Marvel Feature was a comic book showcase series published by Marvel Comics in the 1970s. It was a tryout book, intended to test the popularity of characters and concepts being considered for their own series. The first volume led to the launch of The Defenders and Marvel Two-in-One, while volume two led to an ongoing Red Sonja series.
Marvel Feature #1 (December 1971)
Cover art by Neal Adams.
|Schedule||(vol. 1) Bimonthly|
(vol. 2) Bimonthly
|Publication date||(vol. 1) December 1971–November 1973|
(vol. 2) November 1975–November 1976
|No. of issues||(vol. 1) 12|
(vol. 2) 7
|Main character(s)||(vol. 1) The Defenders, Ant-Man, and The Thing|
(vol. 2) Red Sonja
Marvel Feature was one of three tryout books proposed by Stan Lee after he transitioned from being Marvel Comics' writer and editor to its president and publisher, the others being Marvel Spotlight and Marvel Premiere. The advantage of such tryout books was that they allowed the publisher to assess a feature's popularity without the marketing investment required to launch a new series, and without the blow to the publisher's image with readers if the new series immediately failed.
The first series was published for twelve issues from December 1971 until November 1973. The lead story in Marvel Feature #1, by writer Roy Thomas and artist Ross Andru, featured the first team-up of the Hulk, Doctor Strange, and the Sub-Mariner as the Defenders. The first two issues of Marvel Feature were in the 52-page format, with the remaining pages filled out by a new Doctor Strange solo tale and a Sub-Mariner reprint. The Defenders continued as the stars of Marvel Feature for two more issues and then received their own self-titled series in August 1972.
Ant-Man was the lead of Marvel Feature for issues #4–10, paired with his un-billed female companion, the Wasp, starting with issue #6. Doing an Ant-Man feature was editor Roy Thomas's idea, but he found he did not have the time to write it himself and so turned it over to writer Mike Friedrich and artist Herb Trimpe. The series featured the only comics work of Trimpe's brother, Mike, who inked issue #6 over Herb's pencils. Herb Trimpe explained that Mike was a graphic designer at the time and took on the inking job when his regular work slowed down. Issues #7–10 each featured three separate Ant-Man stories and included art by P. Craig Russell. The final issue also reprinted non-Pym stories from the Tales to Astonish series, all written by Stan Lee.
Marvel Feature #11 featured a battle between the Thing and the Hulk. Issue #12 teamed the Thing and Iron Man and featured an early Thanos appearance. Both issues were penciled by Jim Starlin. As with The Defenders before it, the concept of teaming the Thing with a different character each issue proved popular enough during its Marvel Feature tryout to justify a regular series, titled Marvel Two-in-One.
The series was cancelled as of issue #12. Though it had been successful in its intended role as a popularity gauge (both of the series spun off of Marvel Feature had long runs with generally strong sales), like most tryout series, it could not sustain a readership of its own.
The second series featured Red Sonja, a supporting character from the ancient fantasy world of Conan the Barbarian. It was published for seven issues from November 1975 until November 1976. Roy Thomas wrote issues #1, #6, and #7, while Bruce Jones scripted the other issues. Except for issue #1, drawn by Dick Giordano, the art for the series was by the creator most associated with Red Sonja, Frank Thorne. The character then received her own self-titled series in January 1977.
- Marvel Masterworks: The Defenders Vol. 1 includes Marvel Feature #1–3, 256 pages, July 2008, ISBN 978-0785130444
- Marvel Masterworks: Doctor Strange Vol. 4 includes Doctor Strange story from Marvel Feature #1, 272 pages, January 2010, ISBN 978-0785134954
- Essential Defenders Volume 1 includes Marvel Feature #1–3, 544 pages, May 2005, ISBN 978-0785115472
- Mighty Marvel Team-Up Thrillers includes Marvel Feature #11, 166 pages, 1983, ISBN 978-0939766604
- Essential Marvel Two-in-One Vol. 1 includes Marvel Feature #11–12, 576 pages, November 2005, ISBN 978-0785117292
- The Superhero Women: Featuring the Fabulous Females of Marvel Comics includes Marvel Feature vol. 2 #4, 254 pages, November 1977, Simon & Schuster, ISBN 978-0671229283
- Cassell, Dewey (April 2014). "Marvel Feature". Back Issue!. Raleigh, North Carolina: TwoMorrows Publishing (71): 14–18.
- Marvel Feature at the Grand Comics Database
- Sanderson, Peter; Gilbert, Laura, ed. (2008). "1970s". Marvel Chronicle A Year by Year History. London, United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley. p. 151. ISBN 978-0756641238.
[Roy] Thomas and artist Ross Andru reunited [Doctor] Strange, the Hulk, and Namor as a brand new Marvel superhero team - the Defenders."CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
- Marvel Feature vol. 2 at the Grand Comics Database
- "Frank Thorne". Lambiek Comiclopedia. 2017. Archived from the original on March 4, 2017.
Thorne's breakthrough came in 1975, when he was asked to draw 'Red Sonja' for Marvel.