The Invaders – Roy Thomas’s Take on Timely Comics

“Thank God for Pym particles!”

You’ve probably seen them in your local comic shops, collected editions of Roy Thomas‘s run on The Invaders. Starting with Giant-Size Invaders #1 (cover date June, 1975), Roy Thomas and Frank Robbins give readers their own account of the Golden Age of Marvel Comics and the retconned origins of Marvel’s first superhero team, comprised of Captain America, The Human Torch, The Sub-Mariner, Bucky, and Toro.

Although this isn’t my favourite retcon run involving Timely Comics characters, it’s up there on my list, chiefly because it’s one of the first such retcons undertaken by a creative team at Marvel. And, even though the somewhat innocent sensibilities of the ’70s shine through every once in a while, these comics give readers a deeper understanding of the Timely characters’ potential motivations. These characters are also given more depth than their previously one-dimensional representations as superheroes, and superheroes only.

Specifically, The Human Torch provides an interesting character study. Throughout The Invaders’ four-year run, readers experience the often delicate nature of Toro and The Human Torch’s complicated father-son dynamic. But, beyond simply being a distant father figure, the Torch’s synthetic origin causes him no small amount of grief, and becomes the impetus for a rivalry between himself and Captain America.

“On second thought, a kimono was a bad choice for active-wear.”

For the lovelorn teen readers, there’s even a Toro-Golden Girl-Bucky love triangle. I should mention that Golden Girl in this telling isn’t Captain America’s girlfriend Betsy Ross. Instead, Roy Thomas, Frank Robbins, and Frank Springer re-invented her as a Japanese American teenager named Gwenny Lou Sabuki.

But, I’m not here to give away all the juicy stuff. I’m here to review The Invaders’ first adventure from Giant-Size Invaders #1 entitled, “The Coming of The Invaders!” So let’s get to it …

The Coming of The Invaders! – Comparable Stories

The only comparable story-lines that come to mind are Captain America retcons that appear in several issues of Tales of Suspense, starting with #63 (cover date March, 1965), and Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos (#1 cover dated May, 1963), both story-lines written by Stan Lee and drawn by Jack Kirby.

Some cynics might say that Roy Thomas and Frank Robbins were just ripping off Stan and Jack’s early retcons, but that would be a misrepresentation. More than anything, The Invaders represent a loving pastiche of Kirby & Lee’s original work and its subsequent retcons, not a send-up or rip-off of them. It’s obvious when reading The Invaders that Thomas must have enjoyed Timely Comics as a youngster, and wanted to put his own mark on these beloved characters.

The Coming of The Invaders! – Super-Cameos

As in The Marvels Project, which is essentially a retcon of events that happen in The Invaders, there are a helluva lot of walk-ons during this title’s four-year run. I’ve already mentioned Golden Girl, but I won’t name the rest because this article would turn into a laundry list of familiar, and not so familiar, names.

The cameo list for “The Coming of The Invaders” story-line, though without any super-heroic walk-ons, includes President Roosevelt, Hitler, and Prime Minister Winston Churchill! Also, making his first appearance ever is the uber-nationalistic baddie Wilhelm Lohmer AKA Master Man!

The Coming of The Invaders! – The Plot

“The Coming of The Invaders” shows readers a typical “getting the band together” story. An FBI agent contacts Captain America to let him know that Dr. Anderson, a scientist involved in the super-soldier serum experiment that created Cap, is in hospital near death. Cap and Bucky visit Anderson. He tells them that the Nazis have been working on a super-soldier serum of their own.

Anderson tells the star-spangled duo that Nazis kidnapped him and took him to their laboratory. There, Nazi scientists probed his mind for information on Erskine’s original super-soldier serum. Able to extract key information, the Nazis create their super-soldier, Master Man. Upon Master Man’s awakening, though, the Nazi lab comes under attack by The Human Torch and Toro. The fiery android and his young companion rescue Dr. Anderson, but are unable to neutralize Master Man during their attack. So, the FBI orders Cap, Bucky, the Torch, and Toro to stop Master Man who’s en route to Chesapeake Bay in a U-boat.

Once there, Namor the Sub-Mariner reveals his fishy face, he had been incognito among the crew of a British battleship. The five heroes make short work of Master Man. It turns out that the formula used to transform Lohmer into Master Man is only good for a short period. The serum wears off and Lohmer shrinks down to a more manageable size. In fact, in a rare show of usefulness, the diminutive and non-powered Bucky deals the knockout blow.

The Coming of The Invaders! – The Wrap-Up

Namor reveals that British Intelligence asked him to be there to assist in keeping the British battleship safe. The battleship’s need for a super-powered escort becomes clear when we see Prime Minister Winston Churchill disembarking the ship. Churchill thanks them all, and before he leaves them to meet with President Roosevelt he names them The Invaders. After this high-profile meeting, the newly minted team can’t control their patriotism. They charge into the sunset shouting their signature battle cry, “Look out, Axis — Here we come!”

“The Coming of The Invaders!”

Well, there you have it, True Believers, my review of “The Coming of The Invaders” from Giant-Size Invaders #1. But, if you thought this review would be the final word from The Timely Comics Watchamacallit, you thought wrong. I’ll be back next time with a review of the first story-line from Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s unforgettable Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos.

Michael Bedford
Michael Bedford
Under intense scrutiny by the Temporal Authorities, I was coerced into actualizing my capsule in this causality loop. Through no fault of my own, I am marooned on this dangerous yet lovely level-four civilization. Stranded here, I have spent most of my time learning what I can of the social norms and oddities of the Terran species, including how to properly use the term "Hipster" and how to perform a "perfect pour." Under the assumed name of "Michael Bedford," I have completed BA's with specialized honours in both theatre studies and philosophy, and am currently saving up for enough galactic credits to buy a new--or suitably used--temporal contextualizer ... for a friend.