MARTIN GOODMAN WAS A SUCCESSFUL publisher of pulp fiction magazines that covered all the bases: war, horror, romance, adventure and science fiction. But he had never created titles to rival those created by his competition, which was probably why he was receptive to a business proposal from an outfit called Funnies Inc.
The deal was simple: Funnies Inc. was prepared to give Goodman a complete package of artwork every month for him to print, and the printing costs would be covered by the service fee asked by Funnies. By 1939, several publishers had proven the profit to be made in the comic industry, so Goodman decided to give it a shot.
They probably had no idea of the history about to be made. Funnies Inc. employed several veterans of the booming superhero business, and they came up with a lot of new ideas for costumed adventurers. Bill Everett’s creation, the Sub-Mariner, was given the anchor spot. Carl Burgos, seeing Bill’s watery creation, perhaps saw a fitting balance in the Human Torch, an android whose artificial skin burst into flames upon contact with oxygen. And Ben Thompson created Ka-Zar the Great, a character that carried the civilized-man-in-the-jungle theme just far enough away from a certain Lord of the Apes to avoid any lawsuits.
Marvel Comics #1 (retitled Marvel Mystery Comics by the time the second issue hit the stands) was devoured by an audience eager for original stories about superheroes, and their adventures thrilled readers for a decade. And when Marvel Comics got back into the superhero business in the 1960s, the writers didn’t forget the heroes in that first book that made it all possible, eventually resurrecting the Human Torch, the Sub-Mariner, and Ka-Zar for a new generation of comic readers.
From The 100 Greatest Comics of the 20th Century By Mitchell Brown
Did you know…
Virtually every character Burgos created was an android. Only the Torch has endured.
Everett also dipped into the same well as Namor to create less memorable watery characters like the Fin and Hydroman.
In the very first superhero crossover, the Torch and the Sub-Mariner did battle over several issues of The Human Torch and Marvel Mystery Comics.