“Who is this guy?”
Believe it or not, this was the very first super hero character I ever created. I came up with this guy around 1982 when I was about twelve years old. Now “came up with” is a very loose phrase. Much of Supermarvel here… right down to his name… is a hodge podge of ingredients borrowed from all of my favorite comics at the time. In those days, I’d just dipped my toe into the pool of super hero comics. I was reading anything with Superboy and Superman. I’d discovered DC’s Shazam! series which in those days was unwanted quarter bin fodder, and I was reading anything Spider-Man. All of those characters factored into Supermarvel here.
Let’s start with the name… Supermarvel. I’d read …I believe it was… DC Comics Presents #37. Now for those of you not old enough to remember, DC Comics Presents… was DC’s team-up book where month after month, Superman teamed up with a different DC character. It was DC’s answer to Marvel’s Marvel Team-up. In DCP #37, Superman teamed up with Captain Marvel.. and DC had no compunctions about using the Captain Marvel name in those days. I’d known Captain Marvel largely from the Saturday morning live action show. He was a familiar favorite so a comic book featuring him and my personal favorite, Superman, was an easy sell to me.
In the story, Superman and Captain Marvel are shocked to discover that they have somehow swapped uniforms and powers. The title of the story was “Man And Supermarvel.” The play on the title of the George Bernard Shaw play was lost on my twelve-year-old self, but I did walk away thinking that “Supermarvel” was a cool name for a super hero. I also thought that if there was a “Supermarvel”, there should be a “Captain Super” and I would later create a character for that name as well… and admittedly, he had one of the WORST costume designs I’d ever come up with!
So who was Supermarvel? Borrowing freely from Spider-Man, Supermarvel was under-achieving high school student, Joe Maral (pronounced “mar-AHL”) Joe looked very much like a paunchy Peter Parker who always wore blue jeans and a white shirt with a red number one on it. He lived in my hometown of North Arlington, New Jersey… although I would somewhat idealize the tiny middle class suburb into the sort of idealized fictional setting found in most comics where every town has everything every story is going to ever need… warehouses, thick woods and mountains, a bustling metropolitan downtown… the works! Joe was an orphan because when you’re twelve, your parents are a pain and being an orphan sounds very exotic and liberating. It allows you the freedom to go out and be a super hero. He lived with his doddering old Aunt Minnie, who was shamefully cloned from Peter Parker’s Aunt May.
One day, while hiking up Mount Arlington (… which I didn’t know at the time was another actual town in New Jersey. I thought I was inventing a mountain for my old hometown!) Joe and his best friend Max discover a cave. Exploring the cave, Joe gets separated from Max by a cave-in. Max makes it out of the cave, but Joe discovers a secret chamber within the mountain. There an honest-to-God Banshee gives the shocked teen-ager a magic ring. The ring would look almost exactly like the one the Flash wore. When Joe flashed the ring under a light (I really didn’t think that through!) he would transform into Supermarvel. As Supermarvel, Joe had super strength, invulnerability, super speed, and he could fly. Plus he could fire lighting bolts from his ring. Basically, he got my own variation on the standard Superman bag of powers because well… those were the best super powers!
The Banshee gave Joe his powers specifically to fight a super-powered villain who would be trying to take over the Earth very soon. The villain was Laser Lad… (Yes. I also was very much into the Legion of Super Heroes.) an evil, extra dimensional denizen of wherever the Banshee came from who had the power to fire any type of “laser” I could come up with. I think I was using “laser” interchangeably with “beam” or “ray.” Laser Lad could shoot standard lasers, but he could also shoot freeze rays, heat rays, and anything else. Yeah. I didn’t think this through either.
Supermarvel would fight Laser Lad and drive him away. Afterwards, the Banshee allowed Joe to keep his magic ring and remain active as the World’s newest protector. Supermarvel would go on to fight a number of villains like Electrus, Magnet Marvel (Yeah. Magneto…), Nucleo-Man and Supermarvel’s arch-enemy, Doctor Destroyer (Yeah. Doctor Doom…).
Recently, I got to thinking about ol’ Supermarvel and wondered what I could do with him today. That lead me to draw the above shot of my old character. A few notes about his design…
His costume is largely based on what Captain Marvel wore right down to the lightning bolt on his chest which originally, I’d drawn it identical to that of the Big Red Cheese. Hey! I could steal from Captain Marvel, right? Nobody’s gonna remember him once Supermarvel takes off! When I drew the above updated version, I decided to give Supermarvel a drop of legitimacy by turning the lightning bolt into more of a stylized “S.”
Supermarvel’s colors are of course lifted from Superman.
Not only did Supermarvel steal the Flash’s ring, but those are also the Flash’s gloves with the lighting design going around the ends.
The mask was inspired by Green Lantern’s mask. I didn’t realize how ahead of my time I was by designing something similar to what Kyle Raynor would wear some twenty years later.
There you go, Everybody… a sneak peek into my influences when I was twelve years old. What do you think about Supermarvel? Should I dust him off? Is he ready for a reboot or should I leave him forgotten in the past? Are you interested in seeing more of my creations of the time? Supermarvel was my first, but after him came a whole universe…!!