In November of 1961 Fantastic Four #1 was released and thus was born the Marvel Age of Comics and to many fans the birth of the 616 (to this fan it is still Motion Pictures Funny Weekly #1 in 1939, but that’s another article for another day). Before that issue was released, many characters that would play an important role in things to come had been established in one form or another. Here is a list of the top ten of those characters (note: these are not characters whose mantles were used prior to their Silver or Modern Age appearance. That’s another list).
#10 – Marvel Boy – Marvel Boy #1 – December, 1950
While not a wildly popular character, Marvel Boy has appeared predominately in the pages of Agents of Atlas. His major claim to fame is he is the direct predecessor to the fourth Marvel Boy, Wendell Vaughn aka Quasar.
#9 – Fin Fang Foom – Strange Tales #89 – October, 1961
Yes, everyone’s favorite purple shorts sporting Kakarantharaian. Fin Fang Foom was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, and first appeared one month before the Fantastic Four and barely made the cut off for the list. He’s been a enemy of almost every villain since his appearance making him vital to the 616.
#8 – Doctor Druid – Amazing Adventures #1 – June, 1961
Anthony Druid (legally changed his last name from Ludgate) makes this list merely by being an Avenger, which doesn’t mean that much today, but back when he first joined it was still an elite team and that title meant something. More important than that though, Anthony is Marvel’s first recurring character of the Silver Age appearing in each Amazing Adventures issue until it was canceled after six issues and restarted as Amazing Adult Fantasy. Hmmm… the more things change the more they stay the same, huh?
#7 – Human Torch – Marvel Comics #1 – October, 1939
This is John Hammond, the original Human Torch and famed member on the Invaders. Although his legacy is slightly tarnished in modern light due to a multitude of failed Invaders series relaunches, his vibrant and explosive first appearance on the cover of Marvel Comics #1 is an image emblazoned in the mind of every true Marvel Fan.
#6 – Patsy Walker – Miss America Magazine #2 – November, 1944
The woman who would become Hellcat turns out to be extremely old. Being that Hellcat has been a member of virtually every major non-mutant team in the Marvel ranks only solidifies her importance in Marvel Comics.
#5 – Groot – Tales to Astonish #13 – November, 1960
Ten years ago Groot would not have even made this list, but after the success of Abnett and Lanning’s Guardians of the Galaxy series and now with the ridiculous popularity of the Guardians of the Galaxy movie this character is almost a household name.
#4 – Red Skull – Captain America Comics #7 – October, 1941
It would be impossible to have a list of Marvel’s greatest villains without the Red Skull on the list, so likewise it would be impossible to not have him featured on this list. Captain America’s greatest nemesis has been so for over 70 years. That’s impressive.
#3 – Bucky Barnes – Captain America Comics #1 – March 1941
While ten years ago Bucky may have made this list, it is thanks to the Winter Soldier storyline which has ranked him so highly on this list. With the success of the character and also the Captain America movie sequel, it is impossible to imagine a current Marvel Universe without this character. The weight of his death on Captain America was a prominent device used even before Batman copied it after the death of the second Robin.
#2 – Namor – Motion Picture Funnies Weekly – April, 1939
Not only the oldest character on this list, but also the earliest character to be relaunched after Fantastic Four #1, Namor has been a lynchpin character in the 616 ever since his ushering into the Silver Age and up even until the recent demise of the 616 in the pages of Avengers and New Avengers. Also, I must acknowledge my bias and say he is not only my favorite character on this list, but one of my favorite comic book characters of all time.
#1 – Captain America – Captain America Comics #1 – March, 1941
So if you thought anyone else would be #1 on this list, you should maybe either stop reading comics or start reading comics. Captain America is possibly Marvel’s most defining and important character, even if not in public popularity, in his relevance and leadership in the 616. It is impossible to think of Marvel and not also think of Captain America.