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What Was the First Marvel Comic Book?

In "When We First Met", we spotlight the various characters, phrases, objects or events that eventually became notable parts of comic lore, like the first time someone said, "Avengers Assemble!" or the first appearance of Batman's giant penny or the first appearance of Alfred Pennyworth or the first time Spider-Man's face was shown half-Spidey/half-Peter. Stuff like that.

Today, sort of based on a suggestion from reader David L. (he actually thought I had already covered this topic, so he was looking for something else related to this, but since I hadn't actually covered this side of his question, I thought I'd do it first), we look at what the first comic book that Marvel ever did where they were CALLED "Marvel Comics."

In 1939, Martin Goodman founded Timely Publications, which he planned to use as an expansion of his pulp magazine business by getting into comic book publishing, as well, as it seemed like it was a really lucrative new area following the smash success of National Allied Publications' Superman feature in Action Comics (which led to Superman even getting his own ongoing series, a real rarity for any comic book character at the time).

Here's the thing that you have to keep in mind - magazines run on a whole different sales approach than modern comic books do, in the sense that "brands" matter a whole lot less with magazines. What I mean is, we all know that Hearst is a company that makes a bunch of popular magazines, right? But you don't read Redbook and say, "Wow, I love Redbook, so I should read Runner's World, because that's a Hearst magazine, as well." Or "Wow, I really like Esquire, I bet I would like Men's Health, as well. They're both Hearst magazines."

Pulp magazines were like, but even more so, as Hearst magazines at least sort of have similar levels of quality, while pulp magazines were ALL over the place. Whatever they can pump out that would get some dude to buy them in 1938. So Martin Goodman was not a big believer in having a consistent brand name. He didn't do it for his pulp magazines, and thus when he started a comic book line, he didn't care that much then, either.

The first comic book Goodman put out was called Marvel Comics #1...

That series was re-titled Marvel Mystery Comics very quickly. They were all under the general name, Timely Comics. However, it was not like Timely Comics was something that they thought was some great brand name. It was the comics themselves that were the brands. Not the company.

To wit, notice any company name on Captain America Comics #1, one of the biggest hits Timely had?

It would not be until Captain America Comics #14 that the Timely Comics logo would appear on their biggest hit comic book...

And then it was gone by Captain America Comics #19!

Instead, what Goodman would do was to form little small shell corporations and have them all work under the general Timely Comics corporation. I don't know the precise reasoning why he did this, but there presumably was a financial reason for it. Among those mini-corporations was one called Marvel Comics, Inc.

Check out the indicas for Marvel Mystery Comics #54 (from 1944)...

and then #55...

So you could argue that that's really when Marvel Comics debuted. But what about the COVERS?

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