Warlock looking typically cosmic. Artist: Jim Starlin.


Medium: Comic books
Published by: Marvel Comics
First Appeared: 1966
Creators: Stan Lee (writer) and Jack Kirby (artist)
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The team of writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby was responsible for some of the biggest names in 1960s comic books — names like The Avengers, The Hulk, Doctor Doom … Even …

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… their minor creations sometimes became big names in post-'60s comics, a prime example being X-Men. But one of their big names, Warlock, who held down a couple of critically acclaimed series in the 1970s and still looms large in Marvel Universe history, didn't even have a name when Lee and Kirby introduced him.

In Fantastic Four #66 (November, 1966), Lee and Kirby pitted their superheroes against a secret enclave of scientists (called The Enclave) engaged in military research — trying to produce artificial men who would be invincible in battle and unscrupulous in obeying their destructive orders, whom they could mass-produce. Their golden-skinned prototype, referred to only as "Him", proved much stronger than they'd expected, and broke out of the cocoon where he was gestating. In addition to wrecking the scientists' plans, the heroes had to deal with the immediate menace of a super-powerful being who hadn't the foggiest idea how people are supposed to behave.

The menace was neutralized when "Him" wound up drifting through outer space. But he returned to clash with Thor and make a couple of other appearances before acquiring enough knowledge of the world to interact peaceably with civilized people. He got his shot at a series of his own in Marvel Premiere #1 (April, 1972), a try-out book along the lines of DC's Showcase, which later introduced successful characters like Iron Fist and unsuccessful ones like The Liberty Legion. There, writer Roy Thomas (The Invaders, Arak Son of Thunder) and artist Gil Kane (Brain Boy, Man-Wolf) hooked him up with The High Evolutionary, a geneticist who had tampered with his own DNA to the point of assuming god-like powers, who was just then engaged in his most ambitious project — creating a new Earth, hidden from the old one by being located on the far side of the Sun (cf. Twin Earths), where there would be no evil. But one of his earlier super-evolved creations had gotten loose and introduced evil there, so Hubris Boy (who was also, by the way, involved in the origin of Spider-Woman) sent "Him" (now re-dubbed "Adam Warlock", and newly equipped with a power-enhancing "soul gem" grafted onto his forehead) there to snuff it out.

If this sounds like something you might have read in a religious book, that was nothing compared with what followed. Warlock locked horns with a time-traveling, purple-skinned version of himself from a possible future, called The Magus, who headed up a galaxy-spanning cadre of true believers. An ally in this fight, Thanos (derived from the Greek word for "death"), later became his own major enemy. His goal was to kill every living thing in the Universe. What is generally regarded as the best of this was orchestrated by cartoonist Jim Starlin, who had co-created Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu and was also responsible for a very well received run on Captain Marvel.

After a couple of Marvel Premiere issues, Warlock moved out into his own title, with a first issue cover date of August, 1972. It lasted only eight issues, but a couple of years later (February, 1975 to be exact) he got a new series in Strange Tales, where Doctor Strange and Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. had gotten their starts. Then he was back in his own comic, which ran until #15 (November, 1976). It was never a very big seller, but Starlin's artwork, combined with the weighty themes it tackled, ensured such favorable reviews, Warlock is still remembered as one of the milestones of 1970s Marvel comics. (It was during the Strange Tales run that a wag in the production department altered the Comics Code seal to read "Approved by the Cosmic Code Authority".)

Of course, a story of a god-like being sending a protegé down to redeem a world from evil can hardly be complete until the redeemer dies. The story reached this conclusion in a team-up with The Thing in Marvel Two-in-One Annual #2 (1977), ensuring his permanent status as one of the company's classic characters.

Since then, Marvel hasn't let Warlock be forgotten. They've reprinted the Starlin series, had him appear in other characters' dreams, revived him in altered form, named one of The New Mutants after him, and done whatever else they can to keep him current without quite negating the culmination his story required.

A new version of Warlock, but with ties to the old one, began starring in an ongoing series in 2004.


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Text ©2004-06 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Marvel Comics.