The man who stalked the stars
The new captain marvel was immediately a key player in the mighty Kree-Skrull war storyline – and soon he’d be facing off against Thanos
Thor had set the pace early doors, with space opera and heavy mythological elements colliding across the middle-’60s, the concepts getting bigger and wilder with every issue. The great early Cosmic moment in Marvel’s history, however, was the Fantastic Four’s classic first encounter with Galactus ( FF #48-50): here our heroes were totally outfaced, up against a villain who was virtually God, and served by a powerful, seemingly troubled underling – was this the fallen angel Lucifer, or perhaps the Wandering Jew? – who could, just maybe, be turned to our side.
The later Cosmic creators of the early and mid-’70s had read all this and learned from it, of course, but they took note of a less obvious Lee/Kirby masterstroke too. Each of the classic Cosmic epics would be punctuated by smaller, more domestic human scenes – or even entire issues – giving the reader a chance to catch breath, and reminding them that Marvel wasn’t all space gods and über-aliens, but that characters resembling actual living, loving, thinking people were mixed up in this stuff too. The early ’70s creators remembered this, and ran with it – and perhaps with even more poignancy. After all, it was a time when American youth was questioning everything, not least their own country – Vietnam was at fever pitch – and so Marvel served up heroes who were doing much the same thing.
Of course, in ’60s Marvel nobody had moped on quite such an epic scale as the Silver Surfer, God’s Lonely Man, forever questioning his actions and his purpose. But now some early ’70s characters – like the Jim Starlin versions of Captain Marvel and Warlock – could match him tear for tear, the one a soldier who’d end up a peacenik and a minor god, the other already a sort of god, so he’d go the other way, becoming ever more human and suicidal as his run went on.
In every way it was a period of huge change. By the start of the ’70s Marvel had lost Jack Kirby – a fall-out with Stan Lee over the Silver Surfer had been the final straw – and, to some large degree, Lee himself, seduced by the California entertainment industry. Yet, at more or less the same time, the company had seen an opportunity to expand hugely, and was now taking on all sorts of untried talent to make up the shortfall and keep the books flying out the door. These new guys
The new era saw a totally transformed Captain Marvel.