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VOICE OVER: Rudolph Strong WRITTEN BY: Andrew Tejada
Avengers... 'tis time to assemble, as battle is afoot! Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we're looking at the comic book origins of the 1602 Avengers. We'll have a look at writers, reimagining historic figures, ties to "What If..." and more!
Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re looking at the comic book origins of the 1602 Avengers. Which Marvel hero would you like to see in the 17th century? Let us know in the comments below. Before “What…If?” put its own spin on this 17th century superhero team, the concept was dreamt up by the prolific writer Neil Gaiman. The creative became well known over the years for putting new spins on classic heroes like Batman. At the same time, fans knew Gaiman could craft completely original concepts and characters like “The Sandman”. That’s why Marvel trusted him to place some of their most iconic characters in a radically new and exciting setting. When combined with fantastic work from artists Andy Kubert, Scott McKowen, and Richard Isanove, we got “Marvel 1602”. Gaiman’s narrative opens up on a 17th century world that was on the verge of widespread disaster. For some unknown reason, unusual and destructive weather started cropping up everywhere. During this chaotic time, 17th century versions of Dr. Strange and Nick Fury speak with Elizabeth the First to try and find a solution. But they aren’t the only familiar faces around. After introducing the main threat, we see how harsh the world is to empowered people. As just one sickening example, we see an ancient version of Angel that was held captive and judged just for having wings. Right as he was about to be executed, a few of the X-Men arrive and set him loose. These early takes on mutants, known as witchbreed, reveal that they too have been rejected and scarred by society. Cyclops even shows that his chest was branded with the letter X. But despite the world’s hatred, this group of old mutants were able to survive together under the tutelage of Carlos Javier, AKA Professor X. Their rescue allows Angel to finally spread his wings for the first time in a very long while. As he aquaints himself with the team, we learn about two of the most important players in the story. Within the pages of real American history books, Virginia Dare was a young girl who was born into an English Colony whose residents mysteriously disappeared. “Marvel 1602” recasts her as a girl who can shapeshift and is constantly watched over by her loyal bodyguard Rojhaz. As she approached England’s shores, Dr. Strange was suddenly overwhelmed with visions about her. These sights pushed him to seek her out and help her hide from dark forces. Before Strange can ponder where the visions came from, the Queen is mysteriously assassinated. Although the evil Doom is responsible, mutants are blamed for the crime. The new king James the first soon decrees that all superpowered people are now enemies of the crown. As all the heroes try their best to avoid death, an impatient observer decides to break a big rule and interfere. In a major twist, Uatu the Watcher pulls Strange into an urgent conversation. The cosmic being tells the human that the storms are being indirectly caused by a time traveler. This person’s mere existence in 1602 was somehow causing reality to unravel. Apparently, the universe tried to balance itself by causing superheroes to appear on earth hundreds of years early. But introducing superpowered people wasn’t enough. Strange learns that if this person isn’t found, this Earth would collapse and set off a chain reaction that could destroy the entire multiverse. While the doctor wanted to warn others, he couldn’t speak about what he learned as long as he lived. Things seemed to go from bad to worse after Strange was captured and executed. Fortunately, death itself couldn’t stop the master of mystic arts. From beyond the grave, he’s able to speak the truth about everything he discovered and pushes his allies to find the time traveler. It’s originally assumed that the young Virginia was the one out of time. After all, she did mysteriously disappear in the original timeline. However, in another stunning twist, it’s revealed that Virginia’s bodyguard Rojhaz isn’t who he appeared to be. The mystery man reveals he was sent back into the past by a sinister villain. Before becoming known as Rojhaz in 1602, he was called Steve Rogers, AKA Captain America. This version of the hero lived in a twisted future where his superpowered friends were labeled as criminals. Eventually Cap himself was captured and forced back into 1602. After regaining his senses, Steve realized that he had an opportunity to shape all of American history. He vowed to remain in the past in the hopes that he could prevent numerous tragedies and build a better country. A past version of Nick Fury tries desperately to remind Steve that staying in the past will lead to the complete erasure of everyone’s future. But the Avenger refuses to leave 1602. As the clock ticks closer to destruction, Nick Fury betrays the hero. After knocking Captain America out in the past, the spy carries the Avenger through a portal and back to the future. Originally, this act would’ve caused everyone on Earth 1602 to disappear. But a sentimental Uatu is allowed to literally keep the world in his hands. Not only were the avengers of Earth 1602 saved, but they were given the chance to thrive in future stories. Over the years, several writers and artists returned to this unique world to continue the storylines that Gaiman originally weaved. And around 20 years after the comic was first introduced, the world got to shine onscreen in “What…If?” It’s unknown what the future might hold for this marvelous version of the past. But if Neil Gaiman had his way, we’d have seen these characters realized in an entirely new medium. Back in 2018, the creator had a conversation with Marvel’s television division about getting a live-action 1602 show off the ground. The talks…weren’t successful. But an interesting thing happened in the years since Gaiman reached out to Marvel. After Captain Carter appeared on “What…If?”, the character made her live-action debut in “Multiverse of Madness”. Her incredible appearance made us feel other animated “What If…?” characters could show up too. Additionally, there’s always the chance a Strange spell could pull a 1602 character into the main reality. While a full show based around the historic team is far from a guarantee, it’s now more likely than ever that one or more of these past heroes could pop up in a mainline story. But even if we don’t see old versions of characters cross over to the present, we can still recognize how unique the concept is. The 1602 world gave us an opportunity to see our favorite heroes in ways we could’ve never imagined. We were also pulled into a dark and engrossing tale that was full of twists and triumphs. Whether we made the journey on the page or onscreen, it was always a blast to take this marvelous trip to the past.