Before they became movie stars, these super-powered beings in the Marvel Universe had to quit a dangerous, cancer-causing habit…
Smoking is disgusting, and it’s something I’ve never done, despite the fact that I put plenty of other unhealthy garbage in my body. Multiple friends of mine do it (and I judge them behind their backs), as did some of my favorite fictional people during their darker days. In fact, thanks to a systematic policy change at Marvel Comics, none of my favorite heroes are allowed to smoke anymore, even after decades of looking cool… er I mean, risking cancer.
Though Zap Branigan might say smokers are pretty on the ball, having the stars of toys, shirts, and billion-dollar films lighting up death sticks isn’t the best thing for impressionable kids to see, so I support Marvel ditching tobacco. However, as an aging geek, a small part of me does miss the days when my favorite heroes looked as cool as the Marlboro Man while lighting up. So let’s take a look back at the moments Marvel would choose you not to remember, with the top 7 Marvel characters who used to smoke.
7. Nick Fury
Nick Fury isn’t just a premiere super spy and the puppet-master behind the Marvel universe’s biggest half truths, he’s also an unaging World War II veteran who usually had a cigar glued to the end of his lip. From the ’40s into the new millennium, the head of S.H.I.E.L.D. was constantly puffing away in just about every panel he was drawn in, even smoking inside a spacesuit, which seems both highly dangerous and the sign of a desperate addition. However, as recently as the ’90s it felt like a super spy should be shrouded in smoky mystery, so it made sense. Now Nick has been replaced by a son who looks more like his movie counterpart,while Fury Sr. is some sort of celestial being. I think his new corporeal form has finally got him to kick the nasty habit for good, though the MAX version of Fury smokes all he wants in the adults-only comics.
Super-powered smoking excuse: The harmful effects of his constant cigar use were likely staved off by the same thing that kept him from aging: The Infinity Formula. Created as a MacGuffin to explain how a WWII vet could still be an active spy, the Infinity Formula was a top secret concoction Fury took to stave off aging, and perhaps had the same restorative effects on his blackened lungs.
6. Reed Richards
As another creation of the ’60s, it’s no surprise that the leader of the Fantastic Four smoked. If Mad Men is at all historically accurate, a fatherly leader like Mr. Fantastic would obviously be smoking when it came time to plan the team’s next move. However, since he’s an effete and incredibly smart gentleman, he’d take his tobacco via a fancy pipe, like your grandpa or Sherlock Holmes. Nowadays, though Richards is smart enough to not smoke at all. Knowing the harmful effects of nicotine, Reed hasn’t been seen with his pipe all that often since the ’80s. Though if you want easy visual shorthand for “classic FF story” stick a thoughtful pipe in Richards’ hand with the word balloon “Quiet Sue, I can’t hear myself think!”
Super-powered smoking excuse: First off, Reed’s stretchy physiology is hardly normal, so perhaps his rubbery form is naturally cancer resistant. Also, since his internal organs strech too, maybe he’s got more room in his lungs for sweet lady nicotine! Then again, maybe Reed invented a magical, harmless tobacco substitute to puff on while keeping his oral fixation, which is very important to his scientific process?
When Joe Quesada first made the ban on smoking public, he said that bad guys could keep smoking, because they’re evil and are clearly making bad choices. That didn’t stick for too long, however, as one of Marvel’s most villainous tobacco connoisseurs kicked the habit a few years back. The Kingpin used to have the handy accessory of a constant cigar in his mouth, though I swear I also saw him carrying around a Cruella de Vil-style cigarette holder at some point. The man mountain seemed to suffer no ill effects from his cigars, and his character even retained the affectation when Michael Clarke Duncan took on the role in the 2003 film adaptation. These days Kingpin is in hiding after leading a band of ninjas (don’t ask), but he dropped the cigars for good a few years ago, despite how great they were for setting a film noir mood.
Super-powered smoking excuse: Kingpin doesn’t actually have superpowers, but he’s one of the strongest mortals in Marvel, and apparently has less than 5% body fat. Clearly he has a constitution that could withstand the dramatic use of cigars. I’m guessing the only thing that made him quit for good were the combined trauma of losing his wife and son thanks to criminal enterprise.
What about Marvel’s famous smoking mallards and Canadians? Open up a fresh pack and click to the next page, bub!