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The Untold Truth Of Invincible

Comic book fans and casual television watchers alike have become used to seeing characters from Marvel and DC appear on the small screen. But more and more superhero shows based on comics from publishers beyond the "Big Two" are being made. The last few years have seen the release of shows like The Umbrella Academy and The Boysboth of which feature superpowers, world-saving, and costumes, but neither of which spring from comics featuring Spider-Man or Wonder Woman. Instead, their origins are in comics published by Dark Horse Comics and Dynamite Entertainment — and those are only two of the many publishers who have developed their own independent superheroes over the years.

One of the most exciting examples of this new breed of independent superhero show is Invincible, based on the acclaimed comic series published by Image Comics. Created by writer Robert Kirkman (The Walking Dead) and artist Cory Walker (Destroyer MAX), the titular character emerged first in a single panel of Noble Causes: Family Secrets #3 in November 2002. His own series debuted in January 2003. For 15 years and 144 issues, Invincible's unique and exciting take on superheroes thrilled readers with its bright colors, gory violence, and genuine heart. We're here to explore its super-powered depths, from the alien origins that power its titular hero to the tailor who fixes his suit.

Mark Grayson, AKA Invincible

Invincible starts with a young man named Mark Grayson. When Mark was seven, his alien father Nolan told him that he would one day develop superpowers. From that moment on, Mark eagerly awaits the day he'll finally gain his powers. The moment arrives when, while working his dead-end job at Burger Mart, a 17-year-old Mark throws a trash bag high in the air — far higher than any normal human could manage. Mark watches the bag soar upwards, grins, and mutters, "It's about time."

Other powers, including flight, speed, and invulnerability, are quick to manifest soon after. Mark comes up with his superhero name when he is sent to the principal's office for defending a classmate who was being bullied. There, he receives a life-changing (but not in the way the principal might approve of) bit of advice: "You're not invincible, you know." After that momentous meeting, Mark Grayson becomes known as the superhero Invincible. But though he's able to fly, he's still a high-schooler, and must learn to balance his superhero antics with his everyday life.

A father, a superhero, and an alien conqueror

Lineage is a major theme in Invincible, as the titular superhero is the son of Omni-Man, one of Earth's most powerful superheroes — or so Mark thinks. Nolan Grayson, AKA Omni-Man, came to Earth in the '80s and fell in love with Deborah, a human woman he saved from peril. They went on to marry and welcome their son, Mark, into the world. When he's not working publicly as a bestselling novelist, Nolan fights crime in his signature blue and red suit.

When Mark was seven, Nolan told him that he's actually from the peaceful planet of Viltrum, and was sent to Earth to protect the planet and give it advanced technology. Eventually, however, Mark learns the horrible truth about his father: Viltrum is actually a planet of conquerors, and Mark was sent to make the Earth part of the Viltrum Empire. When Mark refuses to help his father take over Earth, the two engage in an explosive fight that results in massive collateral damage. Nolan nearly beats Mark to death, but stops at the last minute, halted by his love for his son. Nolan then flies off into the deep depths of space. In time, he sets himself on a path to redemption, and becomes the new emperor of Viltrum.

The Guardians of the Globe

Marvel has the Avengers, DC has the Justice League, and the Invincible universe has the Guardians of the Globe.

The original Guardians of the Globe lineup is actually an outright parody of the Justice League: Darkwing is based on Batman, the Immortal is based on Superman, War Woman is based on Wonder Woman, Red Rush is based on the Flash, Aquarius is based on Aquaman, Martian Man is based on Martian Manhunter, and the Green Ghost is based on Green Lantern. The only original member who is not analogous to the Justice League is Black Samson, but he's kicked off the team after he loses his powers. In Invincible #7, Omni-Man, who was never officially a member of the team but still a trusted associate, assembles the Guardians for an emergency meeting at their secret base in Utah. Little do they know, Omni-Man has gathered the team so that he can kill them all. Thus ends the original incarnation of the Guardians of the Globe.

The US government eventually reestablishes the Guardians of the Globe as a state-funded agency, and places the hero known as Robot as its leader. Unfortunately, he is replaced with a newly resurrected Immortal after the team performs below expectations in its first few months.

Doctor Manhattan in pink

The heroine known as Atom Eve is an important part of Invincible's history. She makes her first full appearance in Invincible #2, but her origin is not expanded upon until Invincible #25. Eve was created by the government to be used as a weapon, but after she was born, she was switched with the stillborn baby of Betsy and Adam Wilkins. The Wilkins, utterly ignorant of this switcheroo, named their apparently normal daughter Samantha Eve Wilkins. 

After turning her meal of chicken into a cheeseburger, Samantha discovers her enormously impressive superpower: She can manipulate anything at a molecular level. She goes on to join a teenage superhero group called the Teen Team, but leaves after she learns her boyfriend and teammate Rex-Splode is cheating on her with fellow teammate Dupli-Kate. Eve retires from superhero work in Invincible #20 so that she can accomplish aid work in Africa. She returns to superheroics in Invincible #39, however, when she and Invincible are called upon to fight parasitic aliens called Sequids.

Mark first meets Eve as part of the Teen Team. The two realize that they went to the same high school and become close friends. After Eve breaks up with Rex, she starts to have feelings for Mark, but the two characters do not become romantically involved until Invincible #50.

Kid brothers with superpowers

Mark has a half-brother who later becomes a superhero in his own right. After Nolan leaves Earth, he tries to take over another planet in an attempt to please the Viltrum Empire. He easily takes over the planet Thraxa, as the average Thraxan lifespan is nine months — an eyeblink compared to the thousands of years Nolan might live. When Mark arrives on Thraxa in Invincible #26, Nolan tells him that he found a new mate, Andressa, and has fathered a child with her. This child has purple skin akin to other Thraxans, but his Viltrum genes decrease his fast aging somewhat: He has the appearance of a two-year-old human when he is two months old. 

A month after Viltrumites capture Nolan, Andressa tells Mark to take his brother back to Earth, because she is reaching the end of her lifespan. Upon returning to Earth, Mark asks his mother to raise his brother, and she reluctantly accepts. Although Nolan explains that Thraxan custom is for individuals to choose their own names once they reach adulthood, Debbie names this child Oliver, after her father.

Oliver goes on to become the superhero Kid Omni-Man, as well as an agent of the Coalition of Planets. His skin tone also begins to resemble Mark's as he grows older.

When Invincible met Batman

Even though Invincible encounters other superheroes in his world such as Bulletproof and Monster Girl, he has also met characters from other superhero universes.

In Invincible #33, the portal-opening supervillain Angstrom Levy sends Mark through several dimensions in an attempt to wear him out. One of the dimensions that Mark is sent to is the Marvel universe. In the comic Marvel Team-Up #14, Mark joins forces with Spider-Man, meets the New Avengers, and helps Spidey defeat Doc Ock before he returns to his own dimension. Angstrom also sends Mark to the Walking Dead universe and the DC universe. Mark even tells Batman that he has a lazy name.

Invincible fights alongside other Image Comics heroes in Invincible #60, which chronicles the Invincible War. This issue reveals that Angstrom survived his fight with Mark and traveled to another dimension, where his near-fatal wounds were treated. Angstrom subsequently summons 16 evil versions of Invincible from other dimensions to wreak havoc on Mark's reality. To fight back, Mark teams up with Image heroes including Spawn, Savage Dragon, Witchblade, Darkness, Firebreather, and Pitt.

The superhero's tailor

Interestingly enough, not all heroes in the Invincible universe make their own costumes. When they need the best in bespoke costumes, they go to Art Rosenbaum.

Art is first introduced in Invincible #1. Nolan sees Mark stop a bank robbery while wearing a bandana and goggles to cover his identity. This is way too slapdash to look cool, so Nolan takes his son to see a friend. This friend is none other than Arthur "Art" Rosenbaum, who works as a tailor of regular clothes to the public, while secretly using his physics and engineering skills to make costumes for the superhero community. Other superheroes he has made costumes for include Rex-Splode, Kid Omni-Man, and Wolf-Man. He even made a power suit for Black Samson after he lost his powers. Art is an all-around great guy who comforts Debbie after Nolan reveals his true colors and never misses a chance to offer crime-fighting newbies valuable advice. Basically, he's Edna from The Incredibles, except older, taller, and significantly more willing to make small talk.

Invincible in motion

The first adaptation of Invincible was actually a motion comic. A motion comic combines elements of comic books and animation in a variety of different ways — individual panels exist in sequential order, but contain animation and sound effects.

The 13-part Invincible motion comic first premiered on MTV2 in 2008. Unfortunately, not everyone was a fan. As one reviewer put it, "While the story and art deserve all the critical praise that the Invincible comic has received over the years, Invincible the Series' biggest stumbling block is its editing ... [the show is] wildly kinetic with lots of flashing graphics and texts. Never lets the eye settle for a minute. This is fine for a 15-second ad, but watching a full show like that is taxing."

Although this motion comic is difficult to track down, a clip is still available on The New York Times' website for you to judge for yourself.

Live-action dreams

A live-action feature film adaptation of Invincible has been a much-discussed possibility for years. First announced in April 2017, the Invincible movie is set to be written, directed, and produced by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. These two are no stranger to mature comic book properties, as they have also produced the television adaptations of Preacher and The Boys. Rogen and Goldberg immediately made it clear how much an Invincible movie means to them: "No matter how much damage it causes our bodies, minds, and our most intimate relationships with those we love," they announced, "we will not rest until Invincible is as great a movie as it deserves to be."

Years have passed since this announcement, and aside from an interview with Mashable from February 2018, which covers how Rogen and Goldberg plan to adapt the comic series, few developments have been announced. But, of course, good things come to those who wait.

Soaring into animation

Much to the delight of fans everywhere, Amazon announced in June of 2018 that they are developing an animated Invincible series.

The first season consists of eight hour-long episodes. Original series creators Robert Kirkman and Cory Walker act as producer and lead character designer respectively, Simon Racioppa serves as showrunner, and Justin and Chris Copeland (Avengers Assemble, Ultimate Spider-Man) are the show's supervising directors. A first look at the show was unveiled as part of a Free Comic Book Day re-release of Invincible #1, giving fans a glimpse of what their favorite characters will look like on the small screen. The show features an all-star cast including Steven Yeun as Invincible, J.K. Simmons as Omni-Man, and Gillian Jacobs as Atom-Eve. And that's not even getting into its supporting cast, which boasts Sandra Oh, Mark Hamill, Zazie Beetz, Zachary Quinto, and Mahershala Ali.

A teaser trailer for the show was released on October 8, 2020. Adaptation is a tricky road, but Amazon's Invincible seems to feature the same excitement, action, and emotion as its source material.