By Jim Beard
On May 7, the might of the Invaders slams headlong into the majesty of the Avengers in AVENGERS/INVADERS #1. Just another meeting of time lost super teams, you say? No way! If it involves Marvel's greatest and
original heroes, its history in the making!
Let's talk Invaders-without them there would be no Modern Age of Marvel heroes, no example to aspire to, and no precedent for the pursuit of justice. Marvel's Golden Age greats paved the way for champions like Spider-Man and Iron Man.
In the late 1940's, issues #19 and #20 of ALL WINNERS COMICS first brought the Invaders together, though they weren't yet known by that famous moniker. It wasn't until AVENGERS v1 #71 in 1969 that legendary writer Roy Thomas began to declassify the adventures of Captain America, the Human Torch, and the Sub-Mariner as a team and endowed them with their unforgettable title.
Those three heroes knocked heads and took names in a markedly different manner than the costumed cut-ups of today, exhibiting a grit and gristle that may surprise some modern fans. In that light, we thought we'd give everyone a small taste of the Invaders then-and now.
PRINCE NAMOR THE SUB-MARINER
The product of a romantic liaison between a human man and Atlantean woman, Namor found his destiny early in life, as seen in MOTION PICTURES FUNNIES WEEKLY #1. Sent on a mission of Atlantean vengeance to the surface world, the young prince's name soon became something to be feared. In his youth, Namor rained destruction down on the cities of America, until another path presented itself.
Brash, quick to anger, prejudiced and fiery, the Sub-Mariner tore down buildings and bridges with a gleam in his eye and a smirk on his face-thank goodness he came to hate Nazis more than the rest of humanity. As an Invader, his energies burned towards halting the German war machine and his teammates learned that the Avenging Son proved as much a hero as any battlefield soldier.
Namor's one of only two Invaders who could possibly encounter his present day self in AVENGERS/INVADERS. The Sub-Mariner of now has tempered his inner flame with a cloak of icy nobility, a regal personage personified by concern for the safety and well-being of his beloved Atlantean people. Namor might actually be amused at his younger self, a fun-loving hellbender who has yet been tainted by the surface world's most evil despots, nor taken and lost a beautiful queen.
From the moment he debuted in CAPTAIN AMERICA COMICS #1, Steve Rogers, super-soldier serum coursing through his veins, exemplified patriotism. Fighting for his country at home and abroad, he spread justice as he went and led the Invaders with an optimism that the others envied; a source of strength even at such a young age.
Following his defrosting by his Avengers in modern times, Steve retained his love for his country. However, that love weathered many a disappointment through the years as crisis after crisis that stretched Cap's patriotism to its limits; yet he never forgot that energetic youth inside him. The current Avengers will see that brighter light in the eyes of the younger Steve Rogers and remember the friend they have lost all the more fondly.
THE HUMAN TORCH
An android before such things were commonplace, the original Torch could be called anything but human. Prideful and sometimes hot-headed, the Human Torch of MARVEL COMICS #1 blazed into battle against criminals and evil-doers. Taking an official position with the NYC police force, the Torch's fire became a symbol for liberty when darkness gathered. He and the Sub-Mariner struggled mightily to contain their natural rivalry and eventually the champions of fire and water entered into friendship.
After spending many years in a kind of hibernation, the original Human Torch didn't see much action as a crime fighter in the modern age. Adopting the name of Jim Hammond, the Torch aided teams like the West Coast Avengers and even a new incarnation of the Invaders, but eventually lost both his powers and his artificial life battling the machinations of the Red Skull. The Torch always retained his heroism and could be counted upon for his strength and force of will, despite ever yearning for a quieter life.
The boy-sidekick of Captain America, Bucky defined youthful exuberance at the time of his public debut. Stumbling upon the secret of Cap's dual identity in CAPTAIN AMERICA COMICS #1, an entire new world of adventure opened to Bucky Barnes and he proved himself a dependable partner on many occasions. Some of Steve Roger's commanding presence must have rubbed off on Bucky as he himself took point on his own short-lived team, the Young Allies. Alas, a flying bomb ended both his childhood and his partnership with the Sentinel of Liberty.
In the present, Bucky stands as the most substantially changed Invader of all. One would be hard-pressed to find the joyful, playful Bucky in the hardened warrior known recently as the Winter Soldier and today as the new Captain America. Should he meet his younger self in AVENGERS/INVADERS, the former Bucky himself might not even recognize the domino-masked boy of his youth.
First seen in HUMAN TORCH COMICS #1, the incendiary mutant child known as Toro thrilled to fly at the side of the original Torch during the days of World War II and loved life as a hero. However, after the Torch became deactivated in the 1950's, Toro's flame died down and he chose the simple life of husband and father.
Modern times brought more trouble than Toro could bear. Drugged and hypnotized by the Mad Thinker, the former sidekick flamed on once more and battled his old Invader ally the Sub-Mariner. It would be his last adventure. Once in his right mind the now-enraged Toro sought revenge on the criminal genius and perished in its aftermath.
What will these war-era champions discover when they encounter the Avengers of today? Will they recognize in them kindred spirits-or warriors of a different stripe? Will the Avengers recognize their sacrifices? The answers will be found in AVENGERS/INVADERS beginning May 3!
For a taste of some past Invaders glory, also check out GIANT-SIZE AVENGERS/INVADERS #1, available April 30 and Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited!