Marvel Comics #1
Issue(s): Marvel Comics #1
Human Torch - Carl Burgos with Dave McCaig
The story shows Dr. Phineas Horton, the inventor of an intelligent android that inexplicably also bursts into flame upon exposure to oxygen. Horton is forced to bury the Human Torch in cement after a negative public reaction...
...but there's nothing yet about Horton secretly education the Torch through headphone while he's trapped down there, a fact that will be added later.
What's amazing about the Torch and Sub-Mariner stories especially is how non-heroic they are. The Human Torch spends most of the issue unable to control his flame after he escapes the cement, and causing unintended chaos.
The Torch is shown to be able to fly by being "lighter than air", an explanation that Stan Lee will use for Johnny Storm as well.
He's also so hot that bullets melt when they hit him, even when he's flamed off.
And he takes extra delight in causing pain and suffering to bad guys.
I'm not saying that the Torch comes off like a bad guy, it's just that he's clearly not a super-hero in the mold of, say, Superman. He's more of a freak.
He does show some morality, though. When the Torch's creator, Professor Horton, seems very ready to exploit the Torch to make money, the Torch just flies off.
The Sub-Mariner, on the other hand, does come off like a bad guy. The first few humans that he kills by accident...
...he does seem to feel a little bad about, but he's soon attacking a lighthouse with his 'cousin' Dorma, punching humans in the face and throwing them out to sea.
A caption describes Namor's quest as a "crusade against white men!". And he's the hero of the story! In 1939! Weird!
The other Atlanteans in the story are odd looking. Namor's mom is more human looking than the rest.
Everett's underwater panels had an ink-wash effect that were unfortunately muddled by mass printing and the technique was abandoned.
Trivia: The first 8 pages of the Sub-Mariner story first appeared in black and white in Motion Picture Funnies Weekly, a never-printed giveaway comic. An additional 4 pages were added for this issue. It's pretty obvious where the original story ends. There's even a blanked out narration box.
For all intents and purposes, though, this was his first published appearance.
The Angel story is a little more traditional. He's a dude that dresses up in tights and a cape and punches bad guys in the face.
He gets called in when the police can't handle a case due to the formalities of the law.
And then we have the Golden Age Ka-Zar (real name=David Rand), which is based on a pulp novel. He's your standard Tarzan type, but he's got a tragic tragic origin involving a plan crash, a dead mother, and a father who goes crazy.
GA Ka-Zar will appear in the Human Torch #5A crossover issue, so he definitely counts as a Marvel Universe character, although there's no relation to the Kevin Plunder version.
There's also a western story about Jim Gardley, who becomes the Masked Raider. And a generic adventure story about some white explorers who head into the Amazon jungle to steal diamonds from the locals. And a text story about a race car. But for my timeline project, we're not really interested in these.
In many ways, the art and writing here is more compelling than some of the stuff from the Silver Age. It's also interesting how diverse the art is.
This issue was released just hours before Germany invaded Poland, starting World War II. The comic sold out of its initial 80,000 issue print run and with subsequent printings eventually sold 800,000 copies, more than the average DC comic of the time.
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: It can't get any earlier than this, unless we're going to get into Marvel Westerns. And we're not.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Marvel Comics #1: 70th Anniversary Edition
Inbound References (16): show
Just wait till you find alot of Golden Age books (Marvel Digital Comics might help a little). Anyway, I read Marvel Comics #1. It really is a product of its time. But I still really enjoy reading it.
Posted by: pst1993 | May 10, 2013 10:12 AM
According to Maurice Horn in World Encyclopedia of Comics, this first Angel story copied the plot of The Saint in New York by Charteris.
Posted by: PB210 | May 10, 2013 11:34 PM
Was Motion Picture Funnies really never printed? I've seen the cover. Was that just an ashcan or something?
Posted by: JP | September 2, 2016 3:33 PM
Here's Wikipedia. Some proof of concept copies were created, but it was never actually published.
Posted by: fnord12 | September 2, 2016 3:50 PM
As I recall, the Sub-Mariner art looked much better when it was reprinted in the "Fantasy Masterpieces" 25 cent reprint comic that was published in the 60s. Bill Everett's super-fine line work was duplicated well and really stood out for me. I had never seen anything like it before (at the time).
The Angel story on the other hand looks a lot better than it did in my reprint, like it's been recolored with gradient tones to give it that 3D effect. Can't remember for sure but I think my reprint for that was also in Fantasy Masterpieces.
Posted by: James Holt | September 2, 2016 4:46 PM
Yup, that's the cover I've seen. I thought a couple of copies had actually been given away at a movie theater.
Posted by: JP | September 3, 2016 2:55 AM
Confirming that the Angel scans here are from the Marvel Comics #1: 70th Anniversary Edition reprint, which did re-do the coloring. I don't remember why i took the Angels scans from the reprint and everything else from a digital copy of the original.
Posted by: fnord12 | September 6, 2016 8:58 AM
It looks good. Don't alway like that sort of re-coloring but in this case it worked well IMO
Posted by: James Holt | September 6, 2016 11:00 AM
Since the Golden Age Ka-Zar was a blondish guy named David Rand, 'tis a wonder some enterprising soul didn't revive the name, tweak the origin/backstory a bit, and incorporate the character into the Iron Fist family tree somehow. Not only due to sharing the surname, but due to each of them finding themselves in stranger-in-a-strange-land scenarios as children and losing parents in the process. Just surprised no one made an attempt at a connection.
Posted by: Brian Coffey | October 1, 2017 12:16 AM
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