Continuing on with more comics that I bought as back issues on my first trip to Bush’s Hobbies in Ronkonkoma. I don’t believe that I had any idea that INVADERS had debuted in a Giant-Size issue first, but when I came across this beauty in the bins, I had to have it. As I’ve said before, I was a big Golden Age buff and INVADERS was one of my gateway series into Marvel. Plus this was a debut issue, which made it seem all the more awesome. INVADERS as a series was only up to around issue #28 when I bought this, so it suddenly seemed achievable for me to someday have the entire series (as opposed to, say, FANTASTIC FOUR or FLASH, for which the number of issues and the number of years felt insurmountable, for all that I wanted them all.)
INVADERS was the brainchild of Roy Thomas, probably the second most important writer in Marvel history after Stan Lee himself. Roy happens to be celebrating his 80th birthday today, in a bit of serendipity. At the time, having renewed his writer/editor contract with Marvel, Roy found that he needed another title to fill out his commitment, and his mind turned back to the Timely Comics heroes that he had enjoyed as a boy. In 1979, the era of these original comics seemed millennia away, but today in 2020, more time has now passed between when I bought this comic and now that there was between the War and when I first picked it up. Roy’s favorite series was always ALL-STAR COMICS featuring the Justice Society of America, so it was only natural of him to build a Marvel equivalent of the JSA. He’d even set such a team up in an issue of AVENGERS he had written many years earlier.
The artwork on the issue, and the series which followed it, was provided by Frank Robbins. Robbins was a bit of an acquired taste, and even today, his work can be divisive among fans. Some really liked his Caniff-inspired rendering. Others found his strange poses and compositions off-putting. Here in the first Invaders story, Roy made the choice to have Robbins’ work inked by Vince Colletta, who shaved off some of his rough edges (and no doubt shaved off a background detail or two along the way, as was his wont.) Of all of the work Robbins did for Marvel in his time with the organization, INVADERS was probably the best fit for his style–the 1940s milieu somehow made his idiosyncrasies seem like part of the local ambiance.
The story concerned a Nazi effort to recreate the Super-Soldier Formula (because of course it did) so that they could get their own equivalents to Captain America. In the opening, while they round up a pack of Nazi fifth columnists, Cap and Bucky are approached by an agent of the FBI, who tells them that he has news of Dr. Anderson, one of the men involved with the original Project; Rebirth that turned Steve Rogers into Captain America. The two heroes accompany the FBI man to a nearby hospital, where a stricken Anderson tells them of how he had been captured by Nazi goons who wanted to coerce him into revealing what he knew of the Super-Soldier Serum. Using a gizmo invented by the never-seen operative named Brain-Drain, they were able to extract the few crumbs that Anderson’s subconscious recalled about the procedure, and this were a step closer to being able to create their own Master Man counterpart to Cap.
As it turns out, the Human Torch and Toro came across that hidden enemy base and rescued Anderson–but not before the Nazis could activate their Master Man. It should probably be mentioned that, in creating Master Man, Roy was inspired by the genuine Golden Age villain Captain Zani, who had bedeviled Captain Marvel Jr. and the other Fawcett stalwarts, and who had debuted in MASTER COMICS. In any event, the Torch and Toro are still hanging around, so it’s four heroes who head out to track down Master Man before he can get up to any mischief.
Master Man, though, has transferred to a Nazi U-Boat and is seeking out a particular ship, intending to sink it and all aboard. He sets out about his mission, but is waylaid by the Sub-Mariner, who has been asked by British Naval Intelligence to safeguard this vessel. In short order, the other four heroes show up, and while Master Man gives a good accounting of himself in a running battle, eventually the imperfect Super-Soldier process that has empowered him runs its course and he reverts to his easily-dispatched former scrawny self. It turns out that the ship he was targeting was carrying Winston Churchill to a secret meeting with FDR, and Churchill implores the five costumed heroes to remain together as a fighting unit to invade the enemy stronghold until England and the USA can cement their own war plans. And so the Invaders are born.
Roy also includes a long text page detailing the backstory of how the series came to be. These sorts of personal touches were par for the course with Roy, and while they were undeniably fannish, they did help to establish a link between the writer/editor and the audience, some common ground on which everybody was simply a fan.
As was the case with all of the Giant-Size books Marvel was then putting out, the back of the issue reprinted a vintage story. In this case, it was a long adventure that had originally been published in SUB-MARINER COMICS #1 in 1941, and which detailed Namor’s first extended foray against the axis powers. This was one of the longest stories that Subbie’s creator Bill Everett got to do about his creation before he himself was inducted into the service, and it looks like Roy was able to find some decent reproduction materials for it. I’m half convinced that reprinting this stuff was the whole reason that Roy launched GIANT-SIZE INVADERS in the first place.
The story involves the Nazis realizing that in order to conquer the entire world, they’d need to lay siege to the undersea civilization that Namor comes from (not yet known as Atlantis)–and so they plan and execute an undersea blitzkreig. The Emperor of the sub-mariners is killed in the attack (though Roy points out in a long editorial note that, since he showed up alive again in later stories Everett did in the 1950s, he must have just been injured and in suspended animation) and young Namor takes over command of the defense of their city, driving off the invaders and striking back at their forces back at their main base. But it’s more a story about carnage and mayhem than plot, so the real attraction here is in seeing Namor lay waste to as many Nazi subs and tanks and men as possible.