12 Avengers in the Golden Age
In superhero comics, names are a dime a dozen. Good names, however, are like prime real estate. Once you've got one, you want to attach it to a character that sticks, and you wanna trademark that sucker. It's no surprise we've seen a lot of repeated names in comics over the years, and even in this summer's blockbuster movie, Avengers: Age of Ultron, we saw a bunch of characters who were not the first in superhero comics to lay claim to their nom du guerres. Let's take a look at the Golden Age characters with the same names as the Avengers!
Grant Farrel, granted ancient powers by the Norse God of Thunder, becomes Thor, wearing a costume that I'm sure Chris Hemsworth's fans wouldn't mind the movies adapting.
Quality Comics' Quicksilver, also known as the Laughing Robin Hood, was a speedster who was unique in the sense that he was also an acrobat! Years later, DC Comics would purchase Quality and use this character to great effect in The Flash, Impulse, and related series as Max Mercury, the Zen master of speed.
Bruce Banner was not Marvel's first Hulk! Back before the big superhero renaissance and when Marvel was publishing comics in the monster genre, a lot of big brutes with names like Torr and Groot (yes, that Groot) showed up. This "Hulk" was eventually renamed Xemnu.
Before The Vision was walking around as a synthezoid who should never ever ever be able to lift Thor's mighty hammer, there was a supernatural being of the same name running around two decades prior. He doesn't look so different, and he reminds me of DC's The Spectre, with a little bit of the Martian Manhunter (who came afterward, natch) thrown in there.
Also, Natasha Romanoff was not Marvel's first Black Widow! Published back when Marvel was called Timely, the original Black Widow is Claire Voyant (seriously) who has a death touch and brings the evil people to whom she believes is Satan. She was revived in the relatively recent limited series The Twelve, which has nice art by Chris Weston.
Officially an Avenger by the end of Age of Ultron, The Falcon also had a predecessor in the Golden Age. Of course, it being the 1940s, said predecessor was obviously not black.
Similarly, a future Avenger, The Black Panther, also had a namesake in the 40s. Like the Falcon's, this one was also a Caucasian.
Speaking of future Avengers, here's a Captain Marvel who isn't any of the famous ones. Yes, his entire body detaches from everything else if he wants. And yes, he's fighting someone named "The Bat," because MF Enterprises really wanted a lawsuit back in the day.
Ant-Man doesn't have a Golden Age namesake to my knowledge, but he has gone by other names, including Yellowjacket, who does have a Golden Age predecessor.
Ant-Man's wife/perpetual girlfriend, The Wasp, had two Golden Age predecessors, both of whom were pretty standard pulp-inspired characters.
There was also a Golden Age Hercules. (Where is Hercules in the Marvel Cinematic Universe? He's sorely needed.)
Now Captain Marvel (the famous one that says Shazam) had a villain in the Golden Age named Spiderman. That hyphen makes such a huge difference.
The most important one, however, is Lev Gleason Publications' Daredevil, who was Bart Hill, a mute hand-to-hand fighter with a boomerang two decades before Matt Murdock was a blind hand-to-hand fighter with a billy club. He was created by Jack Binder, revamped by Jack Cole, and popularized by Charles Biro, and held his own title for 10 years before handing it over to his sidekicks, The Little Wise Guys. This Daredevil was one of the most acclaimed characters of the Golden Age, even earning a special called Daredevil Battles Hitler. After he fell into the public domain, different publishers decided to use him. Erik Larsen integrated him into the Savage Dragon universe, and other companies have renamed him to avoid confusion with that other guy with the same name. He's been known as Reddevil, Doubledare, and most recently, The Death Defying 'Devil.
Even Marvel's acknowledged the influence of this character. Here's one of the alternate reality costumes they've given Matt Murdock.
This Daredevil also influenced the look of Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt, who would be the inspiration for Watchmen's Ozymandias. There's a sequence of events that just introduces a bunch of sliding doors.
This column would not exist without Back Issue Ben and Pol Rua. But the entire column, from the clickbaity title all the way to this sentence, is dedicated to my good friend, whom I shall only refer to as "Great Success."