The Cos­mic

The great early cos­mic mo­ment in marvel’s his­tory was the fan­tas­tic four’s first en­counter with Galac­tus

Comic Heroes - - Feature -

Marvel has al­ways been Cos­mic, of course. The mod­ern com­pany grew out of the 1950s At­las Comics, pub­lish­ers of sci­ence fic­tion and gi­ant monster an­thol­ogy ti­tles called things like Jour­ney Into Mys­tery and Strange Tales, where mam­moth space beasts like Xemnu the Liv­ing Hulk men­aced tiny, ant-like men.

By the start of the ’60s, how­ever, the com­pany had been re­named Marvel, and long-un­der­wear ti­tles – in­spired by the re­cent su­per­hero re­vival over at DC – be­gan to ap­pear. These, too, were broadly Cos­mic, with The Fan­tas­tic Four #1 (Novem­ber 1961) re­volv­ing around the space race, cos­mic rays and mon­sters from the cen­tre of the Earth. By FF #2 Marvel’s first species of dan­ger­ously ad­vanced, ex­clu­sively hos­tile aliens had emerged – “the Skrulls from outer space” – and in­ter­stel­lar en­e­mies would crop up reg­u­larly from here on in, not just in the FF, but in Thor (which mixed an­cient mythol­ogy and space opera with sur­pris­ingly sat­is­fy­ing re­sults), Hulk and The Avengers. Even the do­mes­tic, ur­ban and rel­a­tively low-key Spi­der-Man fought aliens as early as Amaz­ing Spi­der-Man #2.

More re­cently, of course, Cos­mic Marvel has been a grab-bag term for the com­pany’s as­sorted space-based char­ac­ters and space-opera sto­ry­lines. Any­thing in­volv­ing the Sil­ver Surfer or War­lock, Nova or Cap­tain Marvel is rou­tinely dubbed Cos­mic, as are the end­less machi­na­tions of space em­pires like the Kree, the Shi’ar or, in­deed, those long-en­dur­ing Skrulls. Space has be­come a vast “cor­ner” of the Marvel Uni­verse that’s bub­bled along merrily over the decades, but has re­ally come into its own over the past eight years or so, ini­tially un­der cre­ators like Keith Gif­fen, Dan Ab­nett and Andy Lan­ning, who gave the whole Cos­mic idea a rocket up its arse with the 2006 cross­over An­ni­hi­la­tion and fol­low-ups like An­ni­hi­la­tion: Con­quest and War Of Kings. Sud­denly char­ac­ters like Nova, the Sil­ver Surfer, Su­per-Skrull, the Guardians of the Galaxy, the now-space-based In­hu­mans and many more were front-and-cen­tre – and with the up­com­ing Guardians Of The Galaxy film in­tro­duc­ing the whole idea of su­per­heroes-in-space to a mass au­di­ence this sum­mer, it looks un­likely to be go­ing away any time soon.

All well and good, then – ex­cept none of this is what we’re re­fer­ring to as Cos­mic Marvel here. Not ex­actly.

In­stead, let’s wind the clock back to the early ’70s, a time when Marvel en­joyed one of the most ex­cit­ing, ex­per­i­men­tal and ar­tis­ti­cally sat­is­fy­ing pe­ri­ods in its his­tory; a time when in­no­va­tive young cre­ators like Steve Ger­ber, Steve En­gle­hart and Jim Star­lin were stretch­ing the com­pany this way and that, and Cos­mic be­gan to re­fer not just to sto­ries ex­plor­ing the far edges of the Marvel Uni­verse, or ones that threw at us vast, oth­er­worldly “Pow­ers Be­yond Hu­man Com­pre­hen­sion”, but tales that delved into the “in­ner space” of the hu­man psy­che too. Here’s where many key space-far­ing char­ac­ters – Cap­tain Marvel, Thanos, Adam War­lock, The Man Called Nova – were born or de­fined, and oth­ers, like Doc­tor Strange, sent in fas­ci­nat­ing new di­rec­tions. This is when Marvel was truly Cos­mic.

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