Stan Lee was a forgetful, endearingly confused grandpa even when he was young. His first "senior moment" was probably in college. He gave the Incredible Hulk two first names by accident, and once, in print, called Spider-Man "Super-Man." So it should come as no surprise that he used the basic idea of some of his most beloved characters long before their big debut. These early prototypes are shocking, because he used the same idea much later. The same ideas were percolating in the heads of Stan and his collaborators, and they came out in different ways long before the characters we know.


1. The early version of Doctor Strange was a detective who got his powers by turning Asian.

6 Bizarre Stan Lee Prototypes of Famous Marvel Characters  

Dr. Droom is a character introduced in the first issue of Amazing Adventures, a magazine that later renamed itself Amazing Fantasy, and he may, arguably, be the first true Marvel hero, debuting a few months before Fantastic Four, and created by nothing short of a dream team: Stan Lee writing, Jack Kirby on pencils, and Steve Ditko on inks

gorilla lion stan lee

In almost every way, Dr. Droom was essentially Doctor Strange. A Western medical doctor who went to the Mystic Orient and Tibet, he learned mystic secrets from a 500 year old Tibetan wise man after becoming his apprentice, and returned to America as an eccentric occult authority. Dr. Droom's origins had two differences. First, it involved "gorlions," which makes it demonstrably superior to Dr. Strange's origin; second, it involves one utterly insane detail: Dr. Droom got his powers by turning Asian.  


6 Bizarre Stan Lee Prototypes of Famous Marvel Characters


The amazing thing is, a character with the name "Doctor Strange" appeared in a Stan Lee written Marvel Comic some time before Steven Strange, although he had no other similarity, as he was an evil mad scientist villain with a beautiful daughter.


6 Bizarre Stan Lee Prototypes of Famous Marvel Characters


Was this character forgotten?

Dr. Droom was forgotten, for more than two decades. When he came back in the 1980s, he went through a name change, as his name by then was a tad similar to another, more important Marvel character, namely Dr. Doom, the greatest villain in comics history. Dr. Droom returned as Dr. Druid in the 1980s, where he joined the Avengers.

 

6 Bizarre Stan Lee Prototypes of Famous Marvel Characters

Dr. Druid is best known for being a guy who destroyed the Avengers when he was briefly leader because he fell under mind control, for being the only superhero to go bald with dignity, and for being one of only a handful of Avengers, along with Mar-Vell, Swordsman, and Thunderstrike, who remains reliably dead.



2. The early version of the Black Widow was a disguised crossdresser.

6 Bizarre Stan Lee Prototypes of Famous Marvel Characters

To be an Ant-Man villain, you needed to be two things: 1) Communist, 2) totally forgotten forever after your first issue.

Madame X is a Soviet spy sent to introduce herself to the Ant-Man by pretending to be a Joseph Stalin dead ringer. She also pretended to be an American who likes the Ant-Man, believing the Ant-Man would never guess the two are the same person. In short, she male crossdressed to hide her honey pot trap, and disguised her true identity with a Remington Steele like ruse.


6 Bizarre Stan Lee Prototypes of Famous Marvel Characters


I hate the idea that everybody has to be someone else, but I've always believed that Madame X isn't just a prototype Black Widow, but may be the earliest appearance of Natasha Romanoff herself. Let's talk about both characters' modus operandi. Both are female Soviet spies sent to America to discover the scientific secrets of a superhero who baffles Soviet science. Both initially introduce themselves to the hero socially by pretending to be someone else and trying to lure them in with their sex appeal. Lastly, both have the same hair color and look.  It's actually more extraordinary if theyaren't the same person, and the Soviets actually had two identical-looking female superspies who specialized in seducing superheroes.

Maybe Natasha realized after her defeat by the Ant-Man that her plan to pretend to have a male figure as a front was a good idea, but it's better as a separate person - hence, her use of first Boris Turgenov (Crimson Dynamo II), and then later Hawkeye, as a catspaw and male partner.


6 Bizarre Stan Lee Prototypes of Famous Marvel Characters  


Was this character forgotten?

Yes, even by the terrifyingly low standards of obscuro Ant-Man villains. The character showed up in the background of one issue along with the Beasts of Berlin and Voice of Doom in Avengers West Coast, delivered no dialogue, and even looked suspiciously different. And that's it, in 50 years. I'm telling you,guys...she's Natasha!



3. The early version of Mighty Thor was a romance/horror/atomic dread comic set around a fashion magazine.

6 Bizarre Stan Lee Prototypes of Famous Marvel Characters   

Stan Lee wrote a comic that involved a mythological god who came to earth in modern day, who fell in love with a modern day mortal to the extreme disapproval/anger of the beardy, bossy king of the gods, and who fought the mischievous, troublemaking schemes of the evil horn-headed Loki.


 6 Bizarre Stan Lee Prototypes of Famous Marvel Characters


That comic was Venus, aimed at the romance crowd. And yes, of all things, Loki was the bad guy in it, and Loki's dominant costume feature was horns, despite the fact that it's mixing two world cultures up, and nobody ever drew Loki with horns before Marvel. So, check this out, Hiddlestoners! The first appearance of Loki was in a totally bonkers romance comic years before Mighty Thor was even introduced!

6 Bizarre Stan Lee Prototypes of Famous Marvel Characters


Venus was a romance comic aimed at women where they could vicariously live the experiences of a goddess considered the loveliest living mortal, who came to earth and who started working for a fashion magazine. As weird as that premise is, that's merely how it started, and it only got weirder from there. It changed format into a horror comic with Venus running from werewolves and ghosts, and finally, into a comic expressing horror at atomic dread and end of the world scenarios, during a bizarre and forgotten era when all of Atlas/Marvel comics had covers where Washington was destroyed by mushroom clouds sent by UFOs. 


6 Bizarre Stan Lee Prototypes of Famous Marvel Characters


But in the final few issues, Venus was nothing short of a dress rehearsal for Mighty Thor. Venus wanted to be with her modern-day human love ,but found she couldn't as the beardy king of the gods like the idea, and also Loki was raising hell. 


Was this character forgotten? 

Shockingly, no. Of all the characters on this list, Venus is easily the most frequently used and remembered. 

6 Bizarre Stan Lee Prototypes of Famous Marvel Characters 


Venus was reintroduced to the Marvel Universe in the weirdest possible place imaginable, the Namor the Submariner comic of the 1970s, in an arc that, among other things, heavily implied that the Roman God Mars was responsible for the Vietnam War (!). She has yet to meet Mighty Thor and remind him that everything he did, she did first, and she hasn't met with Loki for a rematch. She was in an issue of What If? that unified all of the 1950s Marvel characters into an early Avengers team. 


6 Bizarre Stan Lee Prototypes of Famous Marvel Characters


The "What if there was a 1950s Avenger team" led to the 2006 comic Agents of Atlas, where Venus was a major character. There were a few dramatic revelations about her there that I won't spoil, which I am not sure how I feel about. I do know how I feel about them making her a redhead, though:mistake. You can't call dibs on a hair color, Namora. 



4. The early version of Agent Peggy Carter was a lost, forgotten Captain America sidekick. 

  6 Bizarre Stan Lee Prototypes of Famous Marvel Characters

If you're not up on old comics, I'm going to blow your mind right now: Peggy Carter didn't actually appear in World War II-era Captain America comics at all. Peggy was added in flashbacks in the 1960s, when Captain America emerged in "modern day," because Stan Lee believed Captain America's backstory would be so much more tragic if he had a lost love he couldn't have been with because of the turmoils of war, and who was separated from forever.


6 Bizarre Stan Lee Prototypes of Famous Marvel Characters


In the forties, though, Captain America had a girl that did more or less the same thing the later Peggy would, Betsy Ross, and by 1946, Cap invited her to be his sidekick, alongside Bucky. 


6 Bizarre Stan Lee Prototypes of Famous Marvel Characters

 

Yes, you read that right: the predecessor to Agent Carter was a lost, forgotten secret female sidekick of Captain America. 

Was this character forgotten?

Yes. She showed up in the background of an Ant-Man story set around a Retirement Home for Old Heroes as late as the 2015, which meant she went close to 6 decades without a return appearance or barely an acknowledgement of her existence. Because this character steps on the toes of someone way more important (by this point) in the Captain America mythos, Peggy Carter, as well as the state of Captain America's post war stories in continuity (don't ask), it's unlikely we will ever see anything like a return of this character.



5. The early version of Magneto was an alien invader who fought the Hulk. 

  6 Bizarre Stan Lee Prototypes of Famous Marvel Characters

The Metal Master, first seen in Incredible Hulk #6 (1962) was an alien criminal who combined Magneto's metal control powers, arrogant poses, and disdain for ordinary homo sapiens, all together with Professor X's baldness. The Metal Master was a criminal thrown into space as a punishment, who wandered for ages looking for a planet to rule...unfortunately, he picked the planet with the Hulk on it.


6 Bizarre Stan Lee Prototypes of Famous Marvel Characters


It's pretty uncanny, no pun intended, how close his M.O. was to the later Magneto's: basically, float over military bases with his arms crossed over his chest, posing like a tool, all while arrogantly proclaiming that all of earth's weapons are ineffective against him, and turning the army's weapons back on them when they try to attack. 


6 Bizarre Stan Lee Prototypes of Famous Marvel Characters


The interesting differences is that 1) It's heavily implied that everyone on the Metal Master's planet have his powers, 2) his power is straight up metal control, which means instead of levitating things telekinetically, he moves metal objects almost like a liquid.  

Was this character forgotten?

Basically, yes. Nobody in Marvel is ever 100% forgotten, though: in 50 years, he showed up in one issue of Rom the Spaceknight, obsessed with the idea that his metal powers don't work on Rom's living metal robot body (scintillating motivation, there, guys) and he came back in the Kurt Busiek crossover, Maximum Security, where Earth became a prison planet to contain all the evil aliens, which included alien guys we haven't seen in a while, like the Asparagus People Jean Grey wiped out as Dark Phoenix.




6. The early version of the X-Men lived in Tibet and mentally contacted a guy named "Tad Carter."

6 Bizarre Stan Lee Prototypes of Famous Marvel Characters

The first Marvel Comic Stan Lee wrote that had mutants in it, Amazing Adult Fantasy #14, didn't have the X-Men in it at all, but instead featured a dope with the dope name of "Tad Carter."

What is a mutant, by the Marvel Comics definition (not the proper scientific definition)? They have strange and unusual powers they are born with thanks to atomic bomb testing and that make them a next step in evolution, and they are feared and hated by normal humans, who try to kill mutants with panicky mob violence. 


6 Bizarre Stan Lee Prototypes of Famous Marvel Characters

All of the above traits were found in Amazing Adult Fantasy #14, featuring Tad Carter. It's actually incredible how much this is like X-Men. He demonstrates his mutant powers, and even though he wants to use them to help mankind, everyone is too fearful about him, and in the end, he is contacted by a greater community of mutants who invite him to join them. 

6 Bizarre Stan Lee Prototypes of Famous Marvel Characters

There's even secret mutant communities far away from humans, a leader who contacts you with mental projection, and a lecture about how "humans fear what they don't understand" using exactly. Those. Words!


6 Bizarre Stan Lee Prototypes of Famous Marvel Characters


The amazing thing about Tad is that, thanks to Spider-Man co-creator Ditko's art, he looks just like Peter Parker. Seriously, just based on the image, guess who this is.

6 Bizarre Stan Lee Prototypes of Famous Marvel Characters

(It's actually Tad Carter.)


Incredibly, Peter Parker's look was based on Tad Carter, not vice-versa, since Tad came first. Amazing Adult Fantasy, after the issue that Tad appeared in, would be renamed Amazing Fantasy, and would be the first appearance of Spider-Man. 

Was this character forgotten?

6 Bizarre Stan Lee Prototypes of Famous Marvel Characters  

Yes, for decades, until John Byrne tried to incorporate Tad Carter and the community of mutants he was called on with what we currently know about the X-Men. He brought Ted Carter back in a big way in his X-Men: the Hidden Years. The secret community of mutants he lived in was basically a creepy cult, which should be obvious from their matching jackets.