Marvel Comics wasn’t really doing much with superheroes in the 50s. True, there were a few holdovers from the 40s like Captain America who kept having regular adventures, but Marvel wasn’t really known for its superheroes until the 60s. Still, there were characters like the 3-D Man. That sounds like a 50s-era hero, doesn’t it? I mean, it was, but there was one small problem there.
See, he was created in 1977.
It’s not that hard to guess why writer Roy Thomas would want to retroactively create a superhero like 3-D Man for Marvel. He fills in a gap for the history of that fictional universe between a time when there were superheroes in the past and superheroes in the present. Surely the threats that the likes of Captain America and his friends and allies faced off against didn’t just disappear for however many decades there were that Cap was on ice! I mean, that would be just plain silly. So, why not create a new hero that sounds like he came from a previous era to fill in the gaps here and there? Granted, Marvel did have a few honest-to-God heroes from that era, but they were largely forgotten and ignored until the relatively recent “Agents of Atlas” group formed with the likes of Namora and the Gorilla Man.
But this is about 3-D Man, so what was his deal?
Essentially, it was this: NASA test pilot Chuck Chandler was flying an experimental rocket plane when he was intercepted by Skrulls looking to get some intelligence before invading the Earth. You know, that old chestnut. Chuck managed to escape in his plane, sabotaging the Skrull saucer in the process. Unfortunately, his ride didn’t quite make it back to Earth in one piece. His jet crashed, but he wasn’t quite alone as his handicapped brother Hal was there to try and rescue him. The process somehow imprinted Chuck on Hal’s glasses, and that led to something a wee bit odd.
See, Hal could summon Chuck’s spirit from the glasses and then merge with it, becoming the 3-D Man. As 3-D Man, the combined brothers had three times the normal physical attributes of a normal human in peak shape.
Reading that, I have a question.
How is it two brothers combine to have the power of three men? I think the math doesn’t quite work out.
Regardless, Hal (and Chuck) would go off and do the hero thing for a while. Eventually, the brothers decided to more or less retire. Hal got married and had some kids. Chuck’s spirit went off to wander another dimension. The two reunited rarely, and that was that.
Until more recently, that is, when Triathalon, one of my earliest Misplaced Heroes, took up the mantle and, using the glasses, became the new 3-D Man, complete with a power the 3-D Man had that didn’t get discussed all that much, namely the ability to see Skrulls in disguise.
That actually leads me to wonder about the nature of Skrull shapeshifting. Do they actually change shape or do they just use some kind of mental projection power to make people think they changed shape? Because otherwise, I’m not sure how anyone could “see” a Skrull in disguise.
Of course, back when I wrote up about Triathalon, I said only getting three times a peak human’s physical abilities was kinda lame. And…I still think so. Three doesn’t seem like much when you have superheroes and villains benchpressing a city bus.
Regardless, that was the 3-D Man, the retro hero who wasn’t as retro as he appeared to be.