We’ve always had a fondness for the Inhumans as characters and concepts despite the lackluster treatment they often receive in print. The Inhumans first appeared as supporting characters in the Fantastic Four when creators Stan Lee and Jack Kirby still masterminded that title together. In 1970, Kirby launched Inhumans on their own adventures in Marvel’s second attempt at an Amazing Adventures title.
Marvel ran the 1961 Amazing Adventures for just half a year, its first six issues collecting some entertainingly vintage stories by Kirby and Steve Ditko, Dick Ayres, Paul Reinman, Don Heck, and Larry Leiber. You can preview many of these golden-age sci-fi and monster stories in our archives.
Beginning with a new #1 issue — something that seems a monthly event at Marvel these days — the 1970 Amazing Adventures put both the Inhumans and the Black Widow on the cover. The Black Widow stories have some wonderful John Buscema and Gene Colan artwork you can preview at Diversions of the Groovy Kind.
The Inhumans get the full Jack Kirby treatment for three issues. He writes and draws them in pretty straight-forward superhero adventures. We have the first story in our archives. Like Kirby’s Black Panther, they lack depth but make fast-paced action stories for young readers. 1970 also gave Inhumans fans another Jack Kirby treatment of his genetically-modified heroes: the final issue of the first Silver Surfer series.
Even the Mandarin appears in these Amazing Adventures, in his utterly ridiculous “Asian Villain” outfit! The Inhumans made it about sixteen issues in this format, with Roy Thomas and Neal Adams stepping up to create new stories after Kirby left. But like Thomas & Adams’ X-men, the Inhumans were doomed as a publication.
Okay. Not exactly doomed. They got their own title after that! Leaving behind the anthology comic format, the Inhumans had earned their own shot as title characters. Doug Moench and George Perez launched them with Inhumans #1 in 1975. We have that first issue in our archives, too: Spawn of Alien Heat!
That series showed a lot of potential, but its struggle to find its feet is almost palpable. You can find it reprinted in a hardcover format as Marvel Masterworks: Inhumans #2 from 2010, the first volume of which covers all those Amazing Adventures stories plus their origin story from Thor.
Marvel billed the Inhumans as “uncanny” in this series, a word they would later apply to the X-men. The “Uncanny X-men” stuck, and few readers of bronze-age Marvel recall anyone but the X-men ever being uncanny! Gil Kane moved from cover art to interior art in this series. Although his style seems rough after Perez’s smooth work, Kane delivers some truly classic 70s work in stories like “A Trip to the Doom” in issue #7.
In what now feels like a desperate ploy to boost sales, the Inhumans fight Hulk in their final issue. The same thing happened to Kirby’s Eternals in the mid-70s. Bad sales figures? Hulk Smash! “Let Fall the Final Fury” turns out to be the last appearance of the Inhumans in their own title for about 25 years.
Despite some great guest appearances in John Byrne’s Fantastic Four in the 1980s, the Inhumans never really got a stellar treatment until Paul Jenkins and Jae Lee crafted a twelve-issue limited series for them in the 21st century. We have some of that artwork in our archives. The Inhumans live up to their potential in this compelling story, despite its reliance on the same old struggle with Maximus the Mad.
The four-issue Inhumans series by Carlos Pacheco earlier that summer had some stunning art by Ladronn. It attempted to free the Inhumans from the only two stories they ever seemed to get: the fight with Black Bolt’s mad brother, and their thing about needing to live on the moon. Pacheco stepped in and said, “Let’s shake this up a bit,” taking their conceptual struggles in the next logical plot direction.
But, in the wake of the Jenkins/Lee story, Marvel decided on a “next generation” approach to the Inhumans. The book became more teen-friendly and introduced a new, younger set of Inhumans characters, some of whom we met in Jenkin’s story. This 2003 Inhumans series ran for twelve issues. It has its merits and perhaps competed at the time with Marvel’s Runaways and Exiles for a teen audience wanting teen characters. Of those three, only Runaways kept our attention, proving to be a book about teens that older audiences could appreciate, too.
And that, dear Martians, is why some lucky buyer overseas ended up with a stack of Inhumans comics from us! We collected those first Kirby issues, the run of their 1970s title, and the Jenkins/Lee paperback, along with some other minor Inhumans goodies from over the years. It was fun to have them all close at hand for a few years, and we did hold on to our single-issue copies of the Jenkins stories.