Marvel Comics has remained at the forefront of superhero comics for over 80 years and boasts a massive roster of beloved superheroes. But during the golden years of comics, Marvel Comics went by a separate name altogether.
If you’re new to Marvel Comics and looking to find a starting point, the very first Marvel comic is a great place to learn more about the publisher’s wide and pulpy history. Here’s everything you need to know about the first Marvel release, the company’s original name, and when Marvel became, well, Marvel.
When did Marvel Comics begin?
Before Marvel Comics was Marvel Comics, the company that would become one of the most creative studios in the world was originally a series of corporations now referred to as Timely Comics.
In 1939, there was a boom in the popularity of comic books, and knock-off magazine publisher Martin Goodman looked to join in on the craze. That year, Goodman launched Marvel Comics #1 from his New York City office under the name “Timely Publications.”
For years, Goodman’s Timely Comics staff would publish its stories under a wide range of different shell companies, many of which sported the “Red Circle Magazine” label. It wasn’t until 1961 that Marvel’s comics were all centralized under the contemporary name.
In 2016, Marvel shared their plans to begin producing low-priced reprint comics under the name Timely Comics, paying homage to their roots and giving new readers the opportunity to get in on the action.
What was Marvel Comics #1?
Marvel Comics #1 starred an early version of what would later become the Fantastic Four’s Human Torch. But in this interpretation, he was an android disguising himself in human form to escape the grasps of his creator. The other main character in this story was detective Thomas Halloway, the cape-wearing crime-fighter Angel.
Also introduced in Marvel’s very first comic was Timely’s answer to Aquaman, Namor the Sub-Mariner, and more obscure characters like the Masked Raider and Ka-Zar the Great. Marvel Comics #1 was a rapid success, selling 80,000 copies in its first run, followed by a second print of around 800,000. From there, Goodman assembled a team for creating more comics, and Marvel proper was born.
While there were plenty of copies sold during its initial run, Marvel fans shouldn’t expect to score Marvel Comics #1 so easily these days. The original, like DC Comics’ Action Comics #1, is considered a collector’s item with a hefty price.