3-D MANMedium: Comic books
Published by: Marvel Comics
First Appeared: 1977
Creators: Roy Thomas (writer) and Jim Craig (artist)
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Every decade's popular culture is the decade-after-next's nostalgia. That's because it takes about 20-25 years for the juvenile experiencers of pop culture to grow up and become the affluent re-popularizers of what they remember fondly
from their youth. That's why it's not surprising to find a fad that swept the country in 1953 reflected in a comic book from Marvel, which over the years has been the trendiest of comics publishers, during the mid-to-late 1970s.
3-D Man harked back to the days when many new movies were viewed wearing special glasses, which fooled the eye into reporting that images on the flat screen existed at different levels of depth. The technique was adaptable into comic books, sparking a fad in that medium as well.
Back then, Captain 3-D, by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby (Young Romance, The Sandman) was not only produced that way — he also took the technique itself as a superhero theme, by jumping out of a page when seen by a character wearing special glasses. But 3-D Man adopted only the form, never any of the substance, of the 3-D process. He even sat flat on the page like any other comic book guy, any 3-D effects coming only from standard comics foreshortening.
The character was set in the 1950s, before the events of Fantastic Four #1 but recent enough at that time to have contained elements of the Marvel Universe as later established. For example, Earth was already a site for activity related to a war between the Kree and the Skrulls, a couple of important Marvel alien races. Test pilot Chuck Chandler (no relation) was abducted by Skrulls hoping to get information about Earth's early probings into space. He escaped, causing the Skrull spacecraft to explode. His demise was witnessed by his brother, Hal.
Chuck's fleeing form was imprinted on Hal's glasses. Afterward, by concentrating, Hal could bring Chuck back to life as the heroic 3-D Man, but at the cost of his own wimpy self losing consciousness. 3-D Man was dressed in a red/green ensemble, reminiscent of the special glasses worn by 3-D movie or comics watchers, designed like Daredevil's or Thunderbolt's costume, split vertically between the two colors. 3-D Man had three times the strength, sensory perception, etc., of a normal man, and could detect Skrulls no matter how they disguised themselves.
3-D Man first appeared in Marvel Premiere #35 (April, 1977), a try-out title along the lines of DC's Showcase, where The Flash, Bat Lash and others had started. Marvel Premiere had been where several other series, such as Warlock and The Liberty Legion, had been introduced. That issue was written by Roy Thomas (Arak, Morbius) and drawn by Jim Craig (Hands of the Dragon, Jason Monarch).
Thomas and Craig continued to write and draw 3-D Man throughout his 3-issue run in Marvel Premiere, but he didn't go on to a comic of his own. And since he was set several decades in the past, he wasn't as available as he might be for guest appearances. His next major appearance was in What If? #9, the Marvel title that explored alternate possibilities of Marvel Universe continuity, where writer Don Glut (Dagar, Tragg) and artist Bill Black (AC Comics) teamed him with Namora, Marvel Boy and others who shared that setting to oppose The Yellow Claw, as an early version of The Avengers.
He was brought into present-day continuity in a storyline involving the more mainstream Avengers team. He no longer directly maintains superhero activity himself, but is connected through mystical and Skrull-related means to a current character called Triathlon.