Marvel’s 80th Anniversary: Everything You Need to Know About the Invaders
One of Marvel’s first super teams is back!
There are a few reasons that we wanted to talk about the Invaders on the newest episode of This Week in Marvel. First, we have a really great new INVADERS comic written by Chip Zdarsky with art by Butch Guice and Carlos Magno. Second, we’re celebrating Marvel’s 80th Anniversary, particularly the ‘30s and ‘40s this month, and the Invaders is a team that formed during World War II, assembled by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to battle the Axis powers and aid the allied forces during the war.
The Invaders core and most memorable team consists of Captain America, Bucky Barnes, Namor, the original android Human Torch, and Torch’s sidekick and fellow flamed-up hero Toro. There have been some other iterations over the years, but this key group is who we really consider to be the Invaders.
So, when did the Invaders first appear? The ‘40s, right? NO! Kinda?! Here’s where it can get a little confusing. The Invaders, as an official team, didn’t show up or get a name or introduction until the ‘70s, with GIANT-SIZE INVADERS #1. That led to the ongoing INVADERS series that ran from 1975 to 1979. So how do the comics of the ‘40s factor in? Many folks look to the All-Winners Squad—a similar squad that appeared twice in the comics of the late 1940s—as the basis for the Invaders.
The All-Winners Squad
The All-Winners Squad, a sort of prototype for the Invaders, first came together in ALL-WINNERS COMICS #19 in 1946. The team was Namor, Captain America, Bucky, Human Torch, Toro, Miss America, and the Whizzer. The Squad originally only appeared in ALL-WINNERS COMICS #19 and #21, but influenced the creation of not only the Invaders, but also the Liberty Legion and the V-Battalion.
Let’s take a real quick diversion on Miss America and Whizzer, because they come in and out of Invaders history. They were Timely Comics-era heroes who appeared in lots of comics in the ‘40s. Miss America had super strength and durability and could kinda fly; Whizzer’s a speedster. They married after World War II. They came back in the ‘60s and ‘70s, as part of Invaders retro hype, and they’d later join the Invaders and Liberty Legion. When we get into the ‘70s Invaders series, you’ll see TONS more Timely Comics Super Heroes reintroduced into modern Marvel.
But back to the All-Winners Squad. Originally in the team’s two ‘40s appearances, it was Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes as Captain America and his young sidekick. But after Cap was re-introduced into the ‘60s Avengers and Marvel comics—and having been lost in ice for years—we did some updating. “Cap and Bucky” on the All-Winners Squad are William Nasland, aka the Spirit of ’76, and Fred Davis. They picked up the mantles after Steve and Bucky sacrificed themselves at the end of WWII. While we only had two original All-Winners Squad appearances in the late 1940s, they’d be established over the years in modern comics as the post-World War II super team of the Marvel Universe.
Enter Roy Thomas
But back to the Invaders, who kind of show up first in 1969’s AVENGERS #71 by Roy Thomas and Sal Buscema. I say “kind of” because it wasn’t the full team we think of, nor did they have a team name yet. This story, set in 1941, is part of a bigger epic in which the Avengers are caught between Kang and the Grandmaster in a game of power and time travel. Avengers members Hank Pym, Black Panther, and the Vision are sent to Paris in 1941 and end up battling World War II-era Captain America, Namor, and Human Torch, who are fighting Nazis together. This little story was all we had for several years until…
GIANT-SIZE INVADERS #1 from 1975 by Roy Thomas and Frank Robbins! Here we see the Invaders team officially coming together. In this story, set at the end of ‘41, the Invaders form with Cap, Buck, Torch, Toro, and Namor teaming to fight a Nazi super soldier named Master Man. You get a sense of where it fits into continuity when Cap and Torch are talking about fighting Red Skull together in YOUNG ALLIES #1 from 1941. It’s a fun story, especially because they’re brought together and named by Winston Churchill, who shows up in the end of the issue. They even get their battle cry in the issue, “Look out Axis, here we come!”
There was supposed to be a GIANT-SIZE INVADERS #2, but they went right to a proper ongoing INVADERS series. It’s fun stuff – in the first issue they’re even arguing over whether they should call themselves “Invaders.” Cap thinks it’s a bit much.
After GIANT-SIZE, we get the launch of THE INVADERS. The series ran from 1975 to 1979, with 41 issues plus an annual. The bulk of the series was written by Roy Thomas and then Don Glut, with most art by Frank Robbins and then Paul Kupperberg.
Lots of heroes teamed with, showed up in, or joined the Invaders during the run. It was a fun way to bring back and update many of the original Timely/Marvel characters, or make up new ones! Seriously, we’ll see Roy Thomas open the floodgates and bring back a TON of Golden Age characters over the four years of Invaders comics.
Roy and crew really did rad world-building around classic heroes and teams who fought during the World Wars. Union Jack, while an original creation and not a Golden Age return, is probably the most notable more-or-less addition to the Invaders team, as there have been several legacy heroes who’ve been Union Jack, and he has a DOPE costume.
The Invaders Branch Off and Add to Their Ranks
In INVADERS #6, with most of the Invaders team seemingly lost after a battle with Red Skull, we see Bucky put together a team called the Liberty Legion to pick up the slack of the missing Invaders and battle Axis threats on American soil. Joining Bucky are the Patriot, the Whizzer, the Thin Man, Red Raven, Miss America, Blue Diamond, and Jack Frost. The Liberty Legion, as described in an editorial page at the end of INVADERS #1 was a team that Roy Thomas thought up when he was a kid. They were all original Timely heroes and he got to bring ‘em together in Invaders.
INVADERS #7 introduced the original Union Jack, James Falsworth, as well as a World War I team called Freedom’s Five. The Five were Union Jack, Phantom Eagle, Crimson Cavalier, Sir Steel, and Silver Squire. Later, it was established that the Iron Fist Orson Randall teamed with the crew. They only appeared a few times, but it’s a cool footnote in the history of Marvel teams. Lord James Falsworth, though older, fights with the Invaders for a bit but is gravely injured and stops being Union Jack.
INVADERS #12 introduced Spitfire, daughter of the original Union Jack. She got super speed powers from Human Torch’s android blood transfusion after she’s bitten by her uncle, the vampiric Baron Blood. Comics! She joined the team for a while.
In INVADERS #14, the Invaders meet another team called the Crusaders—Dyna-Mite, Spirit of ’76, Ghost Girl, Captain Wings, Tommy Lightnin’, and Thunderfist! Like Freedom’s Five, they’re generally new characters created in Invaders, but fitting in perfectly as authentic-feeling Golden Age heroes. They are a Britain-based super team, fighting the war on the front—unlike the Invaders generally coming out of America. Also, they’re a little nod by Roy Thomas to a certain team from our distinguished competition.
A few months later in INVADERS #18, the Destroyer is re-introduced into the Marvel Universe. He’s an original Timely-era character, and in this story, he’s revealed to be Brian Falsworth, the son of the original Union Jack, sister to Spitfire, nephew to Baron Blood. He’s got some powers from a version of the super soldier serum, and mostly fights Nazis in Germany. By INVADERS #20, Brian’s adopted the Union Jack costume and identity and he and Spitfire fight with the Invaders against Hitler and Master Man and Warrior Woman. It’s a lot, I know!
Roy Thomas, Don Glut and the other creators built a solid rogue’s gallery for the Invaders. The main group against the Invaders called themselves the Super-Axis: Baron Blood, the British traitor/Nazi vampire; Master Man and Warrior Woman, a pair of awful Nazi super soldiers; U-Man, an Atlantean scientist who allies with the Axis powers and gets beefed up with Nazi science; and Lady Lotus, a Japanese villain with psychic powers. We also see the Scarlet Scarab, Agent Axis, Lady Asbestos, the Teutonic Commando, Frankenstein’s Monster, Iron Cross, and more. Also, Thor, who appears in INVADERS #32 and #33.
Speaking of the villains, lest we forget, Brain Drain, aka one of the best characters in UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL, was actually originally an Invaders villain. He shows up way back in INVADERS #2. WITHOUT THE INVADERS, WHO KNOWS WHAT UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL WOULD HAVE BEEN LIKE?!
Another team that formed in the pages of Invaders was the Kid Commandos, in issue #28. Bucky and Toro were joined by the Human Top and Golden Girl. They were a short-lived crew, but Top and Girl joined the V-Battalion. The V-Battalion was an actual Timely-era group of freedom fighters that first appeared in COMEDY COMICS #9 from 1942. V-Battalion later showed up as a group of Super Heroes post-World War II in modern stories.
Oh and the Destroyer? When Brian dropped that name, it was picked up by Roger Aubrey, who was previously the diminutive, yet powerful hero, Dyna-Mite. That happened in INVADERS #26, but then Aubrey got beat up by Master Man, who then used the Destroyer identity for the Nazis. The Invaders beat him and got it back to Roger in INVADERS #34.
The Invaders After WWII
The original series wrapped with INVADERS #41, which has a final double-page spread of all the heroes from all the teams together going after Hitler and the Axis powers.
The Invaders fought through World War II, and then Cap and Bucky were lost, the war ended, and folks moved on. As we’ve mentioned, some of the Invaders members joined the All-Winners Squad after the war. If you’ve read the new MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS, you’ll also see what happened to Namor after World War II, and how he disappeared until the early days of Fantastic Four!
There was a NEW INVADERS series in 2004, set in modern times. The team, secretly put together by Red Skull in his Dell Rusk identity, was U.S. Agent, Sub-Mariner, Blazing Skull, Spitfire, a new Union Jack, a new Human Torch named Tara, and the Thin Man. So a mix of original and new generation heroes.
We had an AVENGERS/INVADERS series from 2008-2009 by Alex Ross, Jim Krueger, Steve Sadowski and others. It had time travel, the cosmic cube, Red Skull, lots of Golden Age and ‘70s Invaders-era heroes and villains, death, rebirth. It’s a neat 12-issue series, especially because it shows classic Invaders meeting post-Civil War-era Avengers and other characters.
INVADERS NOW! From 2010 features great Alex Ross covers like AVENGERS/INVADERS, and Ross even worked on the story with Christos Gage. It has Arnim Zola, the original Invaders lineup, the original Vision and gross, gross mutated nasties.
In 2014, we launched an ALL-NEW INVADERS series by writer James Robinson, along with artist Steve Pugh, and others. It’s got some of the original Invaders together, but adds Martians and Deathloks, and Kree and some other cool new characters.
That leads us to the current, new INVADERS series by Chip, Butch, and Carlos. We get modern stories of Namor raging against humans for destroying his oceans and his people, all the while Cap, Bucky, and crew trying to appeal to him as friends. And there are flashback stories of the Invaders in World War II. Jump on now, it’s great!
To listen to the whole conversation on This Week in Marvel, download the episode here:
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