to happen this way…

(Years later, Namor’s relaunch into the Marvel universe sort of WAS the story I just described. You know- the professor was Reed Richards, the girl was Susan Storm…)

And the Human Torch? I mean- THE Human Torch- not Johnny Storm/Human Torch? Do you know anyone who even understands what the deal with this character was supposed to BE? I have tried so many times to wrap my head around it. I think -in the simplest terms- the Human Torch is a robot that can burst into flames. I’m not quite sure if the robot has feelings, or thinks it’s human, or has the creator’s brain in its body, or anything like that. But the Torch is definitely synthetic. Which makes sense, I guess. So the robot probably just has some slots that flames jet out of it. And it’s made of an inflammable material. So that works. I guess.

Oh- and the robot can fly.

Again this is a great example of this era’s weirdness. It just doesn’t quite all add up. It’s super-science. And it’s cheesy and it’s a little over the top. But I suppose that’s my point of all this- Ross is the only guy I could imagine taking this on. And walking that tight, tight line between making the Invaders ‘alive’ in the modern sense and somehow making you feel like you’re reading a comic from the 1940’s.

Now- I haven’t heard super flattering things about Invaders Now. And I admit: It’s not Kingdom Come (But hey- what is, right??). Hell it’s not even Earth X (which I ADAMANTALY STAND BY and Ross only did the creative inspiration for. Jim Krueger- if you’re out there- you are still my HERO. If I ever come into a large sum of money, I will personally commission the final issues of Paradise X.). But I think as just an EXPERIENCE I am a huge fan of this comic. I just like that this piece of Marvel history gets its chance to shine, because it sometimes seems so distant and disconnected from everything that happened from Fantastic Four #1 on.

Villains are no exception to this feel either. The events and characters of this era always clashed just a bit from the main Marvel experience. Red Skull is part of what makes the Cap mythology tick, Baron Zemo has taken on an interesting not-quite-hero-not-quite-villain role in the Marvel U. (Or I think maybe it’s actually the original Zemo’s kid now, or something? Or brother? God, who can keep track- anyway, the sometimes surprisingly heroic Thunderbolts are Zemo’s brain child)…

Now- Arnim Zola?


Just…WOW. Words fail.

If you’ve never seen Zola in a Marvel comic book before? Look him up, right now. It’s the kind of thing that people actually make FUN of comics for. I swear I saw a few episodes of The Tick that spoofed on this. All that stuff with The Terror, The Decency Squad and Joseph Stalin (which makes me lose it, every time, by the way) has the Cap era written all over it, really. Now the bizarre irony is that Zola actually got created in 1977! Zola’s cracked-out robot body with a human face peering out of his chest has been showcased quite a bit in the Marvel Universe since that time. But still it never felt quite right, you know?

I mean Zola has got 1950 all OVER him, like Namor and the Torch. I mean just look at this guy, and tell me you wouldn’t have believed me if I had told you he had been around when Marvel (Timely) got started!? It’s like Zola belongs in this era. Not just in revised continuity flashbacks.

Well, long story short- I’m getting the impression Ross is shipping up to put Zola a little more on the map with this story. And -if only out of fascination- I’ve gotta see this happen.


  1. I have never seen Zola in a Marvel comic, but now i feel i need to check him out!

  2. You should- if only for the raw 'I can't believe someone made this guy' experience. Wish I could tell you where to look, but he's still a pretty rare sight. I know he made an appearance in the death of Captain America storyline, and believe it or not he had a cameo in X-men in the last year- something about Beast getting together with all of the 'great minds' in the Marvel Universe to discuss genetics. But yeah. He's somethin'.


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