Not every character can be a household name. Even so, some of these characters still have a small but loyal fan base. Sometimes people are drawn to the concept behind the character, and sometimes they just like how they look. This week’s Secret Origin is a character that encompasses all of this. He has a great visual, he has an incredibly outlandish concept, and there are people who just love the guy. So turn down the lights, put on your two-toned glasses and enjoy… The Secret Origin of the 3-D Man!

This looks even cooler if you wear the glasses (Note: Not really)

Oh yeah, this is one of those origins where we are introduced to the character first and the origin comes later. I’d like to call 3-D Man a product of his time, but considering he’s based in the 50′s, yet created in the 70′s it’s more like a rose-colored view of the time. Of course this means the Red Scare. It’s a little known fact that all Marvel characters active in the 50′s had to fight Russians at least 2 a month or they’d have their hero license revoked. Anyway, 3-D man is mopping up some commie scum, fighting like a man possessed. They are backed by an old white-haired guy named Diabolik. The Giussani Sisters apparently licensed the name. The fight goes on, with various references thrown in to assure you that the story is indeed set in the 50′s. Eventually one of the communist gents exclaims the dual colored crusader is so hard to get because he fights like three men. 3-D Man assure him that’s because he is three men rolled into one. He doesn’t get to elaborate because he’s busy kicking pinko behind. Eventually the fight comes to an abrupt end. All the thugs are taken care of, and Diabolik remains. He has an ace up his sleeve, though. He knows the 3-D Man’s secret identity! That isn’t the only surprise he has, though.

"I am really... Bea Arthur!"

This turn of events triggers 3-D Man’s flashback sense and finally we get down to the nitty-gritty of the origin proper. We see our Mr. Chandler as the college football star, and we’re also introduced to his younger brother Hal. Hal is crippled due to being born before the Polio vaccine was released. And since this is comics so crippling injury + the name Hal = superhero. Trust me on this. Chuck Chandler goes on to be a top pilot in the Air Force and is set to test the top-secret plane, the XF-13. The night before the launch of this new Cold War marvel, Hal, Chuck and Chuck’s girlfriend are having a night on the town. Things are going well until Hal and Peggy leave Chuck on his own for a bit. Of course this is when those dirty commies try to kidnap Chuck, knowing he knows the XF-13′s secrets. They may have gotten away with it to, if not for the timely intervention of Hal, returning from his walk…

Crutches, as a walking aid or an impromptu weapon, is always a faithful (inanimate) companion

Hal’s timely help turns the tide of the battle. After Chuck beats up the commies, the duo meet up with Peggy, and they all decide to go to the airbase to inform Chuck’s superiors. It’s decided that they’ll all stay at the base until Chuck tests the plane in the morning. Peggy agrees to take Hal to a spot in the desert so he can see his bro do his thing. Just then, Chuck arrives in his fancy zoot suit.

Pose courtesy of Jack Kirby.

At first the flight goes on without a hitch, breaking speed records (it goes over, get this, 400 MPH!), doing loop-de-loops and all of that fun stuff. Everyone’s ready to call it a day, but all of a sudden, Chuck flies past an honest to goodness flying saucer! He is quickly abducted, and he finds out his captives aren’t just any aliens, he’s become the “guest” of the Skrulls! Chuck seems at their mercy, what with their superior tech and all, but they turn their backs for a second and Chuck makes short work of them. Not only does he gives a bunch of Skrull skulls a few more wrinkles, but he manages to blow the saucer up entirely. Luckily, he’s able to escape on the XF-13. It looks likes he’s getting away unscathed, but alas, that isn’t the case. The experimental plane is engulfed with a weird alien energy. The craft crashes coincidentally where Hal has been watching the fracas.  Chuck is able to escape the burning wreckage, but something strange is going on.

If I lived in the Marvel Universe, I'd deliberately try to get in situations like this.

With that, Chuck disappears, or does he? The feedback from Chuck’s glowing knocks Hal’s glasses off. After he recovers them, he makes a startling discovery… in each lens of his classes is a different colored impression of Chuck! Noting the facts that this is extremely reminiscent of 3-D glasses and that no one would believe him, Hal heads home, avoiding the subject of (believed dead) Chuck. It isn’t until he is alone that a startling discovery is well, discovered!

If you can't get behind how awesomely absurd this is, comics may not be for you.

The newly formed 3-D Man quickly discovers his tri-fold strength, speed and garishness, bringing about the beginning of a storied superhero career, but the end of the flashback. Back in the commie lair, Diabolik has revealed his true form! His grisly visage revealed, it’s only apt that Diabolik the Skrull also reveals his plan, and boy is it a doozy:

With an outfit like that, I don't think anyone's going to accuse you of that, my friend.

Chuck is not having any of that noise, so he attempts to kick some more alien butt, but once he throws Diabolik out of a window, the Skrull changes shape and loses himself in a crowd. nevertheless, 3-D Man now has a purpose, to fight the forces of conformity and alien ugliness! But until then, he splits back into 2 static images in Hal’s glasses, causing Hal to awaken and ponder…

I'd still say you got the short end of the stick on that deal, Hal.

And there you have it. While the concept is pretty out there, there is still fun to be had with it. I’ll be honest and say I haven’t read too many stories with 3-D Man, but his legacy lives on in the form of new heroes like Triathlon and in the pages of books like Atlas. Excelsior!

This story originally appeared in Marvel Premiere #35 April, 1977.