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Deadshot’s Tophat and Other Beginnings: A to At

November 28th, 2006 by | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I’m still waiting on a couple artists for the What If finale, so I figured I’d start this. The idea originally came from a thread at Superdickery back when I hung around there, and I later reprised it at BSS. Sure, we all know about Action Comics #1 and Amazing Fantasy #15, but there are so many great comic characters and a lot of them have changed since their debuts in ways that would surprise you. So let’s take a look at the heroes and villains before they were stars. Back when Lobo wore spandex and Wolverine had whiskers.

I figure I’ll do one of these every two weeks or so. It’s fun and educational!

ABOMINATION

Tales to Astonish #90 (1967)

We start out with Emil Blonsky sneaking around and using one of Banner’s gamma-powered devices on himself. Here, he looks half like the Abomination we know and love and half like Fin Fang Foom.

The whole dynamic with Abomination was always that he’s at a set strength that’s more powerful than Hulk’s default strength, but can’t compare when Hulk gets angry enough. Yet his monologue here almost makes him come off as a positive Hulk. Banner turns into the Hulk and gets pissed. Blonsky turns into Abomination and all of the sudden, he’s all excited. So I guess the lesson is this: Don’t get Blonsky enthusiastic. You wouldn’t like him when he’s enthusiastic.

ABSORBING MAN

Journey into Mystery #114 (1965)

Crusher Creel’s drink gets spiked by the ever-powerful Loki. What a cool page. I’m hoping that third panel is meant to be him belching and not Jack Kirby being weird. Much like the above Abomination issue, both stories involve our newly-powered villains getting the best of their heroic rivals.

AIR WALKER

Fantastic Four #120 (1971)

I don’t know too much about Air Walker, other than that he was a Galactus herald and that he’s died about as many times as Jean Grey, but this guy gets a rocking first showing. The Fantastic Four gets a warning that something ominous is coming to Earth. They check around to see if there are any odd readings. We then see as people all over the world point up and look in awe. And what do they see?

Nice. At least, that’s my first reaction. Then I pause and realize how goofy the boxing shorts are. He begins to wordlessly take down the Fantastic Four despite their multiple attempts to stop him. Once they’re all down, he pulls out a golden horn, blows it and announces that the end of the world is at hand. Marvel’s heroes are taking a licking in this article. Let’s see if DC’s faring any better.

AMAZO

Brave and the Bold #30 (1960)

Amazo is the android supervillain programmed with the powers of the Justice League. Back then, Superman and Batman barely showed up in the Justice League stories, so they only got a cameo and Amazo didn’t actually steal Superman’s powers. Still, having Martian Manhunter’s powers should be enough to stop everyone.

You could always try, I don’t know, killing them instead.

Good God, is Amazo ever awful looking here. He should be the most badass robot since Gort, but he’s wearing stockings, a bathing suit from the 1900’s and a rather unnecessary pair of briefs over it. Unless Professor Ivo decided to give Amazo some artificial man-junk. At least they tweaked it over the years so he doesn’t look quite as ridiculous while keeping the same motif.

If you’re wondering, Green Lantern was the one to stop him by absorbing all of Amazo’s powers into his ring. People pay too much attention to Superman and the Flash to realize how overpowered the GL ring was those days. Just wait until I finally get to the Shaggy Man’s first appearance.

AMBUSH BUG

DC Comics Presents #52 (1982)

Wow. You never know what to expect when Ambush Bug is around, but to have him stone cold kill someone on live TV is even more unexpected than usual. He later shows up on TV again to explain that he’s always wanted to be a super-villain and proved he can be one by killing that DA. He annoys Superman a bit with his teleporting, but by the end, Robot Man of the Doom Patrol steps in and punches his green ass out.

Fun fact: The issue features a Thanksgiving Day Parade and one of Metropolis’ floats is a Judge Dredd Balloon.

ANIMAL MAN

Strange Adventures #180 (1965)

Finally, we get to a hero. Not so much a superhero. At least, not here. No, Buddy Baker didn’t call himself Animal Man in his first appearance. He’d mention having the powers of animals every other minute, but no codename. He didn’t even wear his recognizable costume until ten issues later. And he wouldn’t even notice us for over twenty more years.

The story involves Buddy getting his powers from a UFO and then fighting the alien that piloted it here. The alien is far more powerful than a regular human, plus it has the same ability to copy an animal’s traits as Buddy. With fighting head-on not working, Buddy forces the alien to inherit the traits of a bunch of frightened mice, causing the beast to fall off a cliff and to its death.

ANNIHILUS

Fantastic Four Annual #6 (1968)

Nice to see that Jack Kirby’s original design for Annihilus is still going strong today. Granted, he’s a bit glowier than usual these days, but it’s only natural that someone ageless like this wouldn’t get much of a makeover. His debuting story is the birth of Franklin Richards issue, which was covered a couple times on the What If list.

AQUAMAN

More Fun Comics #73 (1941)

One of the most popular discussions about Aquaman is his classic attire vs. the barbarian look, so his appearance here shouldn’t be surprising. Considering there was a war going on and navies were involved, Aquaman was a bit more useful back in the day. There are some moments that are comparably badass for being Golden Age here, but a lot of that is negated when Aquaman gets his ass knocked out by Colonel Klink.

“ARTHUUUUUUR!!”

AQUARIAN

Adventures into Fear #17 (1973)

I honestly know very little about the Aquarian. Just that he’s Disco Jesus. Back in his first appearance, merely as Wundarr, he’s really Superman with long, hippy hair. The origin remains the same, but when the old couple hears the rocket crash to Earth, they decide to get the hell away from it. Years pass and Man-Thing accidentally frees him. Wundarr is fully grown, but has the mind of an infant. This is the part where I make the obvious joke about our president.

APOCALYPSE

X-Factor #5 (1986)

Looks like Mr. T’s getting ready to hit the S&M bar. Originally, writer Bob Layton intended for this shadowy figure to be the Owl, the craptastic Daredevil villain. When Louise Simonson took over, she had it changed so X-Factor could take on a new villain. Thank you, Louise. Without you, the X-Men cartoon wouldn’t have been half as much fun.

Apocalypse is as far beyond mutants as mutants are beyond us. But science hasn’t found a measurement long enough to explain how much Apocalypse is beyond the Owl.

ARCADE

Marvel Team-Up #65 (1977)

After a team-up, Spider-Man confronts Captain Britain about American customs and his misbehavior. Spider-Man sees a nearby garbage truck and his spider-sense goes crazy. That’s when this happens.

The actual introduction to Murderworld and the first full appearance of Arcade wouldn’t be for another issue, but here’s the first look at his ugly mug.

ARCHANGEL

Uncanny X-Men #1 (1963)

Back when he was Angel, Warren joined many others by making his first appearance in the very first X-Men comic. Here we see Angel suiting up for action.

Yikes. Yeah, I bet those wings must be a pain in the ass. Especially if you’re ticklish.

ARES (Marvel)

Thor #129 (1966)

Needing help, Hercules goes to his half-brother Ares.

I love that second panel. Back then, Ares is too cowardly and unwilling to face Pluto’s armies, yet the first step in his modern redesign is the lead Olympus into that fateful battle and come out victorious.

ARES (DC)

Wonder Woman v2 #1 (1987)

DC’s Ares was always cooler than Marvel’s. Then they each started moving towards being good guys in the past year or so. Now Marvel’s Ares is a badass Maximus-meets-Mel-Gibson-in-Ransom father figure while DC’s guy needs a sister’s shoulder to cry on.

Back to the issues at hand, at least DC’s Ares is motivated to go out and kill something, unlike his Zangief-looking counterpart.

ARROWETTE

Impulse #28 (1997)

Ah, Arrowette. One of the few superheroes to pull a “Spider-Man No More!” and stick to it. In her first appearance, her costume is far different than what she normally wore in Young Justice. The blame for this silly outfit comes from Cissy’s bossy mother who wants her daughter to fulfill the teen hero glory she never got to savor.

ARSENAL

More Fun Comics #73 (1941)

Much like Aquaman, Roy Harper debuts with his mentor in More Fun Comics #73. Under the guise of Speedy, he plays the role of Robin, only he’s incredibly worthless. Not once in the story does he do anything of use. Even Robin gets to punch some goons once and a while.

ATOM

Showcase #34 (1961)

Yep. There’s the Atom. There’s not much to add here. He looks like he always looks and after shrinking, he starts weighing himself. Exciting stuff.

ATOMIC SKULL

Superman #323 (1978)

Whoa. The original Atomic Skull rocked. Then again, when your name is the Atomic Skull, it’s almost impossible to suck. If they changed Donna Troy’s name to the Atomic Skull, I would’ve reread her recent mini-series repeatedly until finally getting what was going on. The first Atomic Skull is yet another scientist who got physically screwed up and decided to blame it on a superhero.

After the Crisis, he was retconned as being nothing but a fictional character from old black-and-white serials. Joe Martin, a fan of these serials, became infected with some strange power during the awful Armageddon 2001 storyline. And in Action Comics #670 (1991), we got this guy.

That’s a great reveal. I know so little about the Atomic Skull, but he was one of my favorite things about the series finale of Justice League Unlimited, so I just had to give it a look.

ATOM SMASHER

All-Star Squadron #25 (1983)

This issue, which introduces Infinity Inc., is a little too much for me to grasp. I understand that it’s Pre-Crisis and takes place during World War II and I think takes place on Earth 2, but that doesn’t stop me from being confused. Actually, if anything, that probably explains why I’m confused. What’s important is that Atom Smasher used to be Nuklon, he had a silly Mohawk, and he couldn’t make himself gigantic.

ATTUMA

Fantastic Four #33 (1964)

Huh. Don’t mean to sound like Hulkling here, but Attuma kind of works better without the scale pants. He doesn’t seem like that harsh of a leader, though. I mean, he lets his warriors choose their own uniforms. That’s pretty nice of him.

What’s really awesome is Attuma’s first battle with Namor, where he comments, “He wears no armor – carries no weapon – yet, he fights like a thousand furies!” Once Namor has it won, Attuma begs for his life. Namor explains that if Attuma really was worthy of being a king, he would have preferred death to surrender. Served.

Join me next time, where we’ll start at a second-rate X-Men thug and move from there.

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11 comments to “Deadshot’s Tophat and Other Beginnings: A to At”

  1. I liked Crusher Creel’s face in that third panel too. I’ll probably use it as an avatar somewhere, sometime. Drink-spiking’s an interesting way to get powers, Loki really is an original minded fellow.

    Ambush Bug’s first appearance surprised me. I’ve never actually read a comic with the character in it(though I heard Gail Simone considered using him as one of the Secret Six in Villains United), but I got the impression that he was a joke, so I’m surprised to see him make his debut by killing someone, and that he started out as a Superman villain. I suspected he was some second rate hero’s nemesis.

    Don’t suppose you could explain this comment?
    “After a team-up, Spider-Man confronts Captain Britain about American customs and his misbehavior.”
    What happened? Did the Captain drive on the wrong side of the road?


  2. Man, that Annihilus page proves that Lee/Kirby was a magical thing. “Annihilus! The Living Death That Walks!”

    That’s pure pop comics brilliance right there.


  3. Vok:

    Are you just picking and choosing characters here? What criteria are you using?


  4. “What happened? Did the Captain drive on the wrong side of the road?”

    That’s exactly what Spider-Man says. I guess they had a bunch of disagreements in their crime-fighting, leading to the usual superhero arguments. Then things smoothed over in the next issue.

    “Are you just picking and choosing characters here? What criteria are you using?”

    I’m just going through the Marvel and DC encyclopedias here. If I see someone who looks like he/she’s notable or worth talking about enough, I’ll use them. If it’s some obscure Teen Titan from the 80’s who joined the team for two weeks, you probably won’t see them on here.


  5. I need “Then” and “Now” panels, kind of like looking at what people looked like in their high school yearbooks.


  6. Yeah, Ambush Bug was weird. After his initial appearance as SUPER EVIL BRONZE AGE VILLAIN, he rapidly became ridiculous.


  7. I think Ambush Bug became goofy as a tacit admission of what a terrible idea for a villain he was. It was a slow evolution; I collect Ambush Bug appearances, and he was played a little bit more for comedy with every appearance while still nominally being a villain. Eventually the comedy won out. And then he joined the Justice League. :D

    Anyway, I always found it truly bizarre that Arrowette became this big-deal recurring character instead of just going away at the end of her origin issue. She felt distinctly like a one-shot character to me. Comics can be weird like that sometimes.


  8. Arrowette actually was in an old Green Arrow comic from way back in the 60’s I thought. I know nothing of the newer version, just the older one from an old DC Digest I had when I was a kid. Basically she was a girl Green Arrow and he spent the whole issue saying things to her like “Crime-fighting’s no job for a woman” and the like.


  9. That sounds a lot like Batwoman’s early appearances, too.

    I wonder if that Arrowette was the new Arrowette’s mom? She’s a mother who pushed her daughter into the family business, so to speak.


  10. Yeah, that’s her. She had to duck out of the crimefighting business due to carpal tunnel syndrome.

    It’s also debated whether or not Ollie is Arrowette’s father.


  11. Yeah, it’s weird to see a character like Ambush Bug, who remains visually the same, but changes COMPLETELY throughout the course of his run. How ’bout adding Angar the Screamer? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angar_the_Screamer) I’ve always enjoyed the idea of an evil nightmare causing, screaming hippy.