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10/5/04

Marvel Comics; Golden Age facts you might NOT know!

Martin Goodman, in the late 1930s, was a publisher of pulp magazines, including Complete Western Book, Star Detective, Uncanny Stories, Ka-Zar, and Mystery Tales. He was, like most publishers in the 1930s, looking for a new trend in the public's buying habits; Goodman was particularly desperate because his pulps were not successful. In August 1938 he started [b]Marvel Science Stories[/b], as a way to make money off of the boom, in the late 1930s, in science fiction pulp magazines, such as the now-legendary Astounding Science Fiction.---------------------------------------------Timely was originally known as the "Red Circle" group because of the logo that Goodman had put on his pulp magazines.---------------------------------------------The Sub-Mariner was NOT originally a Timely Comics character but had been developed for and appeared in First Funnies' "Motion Picture Funnies Weekly," a promotional magazine designed to be given away at movie theatres.---------------------------------------------Marvel Comics number one, (became Marvel Mystery Comics with issue number two.) not only brought the Sub-Mairner to Timely, but also introduced the Human Torch, Ka-Zar the Great (a holdover from Goodman's pulps), the Jungle Terror, and the Masked Raider and his horse Lightning, cover dated October 1939.--------------------------------------------The very first super-hero crossover was between Bill Everett's Sub-Mairner and Carl Burgos' Human Torch in Marvel Mystery Comics #8-10, with the first two issues ending in cliffhangers.---------------------------------------------More about the Sub-Mairner...he hasn't changed much since his first appearance, in being the only actual Marvel character that can be switched from hero to villian without his personaliy suffering. Namor has always walked the line between good and bad.----------------------------------------------Timely was a predominate Jewish company with Goodman, Simon, Kirby (Jacob Kurtzberg) and Stan Lee (Stanley Lieber) so when the Nazi party began being used as villians the name Hitler was changed to Hiller. Another reason was because Martin Goodman feared legal action for using the name. -----------------------------------------------Many think that Marvel Boy was a product of the fifties but was actually created by Simon and Kirby in Daring Mystery Comics #6. The Hellcat, Patsy Walker, is also a Golden Age character, and so is the Black Widow, USA Comics #5.-----------------------------------------------Captain America first appeared in Captain America Comics #1 cover-dated March, 1941, but was actually created over half a year earlier.-----------------------------------------------Captain America was not the first patriotic superhero in comics. That was Irv Novick's The Shield, who appeared in Pep Comics, starting in November or December 1939 (Pep Comics #1 had a January 1940 cover date. The Shield had been followed that February by Louis Cazeneuze's the Eagle, in Fox's Science Comics #1, a book which also featured a character called "Dr. Doom"). Timely was threatened with a lawsuit; a central part of their claim was that Captain America's triangular shield made him look like the Shield, who had a triangular shield on the front of his costume. Goodman agreed to change the look of Cap's shield, something that Kirby, for one, was happy about (he'd always preferred the round shield as being both more effective and a better design.)--------------------------------------------------Stan Lee's first published work was in Captain America Comics #3.-------------------------------------------------Marvel has ALWAYS had very strong ties to New York and it's people. The Young Allies were Bucky, Toro, and a group of kids from New York City: Knuckles, Whitewash, Tubby, and Jeff. Joe Simon got the idea for the book's name from Boy Allies, a favorite childhood book of his, and Kirby drew on his own experience, recreating in a comic book his neighborhood gang. Young Allies was the first of comic's "kid gang" books. (See Boy Commandos, Newsboy Legion and Lev Gleason's Little Wise Guys.)--------------------------------------------"Whitewash" was the name of Timely's first recurring African-American character.-------------------------------------------Some fans complain nowadays about comics with variant covers. But in fall of 1941 saw Human Torch Comics #5 - its second #5. Human Torch Comics #5 (the first one) had appeared in early summer of 1941, and, apparently, Goodman/Simon decided that a book with the #5 on the cover should have five issues published, so a second Human Torch Comics #5 appeared in the early fall. However, the second #5 was significant for more than just the repeated number; it featured a 64-page battle between the Human Torch and the Sub-Mariner, who (with his Atlantean army) was trying to destroy the surface world. This issue sold very well, and eventually became known as the Torch-Namor battle.-------------------------------------------Cool story about the Lee/Kirby team...
***Towards the end of 1941 Simon and Kirby had done ten issues of Captain America and made him Timely's most popular book; it was selling on a level only Superman and Batman could touch. Simon and Kirby were not, however, pleased with Timely. Both Simon and Kirby were acting as editors and art directors, and between those jobs and their work - not only for Timely, but for other companies (Kirby and Simon were continuing to work on Blue Bolt, for one) - their schedules were quite busy - Kirby was doing up to nine pages a day. Worse still, from their point of view, they were getting relatively little money, despite the popularity of Captain America Comics.
Then Morris Coyne, Timely's accountant, let Simon & Kirby know that, despite their contract with Goodman - Simon getting 15% of profits from Cap and kirby getting 10% - they still weren't getting their proper share, and that Goodman had been misleading them. (Coyne's reason for telling Simon and Kirby this was simple: he had holdings in the MLJ line of comics, and most likely thought that, if Simon & Kirby left Timely, they'd go to MLJ - whose publisher, John Goldwater, had once already tried to lure the pair away from Timely, during the meeting over the shape of Captain America's shield)
Naturally, Simon and Kirby were unhappy about this. They immediately got in touch with Jack Liebowitz, the publisher of National Comics. Liebowitz jumped at the chance to employ the pair, and he offered to double their salaries, to $500 a week. (To put this in prospective, the median salary, in 1941, was $2000 a year) Simon & Kirby agreed, continuing their work for Timely during the day while secretly doing pages for National at night.
Stan Lee grew suspicious and started investigating, quizzing Simon & Kirby and finally tailing them to the hotel where they worked on their pages for National. He grilled them on what they were doing, and after they swore him to secrecy they told him about their impending move to National.
Lee went to his uncle, Martin Goodman, and told him about Simon & Kirby's imminent departure. Goodman confronted the pair, and when they confessed, he fired them. We can only wonder how comics would have turned out had Goodman paid Simon and Kirby as they deserved; while we would never have seen their Guardian, the Sandman, the Newsboy Legion, the Boy Commandos, and the other characters they did for National and other companies, in all likelihood they would have produced work of equal or higher value for Timely.
With the departure of Simon and Kirby Timely was left without an Editor-in-Chief and an Art Director. Stan Lee took over both positions, completing his move from the bottom of the company, as gopher, to almost the top in less than a year's time.***----------------------------------------------In Krazy Komics #12 the entire Timely staff drew themselves into one story, which was not the first time that artists at Timely had placed themselves in a comic; that had taken place in an early issue of Marvel Mystery, where Bill Everett and Carl Burgos had appeared and argued the merits of the Human Torch and the Sub-Mariner. And in June, 1942, in Marvel Mystery Comics #34 (cover dated August 1942), Everett, Burgos, Martin Goodman, and the Funnies, Incorporated office appeared in a story and battled Hitler. So the practice Marvel adopted during the 1960s, of sometimes placing their staff into the stories themselves, actually dates back much farther than that.----------------------------------------------------At the beginning of 1943, in Captain America Comics #33, Captain America and Bucky announced, on the Sentinels of Liberty club page, that the war's metal shortage was such that Timely would no longer be giving away any more of the Captain America badges which new members of the Sentinels of Liberty received. Bucky suggested that the club members use their dimes to buy war savings stamps, instead. Timely then announced that for every dime their readers sent to the War Department, Timely would also send a dime. Although there's no way of knowing how much Timely's offer of matched contributions actually raised for the war effort, it was still a patriotic, and unprecedented, move.-------------------------------------------------During the Golden Age, Timely did something todays publishers seem afraid to do. They published books geered directly toward teen-age girls with Miss Fury (By Tarpe Mills, one of the rare female talents of the Golden Age.) the Blonde Phantom, Tessie the Typist, Namora, Sun Girl, Venus and Miss America Magazine with Patsy Walker, Millie the Model, and Nellie the Nurse. These comics were largely the creation of Stan Lee who, even then, sought to do exciting and different things in the field.-------------------------------------------------Captain America's popularity and success led to Marvel's first film; in 1944 Republic Pictures, purveyors of fine serials, released Captain America, which although bearing relatively little resemblance to the comic book character (no shield, a female assistant, and Steve Rogers being a District Attorney rather than a soldier) was still a box office success.-------------------------------------------------During World War II there was a shortage of paper for all publishers, due to the war-time paper rationing, but Goodman's attorney, Jerry Perles, somehow managed to persuade the War Office that Timely needed as much paper during the war as it had needed before the war.-------------------------------------------------Timely Comics did NOT become Marvel Comics. They changed their name to Atlas Comics, which eventually became Marvel as we know it today.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sara! You should totally post this on the Bendis Board!

We miss you there. :(

8:09 PM  

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