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Comic Book / Marvel: The Lost Generation

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Marvel: The Lost Generation is a Marvel Comics limited series created by Roger Stern and John Byrne. The series tells the tale of superheroes active after World War II but before the debut of the Fantastic Four, and principally of a team called the First Line.

The book was created to fill the ever-widening gap between the Golden and Silver Ages in Marvel Comics continuity. The limited series is written so that the earlier events are set solidly in The '40s, The '50s, and The '60s, but the dating of later events is deliberately left vague, to accomodate the fact that the Fantastic Four's space journey that officially marks the start of the Silver Age keeps getting set later and later. Almost all the members of the First Line died just before the FF's flight (this is not a spoiler; we learn it in their first issue).

Most members are original creations, but the roster includes a few previously established characters who would have been active at that time, like Makkari of the Eternals, Yeti of the Inhumans, an obscure Golden Age character named the Eternal Brain, and (it's at least implied) Frankenstein's Monster. Other prominent guest stars include Doctor Strange, Thor, Namor, Nick Fury, Venus, and the Watcher. Thanks to the time travel subplot, the Fantastic Four get a cameo; although a young, pre-FF Reed does get to actually interact with the plot.

Marvel: The Lost Generation provides examples of:

  • Adaptational Jerkass: Justified, because of the time period. When Thor shows up in one issue, it's decades before Odin forcibly taught him humility by turning him into Don Blake. So, he's an arrogant jerk.
  • Advertised Extra: Marvel Comics usually puts major characters on the corner box of their comic covers. Every issue in the series since the first (which had the words "EXPLOSIVE FIRST ISSUE!" instead) featured Mako the Atlantean, whose prominence was limited to a few pages of the first issue, as well as a cameo in the tenth issue as a fetus in a jar. A more fitting character would have been Effigy, or the Black Fox, or even Dr. Cassandra Locke.
  • Alien Invasion: The team sacrifices itself to save the world from a Skrull Invasion.
  • Alien Non-Interference Clause: The Watcher, as usual. When Cassandra witnesses the First Line's Heroic Sacrifice, she implores Uatu to do something, but he says he's sworn never to interefere. She realizes that since she's traveled back to before he first broke his oath to protect Earth from Galactus, there's no chance of persuading him.
  • Alternate Company Equivalent: Nightingale seems to have been based on Raven's status as a Dark Is Not Evil empathic healer. And she's named after a bird, too.
    • The Black Fox seems to be based on Batman.
  • Ambiguous Situation: Was "Frank" actually the Frankenstein monster? It isn't clear.
  • Anachronic Order: Every issue goes further into the past, with the framing device of future historian Cassandra Locke traveling further and further back in time.
  • Back for the Dead: Apparently, Professor Carmody the Eternal Brain somehow survived the team's last battle, because he shows up in Marvel Zombies Destroy... just to get killed for real this time.
  • Beast and Beauty: While there's no indication that there was anything romantic in it, the beautiful Eternal Pixie was Yeti's best friend in the First Line, and she could consistently calm him down when he was on the verge of losing his self-control.
  • Becoming the Mask: Effigy (real name Velmax) is a Skrull agent who got stranded on Earth, had to blend in, and eventually realized he liked it here and wanted to help protect the place, becoming a shape-shifting superhero. He kept the fact that he was an alien secret, however.
  • Brain in a Jar: The Eternal Brain was introduced as this in a 1940s story that was set in the distant future world of... the 1980s! Naturally, this series has him show up... in the 1980s!
  • Captain Patriotic: Yankee Clipper fits the archetype with his name and red, white, and blue costume. He was inspired after he was appalled to learn that the 1950s Captain America and Bucky had become mentally unstable from their powers and were put into suspended animation.
  • Cast From Life Span: Healing others takes a toll on Nightingale. It eventually kills her.
  • The Cassandra: Time traveler Cassandra Locke learns early on that almost the entire First Line will die saving the Earth from a Skrull invasion, with the public completely unaware of their Heroic Sacrifice. There's apparently not much she can do to help them, either.
  • The Cowl: Black-clad Badass Normal the Black Fox fits the archetype very well.
  • Demoted to Extra: The surviving members of the team haven't gotten much exposure since the end of the series. Yeti and Pixie get an occasional cameo in stories featuring the Inhumans or the Eternals (Makkari shows up more often, but his tenure on the team as "Major Mercury" was apparently brief). Yankee Clipper seems to have simply retired.
  • Ensemble Cast: And a very large one, at that.
  • The Gadfly: The young superheroine Gadfly is this to the older and more stoic Black Fox.
  • Genki Girl: Pixie is perpetually sweet and perky.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Most of the team sacrifices itself to save the world from a Skrull Invasion. Sadly, the general public will not learn of their Heroic Sacrifice until Cassandra Locke's era, in the future. The Fantastic Four does learn of it from Cassandra, and they're stunned to finally learn the answer to the mystery of whatever happened to the First Line, but the Timey-Wimey Ball erases their memory of it shortly thereafter, so the secret is lost again.
  • Hippie Name: Captain Hip and his wife Sunshine are a pair of Hippie superheroes in The '60s. A decade earlier, he called himself the Hipster and was a Beatnik superhero.
  • Meaningful Name: A time traveler who is unable to change a terrible future is named Cassandra Locke.
    • Being a healer and a woman, Nightingale's name is presumably a reference to Florence Nightingale.
  • My Suit Is Also Super: Yankee Clipper inherits Cassandra's time traveling belt, though he only figures out how to use it to boost his strength, becoming a superhero in the process. When its time mechanism finally does activate, he's accidentally knocked decades into the future, skipping over the deaths of his teammates and stranding him in the present day of the Marvel Universe.
  • Older Than They Look: Contrary to standard Comic-Book Time, this series establishes that Doctor Strange's origin story really did happen in the Sixties when it was first published, if not perhaps even earlier. As the Sorcerer Supreme, he doesn't age.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Probably the closest thing the team has to a single archenemy is the vampire supervillain Nocturne — who, from a storytelling standpoint, of course has the advantage that he doesn't age and can remain a threat through all the decades the story covers. Notably, his final destruction isn't by any of the standard vampire weaknesses — he gets blown up — which could potentially be a backdoor for bringing him back, if a writer had a mind to.
  • Retcon: The series adds a whole new team of heroes who where supposedly active after WWII.
  • Riddle for the Ages: What ever happened to the First Line? The general public won't learn of their sacrifice until some time in the future of the Marvel Universe.
  • Super Team: The First Line, a collection of superheroes who stopped a Skrull invasion.
  • Taken for Granite: Pixie uses 'Pixie dust' that would petrify her foes.
  • Unusual Chapter Numbers: The series starts with issue 12, then starts counting down, with each subsequent issue set earlier than the previous one.
  • Voice of the Legion: Nightingale's voice sounds like this. It's heavily implied that she's actually a bunch of people somehow merged into one, but we never learn her backstory.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: Everyone knows the superhero Effigy is a shapeshifter. What they don't know is that he's a Skrull. A nice one, though.
  • Yellow Peril: Jimmy Woo's original arch-enemy the Yellow Claw appears prominently in one issue as a supervillain of the post-World War II world.