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Looking at artist David Marquez‘s teaser art for Marvel’s “All-New All-Different Marvel” relaunch, one question might be on a lot of people’s minds: Who is that guy on the far right that looks a bit like Tarzan crossed with Turok? Ladies and gentlemen, meet the somewhat obscure Red Wolf.
Red Wolf’s first appearance came in 1970’s Avengers No. 80, helpfully titled “The Coming of Red Wolf!” For all writer Roy Thomas and artist John Buscema‘s clear intent to diversify the predominantly white Marvel Universe of the time with the introduction of William Talltrees, a Cheyenne tribal leader out for revenge on the man who killed his family, the story is very much of its time, complete with well-meaning but awkward attempts at invoking a culture outside their own experience. (“Oh, the Anglos watched all the war dances — the ones done especially for them,” Talltrees says at one point, explaining his origin to the Avengers, “but they did not look within our hearts — they could not read our minds —!”)
Red Wolf went on from his Avengers debut to star in a own short-lived series that ran bimonthly from 1972 through 1973. Red Wolf didn’t star Talltrees, however; instead, it featured two new characters who held the role prior to the hero fans had already seen. (Red Wolf, like the Black Panther, turned out to be a persona handed down throughout a tribe, oddly enough; white Marvel heroes of the time tended to be more self-made men.) The series wasn’t popular enough to maintain publication, however, and Red Wolf was quickly relegated to the role of occasional guest-star in a number of series.
Oddly enough, the Red Wolves (Red Wolfs?) that appeared in series such as Marvel Chillers, Blaze of Glory and Scarlet Spider in subsequent decades have been pretty evenly split between the William Talltrees version and the Johnny Wakely version of the character, depending on whether they were appearing in modern day or wild west settings, respectively. Talltrees joined a super team of Western-inspired characters called the Rangers, while Wakely would appear in the company of Marvel’s other wild west characters, including the Rawhide Kid, Outlaw Kid and Two-Gun Kid. (Yes; there were a lot of Kids in Marvel’s Old West.)
It would appear that it’s the wild west Red Wolf that will inform the version of the character that appears in the All-New, All-Different Marvel Universe this fall; before Marvel puts a spotlight on the character with its high-profile relaunch (although it’s unclear where he will appear), a Red Wolf will show up in 1872, a tie-in to the publisher’s Secret Wars event set in an alternate reality where versions of familiar Marvel heroes like Captain America, Hulk and Iron Man exist in a wild west setting.
That Red Wolf is returning to Marvel at a time when the publisher is pushing the diversity of characters as a selling point is oddly fitting; he was, after all, one of the earliest examples of the company trying to move beyond its core demographic and try something else. That he’s been forgotten in the many years since only makes his return feel all the more important.
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