The point at which modern humans — Homo sapiens or “the wisest of the wise men” — came to be is subject to constant debate among academics. As new fossils and theories pop up, they’re just as easily debunked.
But one thing is certain: modern humans were definitely not around a million years ago, and that means that there weren’t any superhumans, either. Marvel recently announced that its Marvel Legacy series would introduce the Avengers of 1,000,000 B.C. Hopefully, that’s just a hyperbolic name and that the series is not actually set that long ago, since the Avengers of the Pleistocene era would look very different from the modern man. Hell, people didn’t even start using iron until 930 B.C., so why would they have an Iron Fist back then?
The promotional images show several cavemen versions of Marvel heroes. Phoenix, for instance, is a Jean Grey-like redhead, only she’s wearing savage furs. There’s a prehistoric Ghost Rider, and he looks like a pretty standard, modern white guy, except for his skull. Oh, and his motorcycle was replaced with the badass vehicle of his day: a flaming woolly mammoth. Crazy as it sounds, the mammoth is arguably the most accurate part of the series, as early mammoths evolved about 3.5 million years ago and lived up until a couple tens of thousands of years ago.
Marvel Legacy’s Avengers of 1,000,000 B.C. also features Odin, another white guy who must have looked very out of place among the Homo erectus, our ancestors who lived from 1.8 million to 200,000 years ago. Though, to be fair to Marvel, he’s a Norse god, so maybe he gets a pass on existing before mankind did.
In the comics, Phoenix and Ghost Rider get their fire from cosmic and supernatural sources, respectively. But in reality, we don’t know exactly when the first controlled use of fire remains occurred, with only some scientists arguing that its history goes back 1.7 million years. More established evidence suggests that it was Homo erectus (who lived between 1.9 million years ago and 143,000 years ago) that first learned how to create fire. So, there’s a chance Phoenix and Ghost Rider may — according to new Marvel canon — have been the ones to bestow the gift of fire to mankind.
Even though Homo erectus represented a relatively late stage of human evolution, they still looked very different from us. They had larger brains than other, earlier members of the Homo genus (sorry, Homo habilis) that allowed them to communicate and use tools, and they had, more or less, human-like proportions. Still, they were shorter and stockier, and they had broader and flatter skulls than ours. Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Hemsworth, they ain’t.
A million years ago, humans didn’t dominate the planet like we do now. If the Avengers were supposed to be the champions of the planet, it would make more sense to ignore Homo erectus and instead assemble a team of the megafauna that still roamed the earth a million years ago. Forget Ghost Rider — just give his mammoth a uniform and have it team up with some of the other badass animals of the period. I, for one, would love to see a gigantic ground sloth turn into a Hulk.