First Apperance: Tech Jacket #1 in 2002
Invincible was created by the prolific writer and creator Robert Kirkman and artist Cory Walker and was published by Image comics in January of 2003. But this was not his first appearance. There was actually a 6-page preview of Invincible in Tech Jacket #1 in 2002, and he actually makes an appearance on the cover of Noble Causes: Family Secrets #3 in 2002. Invincible has one of those convoluted first appearances. Sometimes you see it that his first appearance is in Tech Jacket, sometimes Savage Dragon issue #102 or Masters of the Universe #1, and then sometimes people say his first appearance is the cover cameo in Noble Causes #3. But Tech Jacket #1 predates all the other titles. Sometimes, for characters I really like, I really like owning the first appearances. Invincible was like that. See I thought I had his first appearance until I did some digging and realized it wasn’t Invincible #1 but in Tech Jacket. The good news is, most comic stores don’t know that it’s Invincible’s first appearance so you can still find it really cheap. I picked up Tech Jacket #1 for 3 bucks at my local. And the same goes for Savage Dragon #102, Masters of the Universe #1 and the variant cover of Noble Causes #3, I found them all at various stores and got them really cheap. I was on a bit of a roll and wanting to have them all. It was a fun hunting trip and I think I actually picked a few of them up at the NYCC last year.
Invincible is also a title I’ve collected from issue #1. I really liked Kirkman’s work in Battle Pope, Walking Dead and Super-Patriot and this just looked like a fun title.
I think one of the things about the character that drew me to him was that he was kind of like Peter Parker. An average kid who went to high school and had a fairly basic life until he manifested powers and decided to become a hero. Spiderman is one of my all-time favorites so maybe that’s what struck a chord with me. That was an extremely simple breakdown of Mark, but it’s the first thing we learn about Mark. A basic kid who then gains amazing powers.
So let’s actually get into Mark’s background and learn about all the twists and turns that have occurred in his life and in the title, because there are a lot of them. This book does not disappoint.
Invincible opens with Mark in his superhero guise Invincible soaring through the sky carrying a man with a bomb strapped to him. He hurls the man into the air as the bomb detonates. Flashy start. But we are then taken to the next page that reads, “Four Months Earlier” to find Mark sitting on the toilet reading a comic book. Like I said, this kid is us right. He goes downstairs, has some breakfast, goes to school and then to his job at a fast food place. In a really nice laid out page Mark is shown taking out the garbage, he opens the lid to the dumpster and tosses the very full bag into the dumpster, but instead of it just flopping in the dumpster the bag goes sailing into the air and out of site. Mark looks stunned, and then in the last panel says, “It’s about time”, which really throws you. So we knew he has powers from the first few pages, but now we learn he had been expecting it, waiting for it to happen. This is very indicative of how Kirkman handles everything in this book. You think you know, then you get a surprise, some are tiny, and as you will learn, some huge. The next few pages continue these fun little surprises. Mark and his mom are sitting down to eat dinner at the table when wooooosh, Mark’s dad appears at the table having just flown in and apologizes for being late. Seems he has powers. Mark then casually announces his powers kicked in and his mom says that’s nice, please pass the potatoes. And these are just the first five pages of the comic. I’d love to go page by page through the whole 155 issues, that’s how much I love this book, but we’ll need to start moving through Mark’s origin and cover the pivotal changes and growth in the character.
As the first few issues unfold we learn that Mark Grayson, son of Nolan and Deborah Grayson is not entirely human. Mark’s dad, Nolan is not of earth, he’s a member of the Viltrumite race who has come to earth to help mankind. Mark learned early in his life, at 7, that his dad was a peaceful alien there to help the planet earth and someday, Mark would also get powers.
Mark starts off his career as a crimefighter with just a few thugs and it’s then his dad shows up and tells him it’s time for a proper costume so Nolan takes him to the superhero tailor Arthur Rosebaum who ends up designing Mark his first, but not last suit. And again, I have to say, I love his costume, the eye shields, colors, the cut, it’s just a cool suit.
Mark is still a student at highschool, but he pursues a side career as a superhero and starts to meet other members of the superhero community in his town. The first group he teams up with are the Teen Team, a version of the Teen Titans that include: Robot, Dupli-Kate, Rex Splode and Atom Eve. These characters will continue throughout the series to some degree, some making it longer than others.
So this comic takes place in the Image superhero universe so throughout the book we sometimes meet characters like Savage Dragon and Super Patriot and it’s fun to see another comic universe bring their characters together. But the main superhero group in Invincible that can be compared to the Justice League is The Guardians of the Globe, I mean they even have a Fish guy called Aquarus that is obviously a standing for Aquaman. Really fun stuff. The Guardians of the Globe are lead by The Immortal, a superman like character who is, you may have guessed it, Immortal.
Again I need to be careful and not try to go blow by blow here, so let’s get to the next biggest event in Mark’s life both as a superhero and his civilian life. It starts with every member of the Guardians of the Globe being murdered. These are top level powered beings and someone ripped them to pieces and know one knows who did it or why. To fill the void Robot begins to try and rebuild the Guardians. We’ll get into Robot in a bit, he is really one of the coolest characters in the book. I think he’s actually my favorite second to Mark. Actually let’s talk about Robot. He appears in Invincible #2 and is believed to be a mechanical man, a super A.I that is there to help humanity. Now after the Guardians were killed Robot took over what was left of the team and started to rebuild. But he doesn’t do a very good job as the leader, he seems distracted and fragmented. It’s then we learn that Robot is not really a robot. He’s an extremely deformed human named Rudy Conners in a tanks that controls Robot. All the while he has been having a supervillain duo called the Marauders who are super strong genius twins find him the genetic material he needs to build a body for himself. See he may not be a robot, but his is crazy smart, genius level Tony Stark kind of smart. Rudy uses the genetic material and clones himself a body, that of a teenager, a teenage clone of Rex Splode actually. After transferring his mind into his new body he allows this deformed self to die. He then tells the team the truth and continues to fight crime, sometimes controlling Robot via an implant in his brain, sometimes actually wearing the Robot suit. Now a handsome young man Rudy turns his attention to a member of the team he has a crush on, Monster Girl. Monster Girl is about his age and can turn herself into a super powerful monster. She also ages backwards. Rudy says he will help her and stop this de-aging. Now that’s all I want to talk about as far as Robot goes till we get to the end because he has a huge impact on Mark’s life and pretty much everyone’s in the Image Universe.
So back to Mark and the absolute horror that his life is about to become. We learn that The Immortal wasn’t actually killed, surprise surprise, it’s not that easy to kill someone who is immortal. Mark actually sees his dad, on the TV, fighting The Immortal. Mark then witnesses his dad, Nolan, Omni-Man, rip The Immortal literally in half. But don’t worry, he’s not dead and will turn up later in the title. So this is obviously quite a surprise to Mark and he flies off to ask his dad what’s up. And this is when we get the huge reveal, In know, like Omni-Man killing all the Guardians and The Immortal wasn’t enough, nope, there’s unfortunately a lot more.I
Mark confronts his father asking what the heck he is doing. Nolan then finally tells Mark the truth about his people and his heritage. Like most lies, Nolan did sprinkle in the truth, Nolan is a Viltrumite and Mark is half-Viltrumite, but it pretty much stops there. The Viltrumite are not peaceful race bringing their technology and help to other words, they are brutal conquerors that take over worlds and if they are opposed, the inhabitants are killed, all of them if necessary. And Nolan’s actual job is to live among us, learn our ways, and then take over the planet when the Viltrumites tell him to. It could be tomorrow or in a hundred years. Mark cannot believe this but Nolan keeps piling it on. His dad tells him he feels nothing for Mark or his mother, that this is a job and it’s now time, since the Guardians discovered his secret, it’s time to step up the timetable and begin the subjugation of the earth. Mark attacks his father and they have an epic battle that spans half the book. It is horrible and bloody and very sad. Because at one point Mark doesn’t want to fight back he loves his dad and he is just reeling.
I’ve added several pages of this fight to the post on the episodes page for you to check out. And just when you think there really isn’t anymore that can Nolan could drop on Mark he explains to him that he shouldn’t begin to have feelings for these people, the people of earth. See Viltrumite’s are off the charts powerwise, more powerful than anyone knows really. For one thing their DNA are so powerful it pretty much over rights any DNA it encounters, so Mark is almost all Viltrumite. And this means that he will get crazy powerful and here’s the kicker, as Viltrumite’s age their aging process slows almost to a halt making them nearly immortal. So Nolan tells him he will watch everyone he knows, everyone he loves, die as he stops aging. As Nolan is telling this to Mark he is beating him to death. The last panel of the fight is very powerful. When Nolan tells Mark this, that he will have know one, and will be alone, Mark whispers…”I’ll have you Dad.” This stays Nolan’s fist as he is coming in for the final kill. He freezes and then flies off leaving Mark a broken heap. Mark is then in a coma for almost 2 weeks. When he recovers he is lost and is questioning his entire life. It’s then that a government liaison named Cecil Stedman contacts Mark telling him he knows his secret, knows he’s a hero and asks him to work for the government and fight invaders and all kinds of baddies that threaten the earth. After some convincing Mark accepts the deal and is given a pager and Cecil rings him when he needs help.
Mark then also works with the new Guardians of the Globe when they need him, he helps Cecil and has some pretty awesome adventures. One group of baddies that keep popping up throughout the book are the Flaxans. These are a neat looking alien race that arrive on earth through a portal. They seem pretty high tech, but their first attack is short lived and even before it really gets going they all start to age and die. But they return later in the series, this time Mark and the Guardians find that they are agin, but very slowly. Robot notices they are wearing a new bracelet, the destroy the bracelet and the Flaxans age and die almost instantly. This happens a few more times and then they aren’t seen for a while. But they do take center stage in a fantastic storyline later on in the story and have serious repercussions for the entire Image Universe.
I want to take a minute to talk about the creative tame behind Invincible. You have more than likely heard of the writer, Robert Kirkman, the creator of The Walking Dead, but the rest of the creative team is crazy talented and can bring all of Kirkman’s storylines to life. As I mentioned earlier Kirkman and Cory Walker created Invincible in 2002. Cory had a really unique art style, very angular and expressive. But he only drew issues 1-7 and decided he needed to take some time off, if I remember, to spend more time with family. I tried to find the interview that I read about that but couldn’t. The other member of the team was Bill Crabtree who provided the colors and they really fit the style of the book. They were bright and the pallett was just really unique. Now if you know how comics are created you might have noticed I left out the letterer. That’s the guy who adds all the words. Well, I did, the letterer was actually Kirkman. Back in the day he wasn’t the mogul he is now, so he did a lot of the heavy lifting himself. The next artist to take over Invincible was Ryan Ottley and his style really just made Invincible come to life. Ottley is still the artist working on Invincible as of me recording this show. More on that later. Now I was excited to see Ottley come on board because I was actually working with him on a webcomic he created with my friend Jim Keplinger. The webcomic was called Ted Noodleman: Bicycle Delivery Boy and it was a blast. I was the comics colorist. I don’t think I ever mentioned it, but I’m a freelance colorist and have worked on a bunch of titles as a fill in artist or as the titles colorist. Noodleman was just a really fun comic and I loved Ottley’s art. I’ve posted some Noodleman art on the site in the post for this show. And the really cool thing was Ryan asked me to color a pinup that would appear in issue 13 of Invincible. It was such a cool piece of art, not only did I get to color Invincible but Omni-Man was there too, and get this, they were fighting zombies. Awesome. You can see the pin up on the site on the episodes page.
The creative team for Invincible stays very stable for sometime with Kirkman, Ottley and John Rausch as the new colorist. Kirkman does give up lettering duties as his schedule I would guess became insane and Russ Wooton takes over. This team just gels. Every month I am continually amazed at Rausches colors. He took Ottley’s art to a new level. His pallet is just incredible and he’s really one of my favorite colorists. I can’t say enough, he’s incredible.
Now I realize this is one of my longest show partly because I just love this book, but I have to say so much stuff happens. All that stuff with his dad took place in issue 12! After that Mark has one adventure after another, he and Eve fall in love and in time his dad even returns a changed man. Nolan admits he loves Mark and his mother and is now a fugitive or the Viltrumite empire. They will in time team up with Allen and the coalition of planets to fight the Viltrumite in the Viltrumite War storyline that was just awesome. Mark and Nolan and the collation come to an uneasy compromise with the Viltrumite emperor where they get to stay on Earth but won’t try to take over. They really can’t at this point because during the war a bio weapon was used that decimated the empire. But they are a tough breed and continue to plan and calculate how to get to the top of the food chain again.
Now bookended between the first encounter with his dad and the war 100 plus issues played out and were just fun and exciting and never let me down. One of the things I really love about Invincible is that events truly build and their repercussions don’t just disappear in the next episode, or even the next 50. For example, the Flaxans. In one amazing story arc Robot and Monster Girl are pulled into their dimension and are trapped. But due to how time flows in their dimension Robot and Monster Girl are essentially immortal. Generations come and go while they remain the same age. This allows them to become the rulers of the planet and Robot, now calling himself Rex, rules the world in a logical and efficient way. Unfortunately he is also ruthless in his logic and the people rebel. He and Robot escape the Flaxans dimension but their relationship is virtually over after she learns how he was treating the Flaxans. It was a mess.
After Rex returns he seems different, more serious. He then tells Mark he knows where one of Mark’s most dangerous foes are and tells him he can take Mark to that dimension. Rex and Mark arrive there and almost instantly Rex kills Marks baddie and then goes on to explain he learned, while controlling the Flaxans that there must be order and order through logic but with a gentle touch. And he is the one who is going to provide that, that he will be taking over the planet and making it better for everyone. He couldn’t bring himself to kill Mark so he says he is abandoning him in the other dimension. Rex then promptly vanishes leaving Mark wondering how to get home. He does in the end and it takes some time, and while he’s gone….Rex does take over the planet. He eliminates some heroes but not many and he doesn’t want people to know he is in charge. That’s the thing, he isn’t strutting around, he is working to make the planet better. Know one on earth other than many of the heroes and some villains know that things have even changed other than the planet, society and people’s lives are getting better. Mark is stunned that people are going along with this, even his dad thinks Rex is doing a great job. Mark cannot abide this and he and Eve decide to leave the planet and live on another planet along with their baby daughter.
I’ve taken us almost up to the present, with Mark and Eve and their child living in on another planet and trying to find their place. Things are not perfect, the Viltrumites are still plotting to take over the universe having infiltrating worlds and mating with their inhabitants to increase the ranks, and its working. A new war is going to be waged and it’s not going to be good, but Mark will be smack in the middle of it.
Some sad news though, Kirkman has announced that Invincible will be ending with issue 144. This was a real bummer for me but I’m sure it’s going to be amazing. On a cool note, Cory Walker will be coming back for the 12 part finale, it’s already begun and it looks beautiful. There is a new colorist, his name is Nathan Fairbairn and he’s doing a really good job. His colors are very nice, he was the colorist for the last Swamp thing run and he’s doing a bang up job. His palette is very similar to John’s but they may have just wanted to keep a semblance of continuity. I do miss John’s colors though.
So check out Invincible, it’s a truly different type of superhero book and Mark is an amazing character. The array of heroes is only dwarfed by the amazing and imaginative villains. And these villains are powerful. They need to be to be a match for Mark. Because let’s face it…he’s Invincible.