Only Marvel in the 1960s could have published a comic book that advertised giants on the cover while also boldly stating at the bottom that it is, “The magazine that respects your intelligence.”
Amazing Adult Fantasy is an anthology comic book that would feature several stories on various subjects. The next issue will lose the word Adult from the title and gain perhaps the most compelling character in all of the Marvel 616 universe.
For this issue, the essential story is the second one. On the Contents page, the story is mislabeled as, Man in Space, but is actually called, The Man in the Sky! This little story is vital to a specific corner of the Marvel 616 universe. This is a landmark story because it introduces something not seen before in the pages of Marvel. This story is the birth of mutants.
The story deals with Tad Carter. His father, Brad Carter, was an atomic scientist. Through his work, he absorbed small amounts of radiation, not enough to affect him but enough to change Tad. This is why mutants will be called “the children of the atom.” Like with The Hulk, the power of the atom is awesome and overpowering. It is capable of changing the world for good or bad.
In this story, mutants are only vaguely defined, and it seems they could have a vast range of powers. Tad can move objects with his mind. He can read the minds of others. Tad’s impulse is to help humanity, to teach them how to do the things he can. He proves to some friends that he can read minds. The crowd turns on him and, for the first time, hurl the insult, “A mutant!” Tad still tries to convince the group that he wants to help them even as they call him a freak and attack him. Tad finds himself lifted off the ground and flying in the air. And as he is pulled away, a voice calls into his brain. This voice reassures Tad there are many so-called mutants in the world and they have power humans never dreamed of.
It’s here it is established that mutants are the next great stage in the development of man. When Tad asks why mutants do not reveal themselves, he is told, “Because people fear those who are different! And humans try to destroy those whom they fear!”
Thus sets up the future for what will become The X-Men. While not explicitly stated, it’s almost certain the voice Tad heard was that of Charles Xavier. The philosophy that mutants should help mankind despite their hatred is the guiding principle Charles lives by. At this point he is still wanting to wait to reveal mutants to humanity until the world is ready to welcome them. He wants to wait until “…mankind comes of age!”
Stan Lee has said the reason he came up with mutants was because it got too difficult to keep thinking of different kinds of accidents and situations that would cause someone to have powers. If he could just say that someone was a mutant, he didn’t have to go too much into the origin of the powers. Interestingly, this situation and the way Lee wrote it enabled the creators to speak on issues of civil rights and racial injustice without ever having to use those words. A generation of children would grow up thinking it was unfair for a group of people to be assumed to be dangerous or evil just because of who they were. Many of them knew this to be the case because they read the pages of Marvel 616 comics that featured mutants. This story is the beginning of that. It’s incredible how important a small story in an anthology comic book could become to entertainment and to our understanding of the world.
Next on the reading list is Fantastic Four Issue #5 where we will be introduced to one of the greatest Marvel 616 villains of all time.
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