Though published in the 1970s, the Invaders comics were a flashback series set in World War II.
…I mean I know that Hurricane was later retconned (in the unsurprisingly-difficult-to-google “Marvel Universe” series) to be Makkari from the Eternals, but you’d still think somebody would have gone somewhere with the information about his background suggested in this first panel in which he appeared (from 1941’s Captain America Comics #1, by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby). As Linus Van Pelt put it, “the theological implications alone are staggering.”
The reveal that Hurricane was Makkari was extraordinary and elegant because it fits everything we know about Hurricane: not just his speed but his weird other powers, like matter manipulation and force bolts (obviously, he couldn’t be, say, the Whizzer), and the fact that it seemed he came from and returned to nowhere. He has “Eternal” written all over him, even down to the weird mixing of mythology. Makkari assuming different hero identities through the years was examined in one of Marvel’s most interesting and under-read miniseries, The Lost Generation by Roger Stern, who explained what happened in Marvel between World War II and the beginning of the current “Age of Marvels.” I especially liked how Makkari was used in Gruenwald’s Quasar, as a mentor to the next generation of superhero “fast guys.”
It takes a little bit of effort to slip some of the earlier Marvel heroes into the framework created by the post-Fantastic Four, Stan Lee era “Marvel Universe.” One of my favorites is that oriental wizard turned hero Dr. Druid, who actually came before Fantastic Four by 6 months. The revival of Dr. Druid explained that he was trained by the Ancient One as a “backup” Sorcerer Supreme in case anything happened to Dr. Stephen Strange.
Some are easier than others. For instance, the Destroyer was so obviously based on the blueprint of Captain America that it’s the easiest thing in the world to say that the Stan Lee Destroyer, a Nazi smasher who gets his super-athleticism abilities from a scientific potion in a Nazi concentration camp, was created by a more refined, later version of the Super Soldier Serum.
(Side note: remember when they said that Wolverine’s code name, Weapon X, was actually a roman numeral, and he was actually Weapon 10? Weapon 1 was supposedly Captain America. Does that mean the Destroyer was Weapon 2? Likewise, it was stated in dialogue that Weapons 5-7 were created by experiments with “minority prisoners in the United States.” That is clearly a reference to Luke Cage, Power Man, but Luke Cage as Weapon VII hasn’t been directly confirmed yet.)
One of the very unfortunate tragedies is that a lot of culture is lost from the old Marvel letters pages, which were the centers of conversation and community around every comic. They are very seldom reprinted or available. This is especially important when it comes to how Marvel reinterprets its World War II heroes.
There were two sides to this debate in the letters pages in the 1970s issues of Invaders, a comic set in World War II that used Marvel Golden Age canon and played with it. One side was Al Shroeder III, lettercol guy extraordinaire who literally met his wife through writing in to letters pages (today, he’d be a poster), who said that the older, pre-FF golden age stories were just as “real” as the later Marvel Universe we know. If something is established in the older comics, any future revival or use of the characters in Marvel has to adhere to what is established scrupulously.
The other side of the debate in 1970s issues of Invaders was best articulated by another lettercol guy, Kurt Busiek (who later on became a comic book writer). If you want more support for the idea that lettercol guys are basically 1970s message board posters, look no further than Busiek, who is “extremely online” even today, and his “posting voice” was set even way back in the 70s (notice that most older writers who have a “posting voice” were lettercol guys – and also, the few celebs that are good posters have a posting past…Chrissy Teigen for instance was on the Neopets forum, an introduction for many female posters). Busiek argued that the Marvel Universe came into existence in 1961, and so therefore the older, pre-1961 stories were only canon in so far as the later MU acknowledged their existence.
In the letters pages for Invaders, people wrote in to support either Al Shroeder III or Kurt Busiek’s position and the debate was very lively. It was an interesting sign of how things don’t really change.
In the 1940s and 50s, it was not unusual for comics to have text pieces in between the pages. This one, from Captain America Comics #3, is historically important for two reasons.
It was the first ever Marvel story written by Stanley Lieber, who prior to this, was an office gofer, getting sandwiches and coffee orders at his uncle Martin’s comics company. Stanley Lieber was self-conscious about working in comics, as he had ambitions of being a serious novelist, so he saved his real name and decided to write his stories under the pen name “Stan Lee.” This is the first story ever credited to a “Stan Lee.”
The other reason this text story is famous is for the following text, which is the first time Captain America ever threw his shield like a boomerang.
Many novices to the Marvel Universe are surprised to find that there was a Human Torch during World War II.
The Tatra was a pre-World War II Czechoslovakian car. One of the great innovations was that it used its’ exhaust gases to cool the engine.