Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Marvel Comics (1939) #1

The oldest comic I have under the Marvel copyright is the 1939 Marvel Comics anthology introducing early versions of The Human Torch, The Sub-Mariner, and Ka-Zar the Great.

Graphic with The Human Torch, The Sub-Mariner, & Ka-Zar Images from Marvel Comics (1939) #1
Surprising Details:

Marvel Comics (1939) #1 Page 1 Panel 3: Scientist Horton brags that he has created a synthetic man.While there are some other tales in this collection, there is a reason that these three figures are the ones who found new life again and again at Marvel.

My Human Torch has always been Johnny Storm, but the first one, I have discovered, is actually a "synthetic man" created to be an "exact replica of a human being." Unfortunately his creator, like Frankenstein, messes up. The inept scientist's synthetic man catches fire whenever he comes into contact with oxygen.

Marvel Comics (1939) #1 Page 16 Panel 9: Human Torch escapes Horton's evil intention to make a buck off his creation.The funny irony is that while everyone is amazed at this creature's ability to set the world on fire (quite literally), no one appears too awestruck by the fact that a synthetic man can reason and become morally indignant at the evilness of racketeers and the "selfish gain" The Torch's creator hopes to garner through his creation.

More Surprises:

The Sub-Mariner's animosity at humankind really is core to his character as it is established here in his first appearance, so I am not completely shocked when he kills a couple of human divers with his bare hands. However, I have found the amount killing in these early comics surprising, especially given my naive assumption that an honor code against killing existed amongst heroes from the very beginning. Not so.

Marvel Comics (1939) #1 Page 28 Panel 3: The Sub-Mariner crushes diver's helm with his bare hands.
Not So Surprising:

Ka-Zar (the Great) in this issue is not the Ka-Zar I grew up with. My Ka-Zar helps the X-Men when they crash-land in the Savage Land somewhere near the center of the earth (would that make it middle earth?).

Marvel Comics (1939) #1 Page 64 Panel 11: Zar (the lion) adopts David Rand as a son to be known thereafter as Ka-Zar.
This Ka-Zar, a young David Rand, more greatly resembles Tarzan. He lacks fear of the native animals of the jungle and is able to communicate with them, none of which is particularly surprising.

Final Notions:

One of the common elements in these comics put out towards the end of the Great Depression is that crime can only be stopped by "heroes" who can act outside of the law (i.e. with the same freedoms that the criminals do) because corruption is pervasive throughout the social institutions that are supposed to protect the people, including law enforcement.

Because of this systemic corruption, the only way to stop criminals from getting away with their crimes is for heroes to enact a more "permanent" solution outside the limits of the legal system. These heroes kill (or cause bad guys to die in an effort to pursue/elude them).

But that appears to be okay because all these bad guys are straw men with no deeper motivation than megalomania and/or greed. These heroes aren't killing people but the crime and corruption these bad guys represent.



Marvel Comics (1939) #1 Cover
Series: Marvel Comics (1939)

Issue #: 001

Copyright: Marvel

Cover Date: October 1939

Cover Price: 10¢

Page Count:  64 pages

Print Release: 25-August-1939

Digital Release: 07-October-2014


Writer:
Marvel Comics Logo
Penciler:
Inker:
Colorist:
None Listed
Cover Art:
Source Links:
Story Title:
“The Human Torch”

Writer:
Marvel Comics Logo
Penciler:
Inker:
Colorist:
None Listed
Cover Art:
Source Links:
Story Title:
“The Sub-Mariner”

Writer:
Marvel Comics Logo
Penciler:
Inker:
Colorist:
None Listed
Cover Art:
Source Links:
Story Title:
“Adventures of Ka-Zar the Great”





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