How did Marvel introduce atomic monsters as a genre?
During the 50s, Marvel went from the most comics per month to the least in the industry in what’s referred to as the Atlas Implosion.
Before the dawn of the Marvel Age, The House of Ideas was known by many names. Publisher Martin Goodman used many different shell companies to publish his line of books. Since the birth of the original Human Torch, the Sub-mariner, and Captain America, most artists and writers referred to the company as Timely in the 40s and 50s. A few comics bore the Timely Comics shield and a few others bore the red circle logo of the first iteration of Marvel Comics, but most were unlabeled.
In 1951, Goodman formed his own distribution company called Atlas, with his comics line bearing the Atlas globe.
Throughout all the changes, Goodman relied on Stan Lee as Editor for his line, except for the years Lee served in the Army (1942-1945). After Goodman shut down his own distribution, going with the largest distributor ANC, ANC went bankrupt. Scrambling for newsstand distribution, he turned to Independent News.
Through their onerous deal with Independent News (owned by National/DC Comics), they were restricted to only publishing eight comics a month or 16 bi-monthly comics. At this time, Goodman’s company was called Magazine Management.
When Kirby left National for the second time, he rejoined Stan Lee. Among the many titles Kirby worked on at Magazine Management were the sci-fi/mystery titles, the last and neutered remnants of Lee’s sizable line of horror comics (Atlas produced more horror comics than the next four largest combined). While on these titles, Kirby’s forte was producing giant monsters (usually of the alien or atomic variety), many times creating four or five of these stories a month.
For Marvel fans, many of these monsters have familiar names such as the Hulk, the Thing, Magneto, Colossus, and Thor. Powers and characterizations are carried over into the Marvel Age, with levitation, fireballs, shapeshifting, mind control, time travel, and prodigious strength.
This Omnibus reprints Kirby splash pages, covers and full stories from Strange Tales of the Unusual 7, Astonishing 56, World of Fantasy 15-19, Strange Worlds 1, 3-5, Tales to Astonish 1, 3-21, Strange Tales 67-70, 72-86, Tales of Suspense 2-19, Journey into Mystery 51-70, and Amazing Adventures 1-2.
Volume 2, due later this summer, will finish the other half of Kirby’s monster book work for Marvel.
In addition, Cory Seldmeier writes a terrific four page introduction, 7 pages of rare original art, a letter from Stan Lee to Dick Ayers about inking Monstro. If that isn’t enough, the Monsterbus includes 38 pages of the covers for monster reprints in the 60s and 70s from Fantasy Masterpieces, Where Monsters Dwell, Where Creatures Roam, Monsters on the Prowl, Chamber of Chills, Creatures on the Loose, the Crypt of Shadows, Dead of Night, Fear, Journey into Mystery (Vol 2), Strange Tales, Tomb of Darkness, Tower of Shadows, Uncanny Tales from the Grave, and Weird Wonder Tales. Finally, full color and original art from Hulk Annual 5, where Hulk fights six monsters from this volume: Groot, Xemnu the Titan, Blip, Goom, Taboo and Diablo.
Overflowing with Monsters of all shapes and sizes
The stories in this collection just precede and overlap with the early years of The Fantastic Four, Ant-Man, Thor, the Hulk and the rest when Marvel made heroes out of monsters and scientists, battling monsters alien, atomic and mythical.
Each month, Kirby (along with Marvel Age stalwarts Steve Ditko, Don Heck, among others) had to devise a whole new universe, new hero (sometimes the monster) and supporting characters, new villain who was not always the monster, all within 4-7 pages, four or five times an issue, across five different titles every two months. After five years of this frenetic output, creating the Marvel Universe might have seemed easy.
Most creatures came and went each month, many times with deathly finality, but, occasionally, monsters had an encore performance: Zetora the martian, Taboo the muck monster, the Hulk (later renamed Xemnu the Titan in the Marvel Age), and the Colossus all appear in this volume.
One of the most interesting menaces in this volume is the cosmic menace of “Goom the Thing from Planet X”from Tales of Suspense 15. Unwittingly, an astronomer makes first contact with the wrong being. The alien colossus Goom can fly with rocket speed, levitate cities with his mind, and has fingers with steel-crushing power. After he subjugates Earth, we discover that he is but one being of a race of powerful giants. He is an outcast from an otherwise peaceful society. Authorities from his home world soon arrive to seize Goom and take him away.
Four months later, in Tales of Suspense 17, we meet Googam, Son of Goom. Left behind on our world, now Googam looks to pick up where his father left off in conquering Earth. His first target happens to be the same scientist, but now we also meet the scientist’s son, Billy. Can Billy outwit Googam?
Restored for a new generation
These masterful works of art and creativity, bursting from the panel as only Jack Kirby could conjure, can now be enjoyed by new generations of readers. Cory Sedlmeier and team carefully restored these 60 year old comics with a craftsmanship without peer in the industry. Strange Tales 73 features a rare early inking of Kirby by master of the brush Bill Everett (and creator of Namor the Sub-mariner as the first flying superhero). The restoration remains faithful to the original beautiful linework, as well as the soft inking of Steve Ditko or the bold lines of Joe Sinnott, along with Dick Ayers, Christopher Rule, George Klein and Kirby himself inking the powerful pencils of the King in this volume.