It may be hard to believe now, but once upon a time, back in the 1940s, Marvel Comics (then known as, among other things, Timely Comics), had a flourishing line of superhero comics. The books featured a large number of superheroes. Timely published a number of different books, sold an awful lot of issues, and were fairly successful for several years.
If this is hard to believe, or is news to you, it's because Marvel has not, by and large, paid much attention to its heroes from the 1940s. Captain America, the Human Torch, and Namor the Sub-Mariner have all gotten their just attention, to be sure, and much more obscure characters like the Terror and the Black Marvel have occasionally appeared in comics in the past couple of decades. But on the whole most of Timely's characters have been ignored and forgotten about. Unlike DC, which has made a point of bringing back nearly its entire Golden Age roster (although how they've treated them once they've brought them back is another matter), Marvel has seemed content to forget about their Golden Age characters, or to write them out of continuity and pretend they never existed. And so most of Marvel's current readers know nothing, or next to nothing, about Marvel's original characters. And of those who have heard about Marvel's WW2 characters, most of them only know about them through the Invaders, which was not entirely faithful to either the original stories or the original characters. (In some cases that's a good thing, and in some cases that's...not a good thing.)
This web page is an effort, however modest, to undo that. What follows is as thorough a list as I could assemble of all of Timely's heroes. Not all of these were originally thought of as "superheroes;" some of the figures came from different traditions than the superhero. The air ace characters, for example, came from a much different pulp tradition than that of superheroes. The magician characters were, to a man, greatly "influenced" (I'm trying to be polite here) by Mandrake the Magician. And certain of the characters were clearly horror characters, rather than superheroes. But just as DC has incorporated such diverse characters as the Blackhawks, Dr. Occult, and Zatara into the overall "DC Universe," so too could Marvel take any or all of the following characters and place them in the continuity of the Marvel universe.
What I've included here is their name, their appearances in the Golden Age, their appearances in the Modern era, their origin and powers, and, where applicable, their modern continuity and status in current Marvel comics and continuity. I will also, when I think appropriate, add a side-note from me in which I point out possible links to modern Marvel continuity. I'm not as up on modern Marvel continuity as I used to be, and for a lot of modern events and continuity I'm relying on others to give me information, so it's entirely possible--likely, even--I could have missed an appearance or a continuity revision. Actually, I know I've missed some--more than a few. So please e-mail me with corrections and additions.
This list does not include retcon characters--that is, those characters created during the 1960s or afterwards and retroactively inserted into the 1940s. Nor does this list contain those characters created after the Golden Age who appeared in Marvel continuity before or after the Golden Age. Those characters can be found on my Guide to Marvel's Pre-FF #1 Heroes site.
As a sidenote, perhaps the best bibliographic resource for information on these characters is the Marvel Chronology Project, an effort I could never have done myself but which I relied on extensively.
Thanks to T.J. Burns, Xavier Fournier, Mikel Midnight, Paul O'Brien, Danny Sichel, Kevin, Lou Mougin, Rich Bellacera, Mark Perry, Ronald (Source of all Knowledge and a Top-Notch Researcher, responsible for nearly all of the updates here) Byrd, Andy Nystrom, Roger Stern, "Cary," Jason MacAskill, Kevin, Ken Arromdee, Don Campbell, Todd Britton, Antoine Verville, JRaghu, and all the folks on the GAMS board for contributions and corrections of my errors.
Characters with proper surnames are listed into alphabetical order by their last name.
What's New: I added to the Angel, All-Winners Squad, Fighting Yank entries.
All-Winners Squad, American Ace, American Avenger, The Angel, Archie the Gruesome.
Breeze Barton, Black Avenger, Black Marvel, Blackstone the Magician, Black Widow, Blazing Skull, Blonde Phantom (I), Blonde Phantom (II), Blue Blade, Blue Blaze, Blue Diamond, Bucky (I).
Captain America (I), Captain Daring, Captain Daring (II) & His Sky-Sharks, Captain Dash, Captain Strong, Captain Terror, Captain Wonder & Tim, Whirlwind Carter, Challenger, Citizen V, Breezy Collins, Comet Pierce.
Dakor, Dale of the FBI, Dare Devils 3, Davey and the Demon, Dave Dean, Defender & Rusty, Destroyer, Jeff Dix, Dynaman, Dynamic Man.
Electro, Eternal Brain.
Falcon, Father Time, Ferret, Fiery Mask, Fighting Fool, Fighting Yank, Fin, Flexo the Rubber Man, Flying Flame, Flash Foster (I), Fourth Musketeer.
Golden Girl (I), Don Gorman.
Hercules, Human Top (I), Human Torch (I), Headline Hunter, Hurricane.
Jack Frost, Doug Johnson, Jimmy Jupiter.
K-4 and the Sky-Devils, Ka-Zar.
Laughing Mask, Li'l Professor and Rudy the Robot, Little Hercules.
Magar the Mystic, Major Liberty, Mantor the Magician, Marvel Boy (I), Marvel Boy (II), Marvex the Super Robot, Masked Raider, Master Mind Excello, Mercury, Merzah the Mystic, Microman, Miss America, Miss Fury, Miss Patriot, Mister E, Mister Millions, Mister Wu, Monako, Monstro the Mighty, Moon Man, Barney Mullen.
Patriot, Phantom Bullet, Phantom of the Underworld, Phantom Reporter, Pinto Pete, Tom Powers, Purple Mask.
Red Hawk, Red Raven, Rockman, Roko the Amazing.
Secret Stamp, Silver Scorpion, Red Skeleton, Space Rangers, John Steele, Subbie, Sub-Mariner, Sun Girl, Super Slave.
Taxi Taylor, The Terror, Terror Squad, Texas Kid, Thin Man, Thunderer, Tigerman, Toro, Tough Kid Squad, Mike Trapp, Trojak, Tuk, Tommy Tyme.
Vagabond & Fighting Hobo, Terry Vance, Venus, Victory Boys, Vision (I).
Young Allies, Young Avenger.
Zara of the Jungle, Zephyr Jones.