FORGET EVERYTHING YOU KNOW1 of 12This week, New Avengers #17revealed some secrets about Marvel’s new Multiverse, including how Ultimate Reed Richards, A.K.A. the Maker, made it into the new world.
At the same time, Death of X, the first chapter in Marvel’s exploration of the fight between Mutants and Inhumans, rolled on this week, while Marvel also began revealing details about ResurrXion, the third leg in the story which follows December’s Inhumans Vs. X-Men.
Meanwhile, the new Spider-Man story The Clone Conspiracy is also exploring untold secrets in Peter Parker’s past.
And while Death of X and The Clone Conspiracy are exploring specific parts of Marvel’s past, the publisher’s other dives into its secret histories have gone much, much deeper, even uncovering the truth about long held Marvel mysteries.
Here’s a rundown of the secret history or Marvel's secret histories – and we’re really just scratching the surface.
HOLDING OUT FOR A HERO2 of 12Marvel has a long (secret) history with lost heroes – characters retconned into their continuity with the conceit that they were unknown for decades for a variety of reasons.
First was the Sentry, a character created in 2000 who was given a whole secret past of his own that inserted him into Marvel’s history as the most powerful of Marvel’s heroes whose memory had to be wiped to save the world from his evil alternate personality. Sentry was eventually brought back into continuity through some weird twists, becoming a big part of the Avengers for a few years before manipulation by Norman Osborn lead to him turning heel and eventually dying. Sentry’s secret history included deep relationships with many heroes like the Hulk, the Fantastic Four, and even Rogue of the X-Men.
Then, in 2003, the mini-series Truth: Red, White, & Black introduced Isaiah Bradley, an African American soldier who was part of a group on whom the U.S. Army secretly tried to recreate Captain America’s Super-Soldier experiment. Bradley was discharged for violating orders and going on heroic missions in an actual Captain America suit.
Most recently, Adam: Legend of the Blue Marvel introduced Adam Brashear, a cosmically powered hero and super-scientist who operated in the Marvel Universe in the 60’s before being asked to step down by JFK himself. Brashear recently reclaimed his mantle as the Blue Marvel, working alongside other top-tier heroes as the Ultimates.
GENERATION LOST3 of 12The Fantastic Four kicked off the "Marvel Age" both in the real world and in Marvel continuity, but before the Richards family became Fantastic, Marvel had several teams that operated behind the scenes.
One of the earliest examples is the so-called "Monster Hunters," a group formed by Ulysses Bloodstone, Doctor Druid, Namora, Makkari of the Eternals (more on him later), and Zawadi the huntress. The group ventured to Monster Island, the birthplace of many famous Marvel Monsters with ties to the Deviants, a race altered by alien DNA (again, more on them later). The Monster Hunters also brought a young Harvey Elder to Monster Island, where he started his transformation into the villainous Mole Man.
Namora went on to join the Agents of Atlas, a group of superheroes led by super spy Jimmy Woo, and who operated in the Marvel Universe in secret for decades before outing themselves when Norman Osborn took over S.H.I.E.L.D. and turned it into H.A.M.M.E.R.
Building off of his work on the Monster Hunters, writer Roger Stern also introduced the idea of Marvel: The Lost Generation, which explored the heroes the came after World War II, but predated the Fantastic Four, including the Monster Hunters, and the heroes that would form the Agents of Atlas.
Then there's the 1950's Avengers - a collective of spies and metahumans including Sabretooth, Kraven, Silver Sable, Dum Dum Dugan, Dominic Fortune, Ulysses Bloodstone, and - you guessed it - Namora, formed by Nick Fury under orders from the CIA.
ALIEN NATION4 of 12It's hard to track exactly how alien races have altered the history of the Marvel Universe, but it the idea of extra-terrestrial influence on humanity is a longrunning trope in Marvel Comics.
First came the Celestials, godlike beings who seeded life on Earth and created two opposing metahuman species – the Eternals and the Deviants (remember them?) who have secretly guided human history. The Celestials have returned time and again to manipulate the Earth, often threatening to destroy what they created.
Then there were the Brood, whose attempted invasion of the Earth during ancient Egyptian times led to the formation of two secret groups; the Spear, who later became Hydra, and the Shield, who evolved into – you guessed it – Marvel’s top spy agency S.H.I.E.L.D. But the original Shield was a centuries-old secret society whose members included Leonardo DaVinci and Sir Isaac Newton in their long history.
And of course, there’s the Kree, the alien empire who used their technology to jumpstart human evolution and created the Inhumans, the hidden civilization of metahumans whose DNA was secretly implanted throughout human society until recently, when a massive Terregenesis caused many Inhumans’ latent abilities to awaken.
GIANT-SIZED X-SECRETS5 of 12Everyone knows that when the original X-Men team went missing after battling Krakoa, Professor X recruited a new team to rescue them. We know, we know. Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Storm and the rest aren’t secrets – but they’re not the ones we’re talking about. No, we’re talking about Petra, Darwin, Vulcan, and Sway, the secret team that predated the 'Giant-Sized' team.
All of these young mutants had seemingly died trying to rescue the original team from Krakoa – but one mutant had actually survived. Vulcan, the energy-wielding Omega level mutant had absorbed his allies’ strength and lived. When Krakoa was blasted into space by Polaris after the 'Giant-Sized' team rescued the original X-Men, Vulcan went with it.
But that’s not the only secret in the story. Vulcan is a part of a larger secret history of the Marvel Universe – that of the Summers family. In the 90’s, the notion of a third Summers brother – aside from Scott (Cyclops) and Alex (Havok) had been teased with no payoff. For years, the idea languished, until Vulcan was introduced. Vulcan’s real name was Gabriel Summers, and like his father, the space pirate Corsair, he fell in with the Shi’Ar empire, eventually marrying Deathbird and becoming the Emperor, before dying in battle with Black Bolt.
TOO MANY SPIDER-MEN6 of 12It was no secret that Professor Miles Warren (A.K.A. the Jackal) had cloned Peter Parker as a teenager. But what wasn’t known was that the clone, presumed dead after Peter’s original encounter with him, hadn’t perished after all; in fact it survived, living under the name Ben Reilly (taking Aunt May's maiden name).
When the Jackal resurfaced, Reilly confronted Peter and began operating as Spider-Man after a test showed that Peter was actually the clone. Cue a slew of “spider-clones” coming out of the woodwork and an unpopular story that was dragged out due to sales, and you’ve got one of the most reviled Spider-Man tales of all time.
In the end, it turned out that Reilly was in fact the clone, and on top of that, the entire Clone Saga was actually years-long manipulation by a resurrected Norman Osborn. Despite how hated the story has become, it’s been referenced many times recently, including in the current Spider-Man: The Clone Conspiracy.
GWEN & NORMAN SITTING IN A TREE7 of 12To some, Gwen Stacy was Peter Parker’s true love. Her death at the hands of Norman Osborn was shocking to readers and devastated Peter for years.
But 2004’s “Sins Past” arc revealed the truth behind Osborn’s murder of Gwen Stacy. According to the story, rather than simply trying to get at his hated enemy Spider-Man, Osborn murdered Gwen to cover up their torrid love affair which had resulted in the birth of twin babies, fathered by Osborn.
The babies returned, having aged super-fast due to Osborn’s Goblin Serum-enhanced physiology and operating as villains. Sarah and Gabriel Stacy were revealed to Peter after Osborn convinced them that he was their father. Peter was able to convince them otherwise – but only after digging up Gwen’s grave and admitting that he had never, well, 'rounded home plate' with poor Gwen.
”Sins Past” might be the most universally reviled chapter in Spider-Man’s history, and one of Marvel’s “secret histories” that was most quickly forgotten, swept under the rug, and rarely referenced - even Dan Slott, who has notoriously been able to make hay out of any past Spider-Man story, said he wouldn't go anywhere near it at this year's New York Comic Con.
But “Sins Past” wasn't the first attempt to inject a weird sexual affair into Spider-Man’s past…
HERE COMES TROUBLE8 of 12The 2003 mini-series Trouble was not just Marvel’s attempt to reinvent the romance genre in comic books, it was an attempt to subtly subvert Peter Parker’s family history by insinuating that there was a secret web of sexual angst between his father, Richard Parker, Richard’s brother Ben, and their respective spouses Mary and May.
While the story never explicitly stated the last names of the characters, the intent was clear. Taking some odd cues from Dirty Dancing, Trouble found the teenage foursome dealing with teen pregnancy after Richard (or “Richie”) begins an affair with May behind Mary’s back, impregnating her.
The story ends with Mary and Richie raising May’s baby, while May and Ben reconnect – the bigger implication being that Peter Parker’s Aunt May is actually his mother, while the woman he knew as his mom was her long-suffering friend who raised Peter to protect May from the wrath of her heavily religious parents.
To say this “secret history” hasn’t joined the larger canon may be an understatement.
THE SECRET LIFE OF NICOLAS FURY9 of 12Saying Marvel’s top super-spy has secrets may be like calling the wetness of water a newsflash, but in recent years, the true extent of Nick Fury’s secret life has been made clear, and there are hidden aspects of his past no one expected.
From his secret son Nick Fury, Jr, to his “Caterpillar file” of potential metahumans which he secretly trained, to his life on the moon as the “Man on the Wall” staving off alien threats, Nick Fury’s skeletons aren’t just in his closet – they’re in his shower, sitting on his couch, and raiding his fridge.
How did Nick accomplish all this? Well, he’s had plenty of time to do it. His Infinity Formula made him effectively immortal, and combined with liberal use of LMD’s, he was able to be in many places at once.
HE WAS MY FRIEND10 of 12Captain America's young sidekick Bucky died defending the world from a scheme by Nazi scientist Baron Zemo in the same incident that led to Captain America being frozen for decades - or so the world believed for decades.
Contrary to popular belief, Bucky actually survived - his badly damaged body recovered by Soviet scientists and rebuilt into the Winter Soldier, a super assassin who was brainwashed and reprogrammed to fight for the ol' Russkies.
For decades, Winter Soldier operated in secret, even training other Marvel characters such as Black Widow and the All-New Wasp, and being used by the Soviets as a weapon to shape politics during the Cold War.
Bucky's history isn't so secret anymore, as he's gone on to operate as Captain America in Steve's stead, and lead several teams, including the current iteration of the Thunderbolts.
WEAPON X: ORIGINS11 of 12Wolverine's history was one of Marvel's most closely-guarded secrets for decades. Bits and pieces of his lost memory were restored over the years, but even these revelations were questionable.
Wolverine's actual history, finally revealed in 2001's Wolverine: Origin, dates him back to the 19th century, as the child of a servant of a wealthy landowner.
But the other part of Wolverine's story is tied to Weapon X, the program that turned him into the Wolverine and bonded adamantium to his bones. Weapon X, or Weapon Plus, has deep roots throughout the history of the X-Men and the Marvel Universe - almost too many branches to explore. The secret program was responsible for experiments on many mutants and super soldiers, producing characters like Captain America, Deadpool, Fantomex, Maverick, and plenty more.
Wolverine's past is so complex that secrets about it are still being revealed, despite the numerous stories that have been dedicated to revealing his history.
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