In 1939, Marvel Comics #1 was published by Timely Comics, which later evolved into Marvel Comics, an issue that featured the first appearance of strange characters like The Human Torch, The Sub-Mariner and The Angel.
Seventy years later, Marvel Comics is celebrating the anniversary of that issue with an eight-issue mini-series about the historical era when the characters first emerged, The Marvels Project. Created by Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting, the team behind Captain America's recent success, the story will tell the definitive origin of the Marvel Universe from an insider's view, covering the era from the Depression through Pearl Harbor.
Now Newsarama sits down with the creators to profile the main characters in The Marvels Project, starting with the narrator of the story, The Angel.
Secret Identity/Origin Private eye Thomas Halloway was the son of a prison warden who demanded the best of him, raising him in isolation within the prison to train his mind and body. Because of his demanding father and the assistance of other prisoners, Halloway learned everything from fighting skills to the secrets of the underworld. During his time in prison, the hero reads so much that he is later shown to know obscure languages and is described as a "brilliant doctor."
"He and Ka-Zar are apparently the only two characters to cross over from when [Marvel Comics founder] Martin Goodman was a pulp publisher to being a comic publisher," Brubaker told Newsarama. "And so the Angel has this really twisted origin that is much more like a pulp character origin than a comic character origin. He's a little bit like Doc Savage in that he was raised by a weird father – his father was a warden of a prison – and he was raised in an empty prison block, and he read everything."
Eventually, young Thomas and his friend, Bob Soler, saved the life of a fellow prisoner who was about to be electrocuted. As a result, Thomas Halloway was labeled an "angel." The heroic name stuck.
Powers: "He's one of those characters whose dad was super demanding and made him train his brain really well," Brubaker said. "And he's been taught in all sorts of combat skills from various prisoners."
In early stories, the Angel was also given the "Cape of Mercury" after rescuing a woman from an underground city, and so he has the ability to fly, although early stories rarely showed this power, portraying the character as more of a street level fighter.
Costume: "He's got this really cool origin, but then this really funny costume," Brubaker laughed. "He's got a giant, blue costume with wings on it and a cape." Epting's Approach: "The Angel is more a street-level superhero who stops bank robbers, muggers, etc. He's sort of in the same mold as Daredevil – hopping across rooftops and swinging on flagpoles," Epting said. "In fact, some of the scenes I've drawn would be right at home in a Daredevil story, if you just changed the costume. Perhaps he's a little less brooding and has a bit more of an Errol Flynn quality, but that's essentially the way I'm portraying him."First Appearance: "He was in the first issue of Marvel Comics. He was on the cover of Issue #3. So along with the Human Torch and the Sub-Mariner, he was in the very first Marvel comic," Brubaker said.
How He Fits in The Marvels Project: "When we start the first issue, the narrator of the story is clearly an early hero, and you find out it's The Angel, but it's something that was written by him at some point after the story is finished," Brubaker said. "So we've got his take on things from some point in the future. He met a lot of these people during this period.
"We meet him in our prologue story and he reappears throughout the series as one of the heroes of the early Marvel days," he said. "Whenever there's any narrative, it's written through his voice. And we'll find out why in the end."