I?ve successfully completed another summer of the Johns Hopkins University Center for Talented Youth program. As I settle back into the ?real world,? here?s my official unofficial researcher John Wells, with the last of his fill-in columns, with revealing information about he Marvel Universe?
FANTASTIC FOUR #1 (November, 1961) ushered in the so-called Marvel Age of Comics but its publicly-known first family didn’t actually possess secret identities. At least in their home title. In his STRANGE TALES solo series (launched in #101: October, 1962), though, the Human Torch initially behaved as if his identity was a secret. That sort of discrepancy showed up often in the early Marvels, which occasionally makes it difficult to determine exactly when a given character’s identity became public knowledge.
Hank Pym told socialite Janet Van Dyne that he was Ant-Man shortly before she became the Wasp in TALES TO ASTONISH #44 (June, 1963) and her openness with their admirers soon had fans showing up unannounced at Hank’s lab (#54: February, 1964). That would seem to suggest their identities were public knowledge. In AVENGERS #28 (May, 1965), though, Hank and Jan revealed their true identities to their surprised teammates, who obviously hadn’t heard the news.
Elsewhere in the Marvel Universe, Professor Xavier recruited the Blob in X-MEN #3 (January, 1964), told him all the team’s secrets and then discovered that the new mutant intended to use his power for evil. Professor X wiped out his memory but it only lasted until #7, when Magneto restored it.
Tony Stark had hired ex-boxer “Happy” Hogan back in TALES OF SUSPENSE #45 to serve as “a combination chauffeur-bodyguard.” In the two years that followed, Happy was bound to notice things and, in #70 (October, 1965), he finally realized that his employer was leading a double life. Critically wounded by the Titanium Man, Hap called Iron Man “boss” before lapsing into unconsciousness. He survived the attack, becoming the first of many to know Iron Man’s real name.
Reporter Harris Hobbs basically stalked Thor, waiting for the opportunity to catch him switching to his secret identity. In JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #122 (November, 1965), Hobbs succeeded, snapping a picture of the Thunder God as he became Doctor Don Blake. Using the photo as leverage, Hobbs agreed to destroy the evidence if Thor would take him on a trip to the legendary city of Asgard.
As the person responsible for Bruce Banner’s transformation into the Hulk, teenager Rick Jones had known his secret from the beginning. In TALES TO ASTONISH #77 (March, 1966), Rick was convinced that the Hulk had been killed and, caving in to pressure from Major Glenn Talbot, he revealed the truth: the missing Bruce Banner had actually been the green behemoth. Rick told the secret to Banner’s beloved Betty Ross in the next issue ? and then found out that the Hulk was still alive. Oops! In the course of a news broadcast in #87 (January, 1967), Banner’s secret identity was (to quote the cover) “revealed for all the world to see.”
Mary Jane Watson was retroactively revealed to have known Peter Parker was Spider-Man from the moment he first put on his costume (1989’s SPIDER-MAN: PARALLEL LIVES). It was the Green Goblin who first learned Spidey’s other identity in a published comic, though, and that happened in THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #39 (August, 1966). The Goblin was afflicted with amnesia at the end of the next issue but the knowledge would resurface at intervals in the years ahead with ultimately tragic consequences.
Meanwhile, Spidey had figured out that Daredevil was Matt Murdock following their second team-up in DAREDEVIL #s 16-17 and sent him a letter saying as much in #24 (January, 1967). Unfortunately, that envelope was opened by Murdock’s law partner Foggy Nelson and secretary Karen Page, forcing Matt to come up with a truly outrageous explanation involving his non-existent twin brother Mike. Many years later, DD told Spidey that he’d learned he was Peter Parker and admitted that he really was Matt Murdock (SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #110: January, 1986).
And only recently, in DAREDEVIL #32 (June, 2002), the entire world has learned Matt’s secret. For obvious reasons, he continues to deny it. It’s part of what seems to be a trend at Marvel, one that’s also seen Iron Man (IRON MAN #55: July, 2002) and Captain America (CAPTAIN AMERICA #4: September, 2002) publicly reveal their identities and Spider-Man (in the Ultimate Universe) confronted by the fact that the government agency S.H.I.E.L.D. knows his real name (ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #24: September, 2002).
This barely scratches the surface, I’m afraid, of a question that really requires a book-length answer. But it’s a start — and I hope you learned a few things you didn’t know before.
Hate to ask you this but was is the history between Wolverine and Sabretooth? Is Sabretooth his father?
– David G (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Oddly enough, Sabretooth had been around for almost a decade before he actually encountered Wolverine in a Marvel comic. According to John Byrne, though, in Fantagraphics’ X-MEN COMPANION II (1982), the potential for a relationship was there from the moment Sabretooth debuted in 1977’s IRON FIST #14 (penciled by Byrne and written by Chris Claremont).
“In my mind, [Sabretooth] was created [with the intention of making him Wolverine’s father],” Byrne recalled. “I don’t think Chris originally conceived him that way, but I said, ‘Hey, here’s another Canadian guy who has a lot of the stuff, so I’ll just draw him in such a way that he could be Wolverine’s father — or brother.’ I wasn’t sure in the early days.” In Byrne’s view, both characters were remarkably long-lived thanks to their regenerative powers. “I figure Sabretooth is 120 years old,” he noted.
Officially, though, the family relationship remained purely speculative until 1991’s WOLVERINE #41, wherein Sabretooth informed Wolverine that he was his father. Blood samples taken in #42 immediately disproved that notion and issue #50 took things a step further by revealing that Wolverine and Sabretooth’s minds had both been implanted with myriad false memories. Among them were Sabretooth’s supposed murder of Wolvie’s beloved Silver Fox in the distant past (#10) and, of course, the fatherhood revelation.
The official start of their feud, according to 1992’s X-MEN #6, took place more than thirty years ago in Berlin while Maverick and the two of them (then Logan and Creed) were operatives for the C.I.A. While attempting to flee Omega-Red and armed guards, Creed declared the civilian double-agent they were rescuing to be a liability — and killed her! In the midst of their debriefing, the sickened Logan came to blows with Creed and “walked out without so much as a glance over his shoulder.” As three soldiers held him back, Creed screamed, “You’re MINE, boy — and the day is gonna COME when I COLLECT!”
In the decade following his debut, Sabretooth made perhaps half a dozen appearances before Chris Claremont was reunited with his old creation (now a member of the Marauders) in the pages of 1986’s UNCANNY X-MEN #212. In the process, Claremont revealed that Wolverine and Sabretooth had a shared history and Alan Davis’ striking cover for #213 showed the two of ’em going at it, literally at each other’s throats. It was official: Wolverine now had his opposite number.
They’re fought a LOT since then, including such infamous moments as the battle in which Sabretooth pushed Wolverine too far and wound up having one of Logan’s claws dislodged in his brain (1995’s WOLVERINE #90). Professor Xavier actually kept the recovering Creed on the grounds of the X-Men’s mansion in a continuing attempt at rehabilitating him. That ended when Sabretooth fled the grounds after nearly killing Psylocke (1995’s UNCANNY X-MEN #328). And later, Sabretooth’s skeleton was reinforced by adamantium as Wolverine’s once was (1998’s WOLVERINE #126). Unfortunately for Creed, Apocalypse decided that Logan’s bones needed the adamantium more than he did and pulled it from Sabretooth’s body to Wolverine’s (1999’s WOLVERINE #145).
The feud’s still going on today. Hope they’ve got a lot of band-aids.
My thanks to John for filling in for me these seven weeks. Join me next week as we dive into the questions that have piled up in my absence. If you have a question to add to the pile, use the handy minty-green box directly below.
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