Robot 6

Uncovering the secret origin of mutants at Marvel

Panel from Lee & Ditko's 1963 "The Man In The Sky"

With the X-Men: First Class movie in theaters making people thing about the early days of homo superior, their origins go deeper than you think. Although it’s widely thought that Stan Lee & Jacky Kirby first introduced the ideas of mutants in the pages of 1963’s X-Men #1, the real story is buried deep in Marvel and Timely lore.

The first mutant story ever published by Marvel was 1952’s “The Weird Woman” in Amazing Detective Cases #11, in which a self-described “mutant” woman is searching, unsuccessfully, to find someone like her for companionship. That doesn’t even begin to consider Namor, which debuted in 1939 as one of comics first super-heroes. It took more than 20 years for Marvel to reclassify him as a mutant (in 1964’s X-Men #6),  but he’s finally come full circle as a card-carrying X-Man in Matt Fraction’s Uncanny X-Men run. Marvel’s claim of Namor being “Marvel’s First Mutant” are true from a publication debut standpoint, but the oldest mutant remains Apocalypse, who was born in Egypt during the 30th century BC.

There were numerous mutant sightings before the X-Men burst onto the scene in 1963; there was an illusion-creating mutant in 1953’s Man Comics #28 (why doesn’t Marvel bring back THAT title?), as well as in 1959’s Journey Into Mystery #52. Of all the stories, probably the one that veers closest to what become the X-Man/mutant struggle came one year prior to the X-Men, in the pages of Adult Fantasy #14 from 1964. In it, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko tell a story of a man with immense telepathic powers who tries to sequester himself away from society to avoid the noise of other people’s minds. Overstreet Price Guide goes so far as to call this a “Professor X prototype story,” even though Ditko never drew an X-Men page in his life.



X-MEN #6 brings up the possibility that Namor could be a mutant, but doesn’t confirm it — Xavier just wonders if he might be, and Magneto has a skeevy Atlantean tell him he is without any particular evidence. In the lettercols at the time, Stan decided Namor was a “non-mutant hybrid cross,” or some such. The issue didn’t arise again for years, but Namor was treated as a hybrid, not a mutant.

[And when it did arise, they had to do some hurried retconning to explain why Namora and Namorita had the very same mutation, if they were truly mutants.]

There was also a story about Chinese mutants in a Kirby-drawn issue of YELLOW CLAW; we wound up referencing it in MARVELS: EYE OF THE CAMERA #1.

As for a Professor Xavier prototype story, I’d look to the SF prose work MUTANT, by Henry Kuttner, which features bald, telepathic, radiation-caused mutants fighting a secret war to protect humanity from evil mutants who want to enslave them all, but wary of a humanity that fears and hates them.

I’d bet that Stan and/or Jack (likely Jack) had read that, along with similar works, like SLAN by A.E. van Vogt and CHILDREN OF THE ATOM by Wilmar Shiras.

Also there’s Olaf Stapledon’s ODD JOHN, one of the first treatments of the theme of homo superior—mutants who are the next step above man. I know it’s a very real influence on my webcomic, which sort of treads the same ground, even though my main character isn’t a mutant.—Al

“Marvel’s claim of Namor being ‘Marvel’s First Mutant’ are true from a publication debut standpoint, but the oldest mutant remains Apocalypse, who was born in Egypt during the 30th century BC.”

Thank you for pointing this out. Heaven knows why, but it bugs me every time Marvel splash “First Mutant” on a Namor story.

When did the first mutant monster show up in comics? Had to be before Wierd Science. Did they ever show up in Flash Gordon or any Sunday Supplements?

Heck, now I really want to read ADULT FANTASY #14. Is that collected in a currently-published edition?

@D. Peace

Currently published I’m not sure, but yeah, there’s a X-Men TPB from the ’90s (with a Mike Wieringo cover) that reprints a whole bunch of obscure stories (Iceman at college, Mystique and Destiny in a nightclub, a Classic X-Men back-up story (I think) featuring Storm), which includes the Lee/Ditko story from Adult Fantasy #14 and indeed presents it as ‘a lost tale of one of the first mutants’. It’s a pretty great story in an otherwise somewhat forgetable collection, which is why I sold it when I went to college.

Wait, let me web-fu it for you….

Ah, there you go:


Yours for under a buck, apparently. Hope that helps!

It’s also in the AMAZING FANTASY Omnibus, which isn’t in print but isn’t hard to find.

It’s packed full of great stuff.


As much as you guys like Apocalypse, Selene trumps them all in age. She was born 17000 yrs ago, before the time of Kulan Gath, which was way before ancient Egypt.

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