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Marvel’s most important characters … in 1972

Sean Howe, the author of Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, regularly shares artifacts from Marvel’s history on his Tumblr, and this week he posted a memo from 1972 that details where the characters fell in the pecking order–with each ranked as “very important,” “important” and “not as important.”

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Many of Marvel’s mainstays are ranked were you’d expect them — Spider-Man, Hulk, Captain America and Iron Man are all marked as “very important” — while others are interesting in how their rankings probably would have changed between then and now. The X-Men and Invisible Girl only earn two stars, less than characters like Ka-zar, Dracula, Conan and Doc Savage (those last two being licensed characters that Marvel no longer publishes today), and the same as Red Wolf, who had a short-lived series around that time. Many of the characters on the list also had first issues debut in 1972, including The Cat, Luke Cage’s Heroes for Hire, Shanna the She-Devil and Werewolf by Night. There’s no exact date on the memo, so there’s no telling if it came before or after those titles. Many of them debuted near the end of the year, though, so perhaps it was a precursor to the company’s publishing plans. Or maybe Stan Lee just liked to make lists.

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You kind of missed something–that the Avengers as a team was “Very Important” but the individuals (who didn’t have their own titles) got no better than “Important” (and Quicksilver was ranked “Not as Important”). OTOH, the Avengers’ “big guns”–Thor, Iron Man and Captain America–were all rated as “Very Important.” It’s also kind of interesting that ALL the female characters were just “Important” –not even Shana’s [sic] added skin factor could boost her to beyond the “Important” level. (And when exactly did she go from “Shana” to “Shanna?”)

What I’d really like to know about this list is what kind of criteria were used to determine the relative “importance” of each character or group of characters.

Actually the way the Avengers are ranked didn’t surprise me. The only characters to earn three stars who weren’t in their own solo books were the three male members of the FF, so the fact that the second-tier Avengers got two stars kind of makes sense. This was before Black Panther received a starring role in Jungle Action, which was in 1973 and was the acclaimed run written by Don McGregor. So I’m betting he got another star added to his name the next year.

The Shana/Shanna thing … I wonder if that was a typo?

Interesting how they saw their characters back in the ’70′s.

Of course, this type of listing would’ve changed drastically by the 80′s, and 90′s and so on.

I’m sure that Marvel have stopped using such an outdated way of ranking their characters. They probably just count the money. ;-)

Well, y’know, she’s A GIRL and all–!

Of course, chauvinism aside, as of 1972 the Invisible Girl had been replaced on the Fantastic Four for a significant portion of the book’s existence (by Crystal, and then Medusa). Was she even on the team in ’72?

Meanwhile, Dr. Doom is pleased by his underlings’ gesture of respect in the form of being the only Marvel-original villain on the list… but for the ignominy of his receiving a mere three stars, someone will spend time in the dungeon!! :-)

I can’t help but imagine Uatu and the western Ghost Rider stuck outside a nightclub together, and the bouncer’s telling them they’re not important enough to get in….

Only two stars for Man-Thing? Manny don’t get no love…

Poor Ringo Kid. A one when he was a heterosexual gunslinger. And that was when he had a comic on the stands. Probably ranked even less in 2013 after being thrown out of the closet!! Where’s the justice!?!?

Rawhide Kid was “outed”, not Ringo Kid.

Poor Beast….not even a two-star mention with the rest of the original X-men!

my bad…..just saw he had his own separate listing. Good for you, Beast!

I like that despite the female characters tending to be rated lower than the male characters Scarlet Witch ranked higher than Quicksilver.

It’s interesting to note that inked in to the right of “*** Silver Surfer” is “Defenders 3″ (3 stars I’m assuming). The Defenders were introduced in Marvel Feature #1 cover dated Dec. ’71. The book was hugely popular and spawned its own title shortly thereafter. This probably accounts for the 3 stars for Dr. Strange who had lost his own title by ’72, as well as for the other members of the group who had three stars.

I haven’t had any luck deciphering what’s inked to the right of “*** Dr. Doom”, due to it being crossed over, but someone else might take a stab at it.

My guess would be Sub 49 referring to Dr Doom’s appearance in submariner 47-49

It’s easy now to roll our eyes at the female character rankings, but considering the publishing mindset then (and arguably, is still NOW) to market comics towards adolescent/teenage boys, then I can see why they would want to focus on the male heroes as their stars.

Other than that, chuckled at the typos and how far down the ladder the X-Men were at the time. This is a nice little find by Howe…

I think Beast has his own listing because around this time was when he was turned blue and furry and given his own title sorta kinda in Amazing Adventures.

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