I celebrated my 42nd birthday this week, and as I sat down at the trusty keyboard to pen this week’s column, I knew I wanted to focus my attention on 1974 – my birth year. Nostalgia is a powerful component of fandom in all its forms, and I’ve always had a penchant for 1st appearances. Although my collecting habits have evolved over the years and now mainly focus on original art and archival collected editions, I do still covet high-grade copies of 1st appearances. With that in mind, I present to you…
The Top 10 First Appearances of 1974
There have been four different Foolkillers in Marvel’s history, but the original debuted in March 1974 in the pages of Man-Thing #3 in a story called “Day of the Killer, Night of the Fool.” Steve Gerber wrote the story with Val Mayerik (Pencils) and Jack Abel (Inks) on art. The original Foolkiller was an evangelical murdered named Ross Everbest who felt compelled to rid the world of “sinners, dissidents and criminals.” Unfortunately, Everbest dies in the subsequent issue.
9) Vartox (DC)
Vartox debuted in “Mystery Mission to Metropolis” in Superman #281 (November 1974). He was introduced by Cary Bates with pencils by the legendary Curt Swan with inks by Bob Oksner. Vartox is an alien from the planet Valeron, and comes to Earth seeking vengeance against the man responsible for his wife’s death. Vartox was most notable for his striking resemblance to Sean Connery’s character Zardoz – one of his first films following the James Bond era. Vartox disappeared from comics for a number of years but has subsequently appeared as an ally and adventurer to Superman and most recently as the love interest for Power Girl.
8) Colleen Wing (Marvel)
Colleen Wing was introduced in Marvel Premiere #19 in November, 1974. “The Death Cult of Kara-Kai” was written Doug Moench with art by Larry Hama (Pencils) and Dick Giordano (Inks). Wing aids Iron Fist (the star of the series at the time) in battling the Cult of Kara-Kai and would become a common ally of Iron Fist in future years. Wing is a Japanese-born martial artist trained in the ways of the samurai and ninja, and is best known as Misty Knight’s partner in the Daughters of the Dragon.
7) Hannibal King (Marvel)
Hannibal King debuted in Tomb of Dracula #25 in a story called “Night of the Blood Stalker.” Marv Wolfman created King with the artistic mastery of Gene Colan (Pencils) and Tom Palmer (Inks). In this issue, King is a vampire hunter that we eventually discover is a vampire himself (but he rejects his vampirism by refusing to drink the blood of other humans). King would go on to be a major ally of Blade and a frequent participant in Marvel’s supernatural storylines. King is also one of the many comic-book characters portrayed by Ryan Reynolds (Blade: Trinity).
6) Tigra (Marvel)
Greer Grant Nelson first appeared in 1972 in Claws of the Cat #1, but was re-introduced in her more famous orange-striped, feline form as Tigra in July 1974 in the pages of Giant-Size Creatures #1. Writer Tony Isabella and artists Don Perlin (Pencils) and Vince Colletta (Inks) debuted the cat-like Tigra on a spur of the moment assignment. Little did Isabella know that his version of Grant would stick around and become a mainstay (and sometimes leader) of the Avengers. Perhaps best known for her role in the West Coast Avengers, and is currently Hank Pym’s lover.
5) Deathlok (Marvel)
A number of characters have donned the Deathlok moniker over the years, but the first was Luther Manning, a deceased military Colonel who is reanimated as a killer cyborg in the future (which at the time was 1990!). Deathlok premiered in August, 1974 in the pages of Astonishing Tales #25. Doug Moench was the writer and Rich Buckler was the primary artist (a handful of inkers chipped in for finishing work). Deathlok would go on to be a prominent character both as a hero and villain depending on the plotting needs; he’s also been a recurring character in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. television series.
4) OMAC (DC)
Jack “King” Kirby is inarguably responsible for more creativity at Marvel and DC than any other creator, and OMAC was one of his final contributions to DC Comics. OMAC – short for One-Man Army Corps – debuted in his own comic (OMAC #1 in September 1974) written and drawn by Kirby. The series only lasted eight issues but the idea – a normal corporate underling named Buddy Blank who turns into a superpowered agent of the Global Peace Agency. OMAC has an admittedly limited publishing history, but the creativity of the character, his role as one of Kirby’s last “Big 2” creations, and the fact he is considered Kamandi’s grandfather all vault him up the ranks.
3) Iron Fist (Marvel)
Danny Rand, aka Iron Fist, debuted in Marvel Premiere #15 in “The Fury of Iron Fist” written by Roy Thomas with art by Gil Kane (Pencils) and Dick Giordano (Inks). Rand was the son of an industrialist who is orphaned on the family’s search for the mysterious city of K’un-L’un. The monks of K’un-L’un take Rand in and teach him their ways; and he proves to be the most adept with an ability to channel immense power (chi) through his fists. Rand has been a fixture in Marvel Comics ever since, best known for his long-time partnership with Luke Cage (as the Heroes for Hire) and more recently as a member of the Avengers. Iron Fist is set to star in his own Netflix series in 2017.
2) The Punisher (Marvel)
When Gerry Conway introduced Frank Castle – aka The Punisher – in Amazing Spider-Man #129 (February 1974), he couldn’t have imagined how popular Castle would become. The Punisher – introduced as a crazed, murderous vigilante (and Spider-Man villain) in this issue, has of course gone on to become a mainstay in Marvel’s publishing catalog. The Punisher has always been a flawed man, but his popularity has never waned and has spawned innumerable film adaptations and most recently a well-received spot in Marvel’s Netflix lineup.
1) Wolverine (Marvel)
Today Wolverine’s popularity is taken for granted. One of Marvel’s most recognizable (and bankable) characters [and this writer’s personal favorite], it would be a surprise to learn that Wolverine made his debut as a villain in the Incredible Hulk. Although most hardcore collectors view Incredible Hulk #181 as Wolverine’s debut – in reality he first appeared in the final page of Incredible Hulk #180. Created by Len Wein (Writer), Herb Trimpe (Pencils) and Jack Abel (Inks), Wein created Wolverine after a challenge by editor-in-chief Roy Thomas. An interview in ComicBookMovie a few years ago tells the tale of how Wolverine went from a minor Hulk villain to one of Marvel’s most valuable characters.
As far as creating the character, Wein shared, “It’s one of my favorite stories to tell. Wolverine came out of my writing an entirely different book. I was writing a book called “Brother Voodoo” for Marvel at the time, which was set in the Caribbean. I like writing accents, I like to write so you can sort of hear the voice. So, I was writing a number of the characters with Caribbean accents. Then the editor in chief at Marvel, Roy Thomas, called me into his office and said, “You know, I hate you.” I said, “Thank you so much!” He said, “No, seriously, you write these great accents and I can’t do accents.” He said, “I’d love to see how you would write a Canadian accent. I have the name.” The name was Wolverine. He said, “Come up with a Canadian character called Wolverine.” So, I went and researched wolverines and discovered they were short, really hairy, feisty animals with razor-sharp claws who are utterly fearless and would take on animals 10 times their size. I went, well, that’s the easiest character I’ve ever created. I developed him out of that particular definition. The weird thing was, I actually did a lousy Canadian accent. I thought he ended up sounding more Australian in that first story. The irony of that is so amazing to me. (laughs) I made him a mutant because there had been discussions about reviving the X-Men as an international team of mutants. I thought I would provide for whoever ended up writing that book [“Giant-Size X-Men” No. 1]. I never realized I would be the guy who ended up writing that book. I made my own life much more interesting and simple than I expected.”
As with any “Best of”, this is a subjective list of my own personal Top 10. If you have other characters who made their debut in 1974, by all means let us know in the comments section or our Facebook page or by emailing me.