First appearance comics are the cream of the crop in collecting. Sometimes there are instances where characters are published in print prior to their coveted first appearance. This is true in the case of things like cameos and previews. Another category that shows up less often is the prototype, which introduces a concept or costume design element which is later used in the character we know and love. In this article, I am going to share three such issues that served as inspiration for the creation of three popular characters: Doctor Doom, Miles Morales, and Harley Quinn.
Tales of Suspense 31 – Doctor Doom
This issue features a character called “The Monster In The Iron Mask”, a being from outer space sent to prepare the earth for an alien invasion. A seemingly indestructible creature, even a nuclear bomb cannot stop it. It claims to have only one weakness, gas, but that solved due to the monster’s airtight iron mask. A magician surmises the monster is using misdirection and the military ultimately defeats it with tear gas.
The story has nothing to do with the Doctor Doom we know. Even the interior art is not consistent with the cover. The mask remains the same, but the body is colored tan/brown and is more obviously furry. Nevertheless, the cover art depicts the color scheme of Doctor Doom with the dark green and grey. It cannot be denied that the mask is an exact match for Victor von Doom and definitely inspired the menacing look of the FF’s arch-nemesis.
Marvel Age 12 – Miles Morales
See here for the scan of fan-submitted artwork and a letter from Jim Shooter to buy art from the fan.
Marvel Age 12 previews the new black costume look for Spider-Man. There are other issues that preview the black costume such as Amazing Heroes 39 and Comic Reader 215. These issues however are done in black and white. Marvel Age 14 is in color, and this makes all the difference.
In this issue, we get to see the concept art for the black costume with the red highlights that it was originally intended to have. For whatever reason, these were changed to white and that became the official look. All these years later with Miles Morales, we have a Black and Red color configuration that bears a close resemblance to these original concept drawings.
Teen Titans 48 – Harley Quinn
Batman Family #6 saw the first appearance of a character called “The Joker’s Daughter” where she faced off against Robin. In Batman Family #9 she learns Robin’s identity and Robin figures out that she is not the Joker’s daughter but Duela Dent, Two Face’s daughter. (“Duel” a, get it?). Duela Dent, wanting to reform, joins the Teen Titans in issue #46. In Teen Titans #48 she takes on the name “Harlequin”.
This character goes on to have a history of her own, even appearing alongside Harley Quinn herself as Duela Dent in New Suicide Squad #1. There are obvious differences, one of the biggest being her role as a daughter rather than a girlfriend/sidekick. However, she quite obviously was the inspiration for Harley Quinn, even down to basically sharing the same name, “Harlequin”. Additionally, there is a panel during the Epilogue where Joker’s Daughter debuts not only her name but her costume as Harlequin. This costume features the opposite-color configuration and the diamond shapes just as Harley Quinn does.
Top Pick of the 3
If I had to choose which of these to invest in I would go with Teen Titans 48. The other two are already expensive, and this is the more obvious inspiration for the real character. While TT 48 is not the first appearance of the Joker’s Daughter, Batman Family 6 is already expensive with a 9.6 FMV of $220. TT 48 is the more significant issue in my mind because of the debut of the costume and the name change in the Epilogue. A 9.6 is less than $100 and every 9.X issue below that is close to $50.
What are your thoughts on prototype issues? Are they worth spending the FMV to get? Do you see long term value in them as a part of comic book history?
Let me know in the comments below!
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