The CatThe 1970s were a fecund period for Marvel and women, as the company reached out to distaff readers in numerous ways. The most explicitly feminist of those new characters was Greer Grant, aka the Cat. Created by writer Linda Fite and artist Marie Severin, the Cat was empowered by the super-science of Dr. Tumolo, a physicist devoted to the cause of female superiority, with enhanced strength and agility and used it to fight crime in her masked identity. Tumolo’s research was actually bankrupted by a corrupt industrialist with a fetish for buff ladies, and Greer had to wrestle with her own feminism multiple times over the years, even after taking on the identity of Tigra and being mutated into a cat-woman hybrid.Wanna learn about awesome comic bromances? Head over to our post here. True comic book fans know that the industry has always been progressive, pushing concepts and ideas that are too risky for other media forward into the public eye. And it shows in the fact that the ideas of Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster now power multimedia franchises that bring in hundreds of millions of dollars across the world. Obviously, not every comic book series finds that level of success, but it’s a great incubator for ideas.Comics writers and artists often are tapped into the zeitgeist, trying to surf the trends of mass culture as they happen, and the relatively short turnaround time of a single issue enables them to do so better than many other forms of media. That means that sometimes they tackle ideas before the rest of the world does. In this feature, we’ll spotlight ten heroes and villains that were introduced before the world was ready for them.Black PantherJack Kirby was the unstoppable “idea man” of the Marvel universe, a fountain of concepts that are still potent today. When he introduced King T’Challa, the Black Panther, in the pages of Fantastic Four #52, he unleashed the first African superhero in mainstream comics and changed the game completely. Kirby loved to twist stereotypes to make something entirely new, and the fictional country of Wakanda that his hero hailed from wasn’t a primitive jungle but a technological utopia hidden from the Western world. The Panther appeared sporadically in Marvel books for a while, joining up with the Avengers for a cup of coffee, but it wasn’t until the seminal 1998 Christopher Priest run that the character cemented himself as a major player in the Marvel universe. James Gunn Once Again Directing ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’Dark Phoenix Trailer Released & More Marvel Movie News Lord FannyGrant Morrison is one of the most progressive writers in modern comics, jumping from the Vertigo imprint to helm some of DC and Marvel’s biggest franchises. But in 1994, he introduced a character into his creator-owned series The Invisibles that was way ahead of her time. Lord Fanny was born Hilde Morales in Brazil and inducted into the matriarchal lineage of witches, despite being born biologically male. Nowadays transgender awareness is a big cultural issue, but in the mid-90s trans characters were used as punchlines for crappy comedies like the Ace Ventura movies. Fanny was responsible for some of the team’s most important victories, even if she didn’t find herself a happy ending. NorthstarLGBTQ representation in superhero comics is sort of a given at this point – all of the major companies have characters of all sexual persuasions. Hell, even Jughead is canonically asexual now. But back in the 1990s, the very idea of a superhero who loved men was a shocker. So when writer Scott Lobdell revealed that Alpha Flight speedster Northstar was gay in 1992, it made national news. Previously portrayed as aloof and surly, the Canadian character coming to terms with his sexuality was handled clumsily – this was the 90s, after all, so there was a lot of screaming and flexing – but it was something. Gay representation in media was still virtually nonexistent at that point, so seeing a character come out so boldly was a big deal and paved the way for many more. Stay on target FantomahAt the beginning of the comics industry, things were pretty much a boy’s club. Most normies consider William Moulton Marston’s Wonder Woman to be the first female superhero, but a full year before her 1941 debut, iconoclastic writer-artist Fletcher Hanks debuted the skull-faced protector Fantomah in the pages of Jungle Comics. Widely considered the first female superhero ever, Fantomah possessed mystical powers and a sick sense of humor, exacting vengeance against poachers and other scumbags over the course of the next four years. Hanks’ bizarre, personal take on the genre was rediscovered in the mid-2000s and has been republished in several collections. Fantomah has passed into the public domain and has made appearances in a number of other comics. Captain MarvelOK, you know how the anti-SJW brigade has been all up in arms about Marvel replacing many of their legacy heroes recently, with Jane Foster taking the mantle of Thor, Riri Williams getting an Iron Man suit, et cetera? If they were real fans, they’d know that’s nothing new. The original Captain Marvel was a white cis male, but in 1982 writer Roger Stern and artist John Romita introduced a new holder of the mantle – a Black woman named Monica Rambeau. This was a solid 30 years before Marvel’s much-heralded “diversity push” and Monica has spent time since in Nextwave as well as leading the Avengers. Squirrel GirlIt’s a testament to Marvel’s success that a character created as a ridiculous joke in 1991 can become a breakthrough star. Writer Will Murray and legendary artist Steve Ditko introduced Doreen Green, aka Squirrel Girl, in the pages of Marvel Super-Heroes Winter Special. She barely appeared after that before being reintroduced in 2005 as a member of the Great Lakes Avengers. In 2015, she got her own series for the first time, and defying the odds The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl became a hit with the middle school audience, being collected in hardcover and inspiring original YA novels and more. Milana Vayntrub is slated to play her in the upcoming New Warriors TV series on Freeform. American FlaggIn 1983, at the height of the Reagan years, nobody could have predicted that Donald Trump would rule America in a technology-saturated world of hyperviolence and corporate control. Nobody but Howard Chaykin, who released the first issue of American Flagg that year. Sure, he missed the Trump thing, but the rest of the series was remarkably prescient – protagonist Reuben Flagg is a former TV star who takes a job as a glorified security guard in the Chicago “Plexmall,” a massive corporate omnistructure that looks a lot like today’s rapidly consolidating retail marketplace. Even weirder, the second run of the series sees Flagg relocate… to Russia. Devil DinosaurKirby’s work for both Marvel and DC in the 1970s was widely regarded as the nadir of his career, as neither company trusted him to run with the ball and so shunted him off to bizarre B-list ideas. But one of his most absurd creations of that decade is now a player in one of Marvel’s most critically acclaimed books. As invented, Devil Dinosaur was a big red T. rex that palled around with a hairy blue hominid named Moon Boy. Their series lasted a paltry nine issues, and when the lizard popped up in other books, he was mainly treated as a joke. That all changed with 2015’s Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, which brought Devil to the present day to back up Lunella Lafayette, a super-intelligent nine-year-old. It took nearly 40 years for the big guy to find his niche, but we’re glad he did. Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey. Ambush BugWhen Rob Liefeld introduced Deadpool in the pages of New Mutants #98 he was just another grim & gritty killer with little tiny feet, an obvious knock-off of DC’s popular Deathstroke. But under the tutelage of writer Joe Kelly in the late 1990s, he became the Merc with a Mouth we know and love today – a wisecracking, fourth-wall breaking antihero. Longtime comcis fans, though, remember a very similar villain turned protagonist from the Distinguished Competition who was more than a little similar. Ambush Bug was created as a Superman foe in 1982 but quickly developed his own bizarre gimmick of teleporting through the universe making mischief and talking directly to the reader some 15 years before Deadpool did it.