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

Comic Heroes - - Feature -

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.

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