Marvel flashback: Classic ads from the Golden Age

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It was 70 years ago that Marvel Comics No. 1 was published, and throughout the year the mighty Hero Complex will be honoring that landmark moment in publishing history with special features. Today we have some amazing ‘house’ ads from Timely Comics of the 1940s (the company that published Marvel Comics No. 1 in October of 1939 and would eventually evolve into Marvel Comics).

The ad above appeared in ‘Sub-Mariner’ No. 6 to promote ‘The Human Torch’ No. 8. It’s interesting how some character concepts endure through the years, even if only in name and visage. This Human Torch (created by Carl Burgos) was an android but his moniker and flaming image were so striking that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby recycled them when they created the Fantastic Four in 1961, ushering in the shining 1960s renaissance for the House of Ideas....

The ad below appeared in ‘Young Allies’ No. 1 to promote ‘Captain America Comics’ No. 7. Down near the bottom is a pitch for kids to join the patriotic hero’s fan club: ‘Now you too can join Captain America’s Sentinels of Liberty and thereby help Captain America and Bucky in their great war against spies in our country! Let’s all get together behind Cap and be on the constant lookout for spies....’ I bet a lot of kids groaned when they got to the price tag for membership. Dropping a dime in the mailbox was a major investment for youngsters in the summer of 1941....


Here’s another great one below...

Captain America, dreamed up by by Joe Simon and refined by Kirby, is the greatest of the patriotic heroes but he wasn’t the first -- take The Shield and his red, white and blue costume, which hit newstands more than a year earlier in MLJ’s Pep Comics. That didn’t stop Timely from loudly proclaiming that its star-spangled crusader (who carried a shield instead of wearing a costume that looked like one) was a proud original among a sea of second-class imitators.

Interesting tidbit: The ‘All-Aces Comics’ promoted in this house ad reached readers in the summer of 1941 with a different name, ‘All-Winners Comics.’ Not all of the Marvel creations from that era endured either -- the Fiery Mask, for instance, turned out to be more fizzle than sizzle in the 1940s and the fleetfooted hero called the Hurricane blew over pretty quickly as well. (Although Simon’s Fiery Mask was revived in ‘The Twelve,’ a great retro-hero series if you’ve never read it, and Hurricane was merged into the mythology of Kirby’s 1970s speedster Makkari; comics folks were into recycling loooong before it became eco-fashionable).

Anyway, hoped you enjoyed these.... I have another batch I will post in the next few days.

-- Geoff Boucher


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