The world of comic-book superheroes isn’t as black and white as you may think, and with the horde of origin stories and failed incarnations, there are some superhero facts that you probably don’t know, but should.
That’s a mouthful
In 1962, DC created a superhero that never really caught on, because his super power was a little weird – eating.
Matter-Eater Lad was part of the Legion of Super-Heroes, and possessed the power to eat matter in all forms. Matter-Eater Lad could eat at superspeeds, and consume matter that was supposed to be indestructible. Man-Eater Lad could then essentially just kill Superman by quickly eating him.
Marvel controlled your braaaiiiinnnss…
While the word “zombie” is thrown around in gaming, movies and comics these days, you once had to ask Marvel whether you could use it, as the comic-book company owned the publishing rights to the word from 1975-1996.
After realising that the enforcement of this trademark would be too ridiculous, Marvel opted out and changed the trademark to “Marvel Zombies”.
While DC’s Green Lantern coming out of the closet was highly publicised, it was actually Marvel’s Northstar that became the first openly gay superhero in 1992.
Due to Marvel’s policy against openly homosexual characters (at the time), Northstar’s apparent lack of interest in women was implied to be due to his obsessive drive to win as a ski champion, and writer Bill Mantlo’s later attempt to reveal that Northstar had AIDS was squelched. In Alpha Flight #106 (1992), writer Scott Lobdell was finally given permission to have Northstar state, “I am gay.”
Gray with anger
Stan Lee originally created the Incredible Hulk to be gray in colour, so that he doesn’t suggest any particular ethnic group.
After a problem with the grey colouring at the printing press, Hulk came out with a green tinge, which led to Lee sticking with the colour scheme, which became one of his defining points.
Ain’t that the truth!
Wonder Woman and her lasso of truth were invented by the same guy who invented the polygraph machine.
William Moulton Marston, a psychologist and inventor, struck upon an idea for a new kind of superhero, one who would triumph not with fists or firepower, but with strength and truth, then conceptualising Wonder Woman’s iconic lasso.
Spider-man was once sexually abused
This was revealed in an infamous PSA comic from Marvel; Spidey took on the message of the National Committee for Prevention of Child Abuse, and in it the wall-crawler saves a young boy from being abused, and then to assure the child, tells him that he was molested by his friend Skip.
According to marvunapp.com:
(Spider-Man/Power Pack#1/1 [fb]) When he was around twelve or so (at least old enough to walk home from school by himself), Peter Parker met an older student named Skip Westcott in the public library; Skip seemed impressed by Peter’s studiousness, nicknaming him “Einstein,” and the two boys became friends, which pleased Peter’s Aunt May, who’d been concerned that her nephew spent too much time alone. Peter and Skip were frequently alone at Skip’s housewhile Skip’s mother was at work, and one evening Skip showed Peter some pornography, then suggested that they “conduct a little experiment” and “touch each other like the people in that magazine.” Peter was appalled but “too frightened to leave.” Following this, Peter stopped spending time with Skip, and when his Aunt May and Uncle Ben questioned him about it, he told them what happened.
(Spider-Man/Power Pack#1/1) Years later, in his Chelsea apartment, Peter overhears his young next-door neighbor Tony Lewis resisting the “advances” from his babysitter Judy. As Spider-Man, he knocks at the Lewis window, causing Judy to flee, and he persuades Tony to tell him what happened. When Tony admits that Judy was touching him in wrong ways, Spidey assures Tony that he’s not to blame for the situation and tells the boy his own story (without giving his real name, of course). Spider-Man then swings Tony across town to the party that his parents are attending, where he tells them what happened and is comforted by them. Spidey swings back home, satisfied that he has helped the boy and successfully confronted one of his own personal demons.
When asked about the underlying ideas for Iron Man, creator Stan Lee revealed that Howard Hughs was a strong inspiration for Iron Man.
Stan Lee, who created the hero with artist Don Heck in 1963, said: “Howard Hughes was one of the most colorful men of our time. He was an inventor, an adventurer, a ladies’ man and finally a nutcase. Without being crazy, (Iron Man) was Howard Hughes.”
SHIELD – ain’t nobody got time for that
In the comics, “Nick Fury Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.”, S.H.I.E.L.D originally stands for Supreme Headquarters International Espionage Law-Enforcement Division.
In Marvel’s recent movies, the awkward acronym is changed to the similarly preposterous Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division.
Wolverine – the villain
Before becoming a stalwart member of the X-Men, Wolverine was a villainous character in the Hulk’s universe.
He was introduced in issue 180 of the Incredible Hulk as a pint-sized Canadian superhero charged with bringing down the Hulk.
We all know that Peter Parker, despite being New York’s secret savior, was always strapped for cash. However, it is relatively unknown that Spidey was once so hard-up that he had to endorse a car company.
Due to the high expenses of rent and living, Spidey had to accept a Carter and Lombado, sponsored car. The Human Torch even helped Pete build it.
The bulky beach-buggy-like vehicle was an abomination for the acrobatic web-slinger, and was eventually driven into a river after Mysterio tricked Spidey.
Marvel artist Dave Cockrum, being disgruntled at Marvel, wrote a resignation letter to the company heads, but due to a production mistake, Cockrum’s letter was published in an edition of Iron Man.
The letter appeared not by Cockrum, but by Tony Stark’s AI assistant, Jarvis. The letter read:
I am leaving because this is no longer the team-spirited “one big happy family” I once loved working for. Over the past year or so I have watched Avengers’ morale disintegrate to the point that, rather than being a team or a family, it is now a large collection of unhappy individuals simmering in their own personal stew of repressed anger, resentment and frustration. I have seen a lot of my friends silently enduring unfair, malicious or vindictive treatment.
My personal grievances are relatively slight by comparison to some, but I don’t intend to silently endure. I’ve watched the Avengers be disbanded, uprooted and shuffled around. I’ve become firmly convinced that this was done with the idea of “showing the hired help who’s Boss”.
I don’t intend to wait around to see what’s next.
Iron Man‘s writer David Michelinie explained that the letter was published in the story of the Iron Man comic by accident, and that the letter was originally addressed to Marvel, before being changed to “Avengers”.