Timely Heroes is a character reference intended to eventually describe every relevant hero, villain, adventurer, and fugitive who appeared in a Marvel comic before the publication of the Fantastic Four #1 - at least as far as the history of the comics universe is concerned.
In other words, a major focus of this work will be the characters that were actually published in the 1940s and 1950s, but a large number of those presented will be later inventions that were retroactively introduced to the Golden Age in one way or another.
Furthermore, the heroes and villains featured herein rest along a wide curve of power levels. Some are mere humans with no powers (and no costumed identities) and some are unstoppable power houses - making Timely Heroes (and villains) great for surprise 'guest stars'.
The Golden Age (or so) characters covered so far include the following:
Adventurers: having neither super-powers or a costumed identity to call their own, these stalwart adventurers are brave and resourceful, and often fight for glory (or just a large pile of loot) with naught but two fists and an occasional sidearm to call their own.
the All-Winners Squad: an extension of the Invaders team into post-war heroics, the All-Winners Squad features some of those war heroes joined with a newer crowd of crime fighters, all gathered together to battle evil for several more years.
the Battle-Axis: the Battle-Axis is a group of former heroes and Nazi thugs led by the diabolical Doctor Death, who wanted to force America to wage war on the Soviet Union instead of Nazi Germany - and his murderous scheme to this end almost succeeded, too.
the Crusaders: based in the United Kingdom, this group of heroes was formed due to an evil Nazi plot to destroy the Invaders. This scheme ultimately failed, however, and these duped heroes ditched their evil founders in order to became legends in their own right.
Fugitives: lacking super powers of their own, these criminals may or may not have a costumed identity, but are significant in that they either survived their encounters with a hero or adventurer to scheme another day, or were particularly effective in their singular scheme.
the Invaders: the pre-eminent heroes of their time, the Invaders waged a war against the enemies of freedom on a global scale, though they were mostly active in Europe. The Invaders have had plenty of chronicled adventures in the Vintage age, and were its greatest heroes!
the Kid Commandos: a minor team of kid heroes led by the indefatigable Bucky, this quartet of fightin' youth did what the Invaders did, though only on a minor scale. They held rallies to boost morale and occasionally fought state-side crime when they encountered it.
the Liberty Legion: a counterpart to the Invaders; while the Invaders fight threats to America abroad, the Liberty Legion deals with problems at home. Though they had few chronicled adventures, the Liberty Legion is an interesting bunch of heroes, bar none.
Solo Heroes: not affiliated with any of the other big hero groups of their day, like the Liberty Legion or the Invaders, these solo heroes of the forties worked alone to help make the world a better place. All of the lone heroes I could identify are quantified in this sub-booklet.
Solo Villains: likewise working on their lonesome, the loathsome villains of the Golden Age worked solo, without the benefit of a team to back them up. Whether they worked for the Nazi regime or for their own twisted agenda, these fiends are a force to be reckoned with!
the Super-Axis: the Super-Axis is a team of villainous, super-powered Naxi thugs that had battle the Invaders solo, and decided that they liked the principle of strength in numbers. As a team, they caused no end of trouble for their heroic counterparts!
The Twelve: originally random heroes picked for a special mission during the Battle of Berlin, these Twelve adventurers were placed in stasis as part of a Nazi plot gone awry, and only recently awoke in our modern era - much to their dismay...!
Golden Age Character Updates: finally, to see how these characters have fared between the Golden Age and the Modern Age, updates are provided to show just what these people have been up to since the end of World War II.
One might ask why I'm doing this. Even though a lot of these characters have met the Grim Reaper, they still have some uses. For instance, they're absolutely great for time travel stories. Modern day heroes can meet these folks in the past, or they can come to the present, even!
Alternately, present-day folks can borrow the costumes and namesakes of their past counterparts, with either heroic or villainous intent. This, in itself, can make for a great adventure, especially when a group of heroes tries to track down this identity thief to see what she's really up to.
Finally, and most ambitiously, one could set an entire game campaign in the Golden Age of Marvel Comics, having their heroes engaging in two-fisted action against that era's most notorious villains, the Nazis, or any of the other oddball threats that stalked that bygone era.
I want to thank both Alistair Dunbar and Keith Kilburn for their assistance back when I first began work on the Vintage Age Handbook. While it has grown above and beyond my original ambition with the project, I couldn't have got started with without their aid.
Thanks again, guys!