Welcome back to our weekly dip into the depths of the My Hero collection, one unidentified madman’s quest to immortalize in plastic the most obscure comic book characters ever created. That built up the collection of hundreds of hand-altered action figures that now reside in the Back to the Past warehouse and that I have the privilege of diving into each week looking for pearls. This week’s selection is a doozy, a Golden Age Marvel hero whose legacy is built on Roy Thomas‘ Silver and Bronze Age work with the character – Red Raven!
A One-Appearance Wonder
Red Raven Comics #1 hit newsstands in 1940 and the issue lead off with a story starring its namesake hero, The Red Raven! Some years ago, a passenger plane crashed into the flying island city of the Bird People and its lone survivor, a young boy, was taken in by the avian residents. Outfitted with a pair of mechanical wings, the boy (who they named Red Raven) grew into a man and was sent back to the surface world to bring peace and justice. He immediately foils a gang of gold hoarders, and begins a career as a costumed crimefighter.
Or he would have, had The Human Torch not taken over the title with the second issue. That was Red Raven’s one-and-only story for nearly thirty years until he made his return in 1968’s X-Men #44, co-written by noted Golden Age Fanboy Roy Thomas. That ish featured Angel being diverted from a desperate flight for help by landing on the Bird People’s floating island. There he meets Red Raven, who explains that he put the Avians in suspended animation to avoid them invading humanity many years prior. He sinks the island under the waves rather than risk those warlike feelings returning, and Angel continues on to New York.
Two years later, Roy Thomas used the character again in Sub-Mariner #26. Here, depressingly enough, it is revealed that Red Raven’s people died years ago and the suspended animation process has simply embalmed them very well. He destroys the island, and himself, in grief. His next appearance would be in a 1976 crossover between The Invaders and Marvel Premiere, set during World War II. It established Red Raven as founding member of a retcon team called the Liberty Legion, the home-front equivalent of The Invaders. The team would pop up for a two issue team-up with The Thing in Marvel Two-In-One, also written by Thomas, but that was their last major appearance.
I first encountered Red Raven in the Book of the Dead issues of the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe Deluxe Edition, which filled me in on the backstory above without the real world context. Since then, he’s been tied to the Inhumans mythos and came back from the dead to appear in Marvel’s big Inhumans push a few years back, in addition to his sporadic appearances in Golden Age flashbacks. But the thing that really interests me in the character is the fact that his return is one of the earliest cases of the inmates running the asylum in the comic industry. Joe Simon and Louis Cazeneuve created the character, but it is the original comic fanboy-turned-pro (who incidentally was born the year Red Raven made his one original appearance) that made him even mildly prominent. Like Roy Thomas and our customizer, I have an affinity for obscure characters of yesteryear and that means that this week, Red Raven is My Hero.