10 Marvel characters who debuted before Marvel Comics existed

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Over the past six decades, Marvel has created some of the most iconic heroes in comic book history. From Hulk and Iron Man to Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four, Marvel has more than its fair share of icons for comic book fans.

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However, what some fans may know by now is that there are several superheroes out there before Marvel was even a business. Before Marvel, the company was Timely Comics and then Atlas Comics. It was in 1961 that Marvel started and by year one they had brought in classic heroes from Timely and Atlas and over the years more have arrived, bringing the past into the future of Marvel Comics.


The Android Human Torch (1939)

Jim Hammond catches fire as Human Torch.

The human torch most people know from Marvel Comics is Johnny Storm, a member of the Fantastic Four and one of the first superheroes introduced to Marvel Comics. However, he was not the first Human Torch. Jim Hammond, the Human Torch android, was the first superhero featured by Timely Comics. He was part of the Invaders, a team of American superheroes fighting in World War II.

This character had a base on a lot of things in Marvel Comics. It was originally believed to be the body used to build The Vision. This later turned out to be incorrect, and Jim Hammond actually returned as part of Marvel Comics in 1989 when he was reactivated and joined the West Coast Avengers.

The submarine (1939)

Submarine standing underwater with its trident.

The Fantastic Four have brought another superhero from Timely to Namor, the Sub-Mariner. Much like Jim Hammond, Namor made his debut in 1939 as one of the company’s first superheroes. He was also a member of The Invaders along with Jim and other heroes including Toro, Captain America, and Bucky Barnes.

In The Fantastic Four # 4 in 1962, Johnny Storm discovered a man living on the streets and soon realized he was the legendary war hero, the Sub-Mariner. He helped Namor regain his memories and after a battle with the Fantastic Four he returned to the seas and quickly became one of the most powerful anti-heroes in the Marvel Universe.

Captain America (1941)

Captain America in front of a flag.

The most famous character that Marvel Comics brought from the past was the man known as Captain America. Steve Rogers made his first appearance in Captain america comics # 1 in 1941 and he was one of the greatest heroes of Timely Comics during WWII. Cap arrested Red Skull and disappeared for many years with the world believing he was dead.

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Cap returned for Marvel Comics in Avengers # 4 when he was found in animation suspended in a block of ice. Once rescued, he was back, not aging a day since he was lost. Captain America has become one of Marvel Comics’ most important superheroes.

Bucky Barnes (1941)

Bucky Barnes fights with Captain America.

In The invaders, two of the main superheroes had sidekicks. Jim Hammond had Toro and Captain America had a man named Bucky Barnes. Young Bucky was there from the start with Captain America, first appearing in Captain america comics # 1 in 1941 and he apparently died before Cap disappeared.

Once upon a time there was a saying that no one was left dead in the comics except Uncle Ben and Bucky Barnes. That changed in 2005 when a new villain appeared, known as The Winter Soldier. It was Bucky, who returned after six decades and again became a staunch ally of Captain America.

Infernal Cat (1944)

Hellcat standing with folded arms.

One of Marvel Comics’ strangest comebacks has come with the character of Patsy Walker. This is because she was not a superhero of any kind in her original appearance. She debuted in the book Miss America Magazine # 2 in the story “Introducing Patsy Walker.” The story was pretty much about a high school girl who had issues with boys.

It was a different comeback. Patsy Walker returned as part of Marvel Comics in The Fantastic Four Annually # 3 in 1965. She eventually became Hellcat, a member of the Defenders and a current supporting character in the Iron Man comics. However, Patsy Walker from Timely Comics was a fictional character written by author Dorothy Walker, based on her real daughter. Patsy was his daughter and grew up to be a superhero.

Namora (1947)

Namora flying into battle.

While the submarine did not have a sidekick, it did have relatives and allies in Atlantis and one of them was Namora. She was Namor’s cousin from Atlantis and she made her first appearance in Marvel Mystery Comics # 82 of Timely Comics. She also had her own solo series of Timely in 1948.

Namora ended her Timely Comics run when it was believed she was dead, her body placed in a sealed coffin in the ruins of Atlantis. Namora came back to life in 2006 in Marvel Comics when Jimmy Woo and his Atlas agents decided she could still be alive and found her, bringing her back after nearly 50 years.

Frankenstein’s Monster (1953)

Frankenstein's Monster comes out with the Howling Commandos.

Frankenstein’s Monster is clearly not a Marvel original, and his first comic book appearance wasn’t in Marvel either. The first appearance of the monster came in the book Atlas Comics Threatens # 7. It was a horror comic book with the original creature as the original monster.

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There was a Frankenstein Monster Tease at the start of Marvel Comics, a robot version appearing to fight the X-Men, and a flashback scene in a Silver Surfer comic. His official comeback has arrived Frankenstein’s monster in 1972 and he ended up being a part of the All-New Howling Commandos along with other Marvel monsters.

Jack Monroe (1953)

Jack Monroe standing with cards flying in front of him.

Jack Monroe was part of Captain America’s world in the classic Timely Comics. He makes his first comic book appearance Young men # 24 in 1953. This was after Steve Rogers was presumed dead and a new man took on the role of Captain America. It was William Burnside and he had his own Bucky in Jack Monroe.

The duo were placed in suspended animation until they were needed again, then the world forgot about them. A janitor found them and the two were released from the suspended animation and ended up fighting Captain America and Falcon. Eventually they got help and rehab and Jack became Nomad until the original Bucky, now known as The Winter Soldier, returned and killed him.

Gorilla man (1954)

Gorilla-Man in action with Agents of Atlas.

Gorilla-Man was most recently a member of The Avengers, working primarily with Avengers Mountain tech as a supporting member of the team. However, Gorilla-Man is someone who was there before Marvel Comics became a business. He made his first appearance in Men’s Adventures # 26 in 1953.

He made his return to Marvel Comics over 50 years later when he appeared in Nick Fury’s Howling Commandos # 1 with other monsters like Frankenstein’s Monster, Vampire by Night, Living Mummy, and more.

Jimmy Woo (1956)

Jimmy Woo at the head of the agents of Atlas.

Jimmy Woo made his first appearance in the 1956 Atlas Comics book Yellow Claw # 1. The book showed the adventures of an FBI agent named Jimmy Woo and his battles against a communist organization known as the Yellow Claw.

He made his first appearance in Marvel Comics in 1967 in Strange tales # 160 with Doctor Strange and here he was a member of SHIELD Over the years, Jimmy Woo has become even more important. He started the Agents of Atlas team and even played an important role in the MCU in both Ant-Man and the Wasp and WandaVision.

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