On History: Marvel Comics Started with FF #5

By | Tuesday, January 23, 2018 Leave a Comment
Most fans know that Marvel Comics was around before the 1960s, originally going by the name Timely Comics back during the 1940s. The later part of the 1950s, when they were publishing a lot of monster books, they became known as Atlas. (Sort of. For legal reasons, publisher Martin Goodman had set up a variety of companies with different names to actually produce the comics. They were all distributed under Goodma's Atlas News Company; thus they bore an Atlas logo and collectively became known as Atlas Comics, even though technically they were published under a variety of names.)

And generally, we attribute the name Marvel to everything they published beginning in 1961, with Fantastic Four #1.

Except they weren't Marvel yet. Not really. In fact, technically, the company we know as Marvel wouldn't officially publish under that name until 1973! FF #1 was actually published by Canam Publishers. It's true! Check the indicia...
The "Marvel Comics Group" name from the way Goodman bundled his comics. If a newsstand wanted to buy Fantastic Four, for example, they also had to purchase Journey into Mystery, Strange Tales, and Tales to Astonish among others. A retailer might order the Romance Comics Group, the Westerns Comics Group, or the Marvel Comics Group. Comics under this Marvel grouping were identified on their covers by an "MC" and you can see that on some pre-FF #1 covers.

But my contention is that Marvel Comics, as we know it, really didn't start until Fantastic Four #5 featuring the debut of Dr. Doom.

The first two issues of the FF are still, at heart, monster stories. The Mole Man in #1 is a grotesque figure that commands an entire island of giant monsters, and the Skrulls in #2 are part of a fairly run-of-the-mill alien invasion story. Issue #3 does feature the debut of superhero costumes, and a sort-of-super-powered villain in the Miracle Man. But it still features a giant monster -- and while some have argued that the Human Torch's burning of said monster is a metaphor for moving away from monster stories in general, we still find another monster in #4 that Sub-Mariner draws from the ocean's depths.

But issue #5 is the first issue that does NOT feature a typical Atlas monster in any way. The villain here is Dr. Doom and he actively seeks out the heroes to draw them into his plan, and isn't just throwing around some vague threats. It's the first story where there's a plot beyond white hats versus black hats.

So since a lot of what people are assigning as the "start" of Marvel Comics is arbitrary anyway, I say why not base it on what's actually important in all this: the stories.
Newer Post Older Post Home