Marvel Mystery Comics

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First cover appearance, the Sub-Mariner: Marvel Mystery Comics #4 (Feb. 1940). Art by Alex Schomburg.
First cover appearance, the Sub-Mariner: Marvel Mystery Comics #4 (Feb. 1940). Art by Alex Schomburg.

Marvel Mystery Comics (first issue titled simply Marvel Comics) is an American comic book, the first publication of Marvel Comics' predecessor, Timely Comics.


Publication history

Premiere issue: Marvel Comics #1

In 1939, pulp magazine publisher Martin Goodman expanded into the newly emerging comic book field by buying content from comics package Funnies, Inc. His first effort, Marvel Comics #1 (Oct. 1939), featured the first appearances of writer-artist Carl Burgos' android superhero, the Human Torch, and Paul Gustavson's costumed detective The Angel (Golden Age)|The Angel who was to last to issue 79, even gaining the power of flight for a few issues. As well, it contained the first generally available appearance of Bill Everett's mutant anti-hero Namor the Sub-Mariner, created for the unpublished movie-theater giveaway comic, Motion Picture Funnies Weekly earlier that year, with the eight-page original story now expanded by four pages.

Also included was Al Anders' Western hero the Masked Raider; the jungle lord Ka-Zar the Great, with Ben Thompson adapting over the first five issues the story "King of Fang and Claw" by Bob Byrd in Goodman's eponymous pulp magazine Ka-Zar #1; the non-continuing-character story "Jungle Terror," featuring an adventurer named Ken Masters, written by the quirkily named Tohm DixonMarvel Masterworks: Golden Age Marvel Comics Volume 1 (Marvel, 2004), as given in the contents page and as signed on the first page of the story, reprinted on pp. 46-51; "Now I'll Tell One", five single-panel, black-and-white gag cartoons by Fred Schwab, on the inside front cover; and a two-page prose story by Ray Gill, "Burning Rubber", about auto racing. A painted cover by veteran science fiction pulp artist Frank R. Paul featured the Human Torch, looking much different than in the interior story.

The Ka-Zar here, who would appear in every issue through Marvel Mystery Comics #27 (Jan. 1942) is unrelated to the Marvel Comics jungle lord Ka-Zar introduced in The X-Men (March 1965).

That initial comic, cover-dated October 1939, quickly sold out 80,000 copies, prompting Goodman to produce a second printing, cover-dated November 1939 and identical except for a black bar in the inside-front-cover indicia over the October date, and the November date added at the end. That sold approximately 800,000 copies.Per researcher Keif Fromm, Alter Ego #49, p. 4 (caption) With a hit on his hands, Goodman began assembling an in-house staff, hiring Funnies, Inc. writer-artist Joe Simon as editor. Simon brought along his collaborator, artist Jack Kirby, followed by artist Syd Shores.

As Marvel Mystery Comics

The Torch and the Sub-Mariner would continue to star in the long-running title even after receiving their own solo comic-book series shortly afterward. The Angel, who was featured on the covers of #2 & 3, would appear in every issue through #79 (Dec. 1946).

Other characters introduced in the title include the aviator the American Ace (#2, Dec, 1939), with part one of his origin reprinted, like the first part of the Sub-Mariner's, from Motion Picture Funnies Weekly #1; the Ferret; and writer-artist Steve Dahlman's robot hero Electro (appearing in every issue from #4-19, Feb. 1940 - May 1941). Issue #13 saw the first appearance of the Vision, the inspiration for the same-name Marvel Comics superhero created in 1968. The original Vision appeared in solo stories through Marvel Mystery Comics #48.

As Marvel Tales

In 1949, with the popularity of superheroes having waned, the book was converted into the horror anthology Marvel Tales from issue #93-159 (Aug. 1949 - Aug. 1957), when it ceased publication. Note: This is a different Marvel Tales than that published by Marvel in starting in the 1960s and primarily reprinting Spider-Man stories.


  • Marvel Comics #1 (Oct. 1939)
  • Marvel Mystery Comics #2-92 (Dec. 1939 - June 1949)
  • Marvel Tales #93-159 (Aug. 1949 - Aug. 1957)


  • Marvel Comics #1
Marvel Masterworks: Golden Age Marvel Comics, Vol. 1 (Marvel, 2004)


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