Pulp-magazine publisher Martin Goodman launched Timely Publications in 1939, the company that would later evolve into world-renowned and beloved Marvel Comics by the 1960s. Based in New York City, Goodman was eager to ride the emerging wave of comic book popularity. Timely published Marvel Comics #1 in October 1939, featuring the debut appearances writer-artist Carl Burgos’ android superhero the Human Torch and Bill Everett’s mutant Atlantis prince Namor the Sub-Mariner. It was a marvelous success, selling a total of 900,000 copies after the first and second printings.
In March 1941, Timely’s first editor Joe Simon teamed with artist Jack Kirby to create the iconic patriotic hero known as Captain America. Captain America Comics #1 proved to be a massive hit with sales of nearly $1 million.
Martin Goodman then went on to hire his wife’s cousin, Stanley Lieber, as a general office assistant. After Joe Simon departed Timely Publications in late 1941, Lieber took the helm as editor and became the legendary “Stan Lee”. He thrived in this position for decades, pausing only to serve three years in World War II. Eventually, Marvel Comics became the official title for the entire enterprise. The first official comic book published by Marvel Comics was Journey Into Mystery #69. By 1961, Lee revolutionized comic books by creating heroes and villains that appealed to older readers instead of children. Marvel’s first superhero team was the Fantastic Four. They shattered holier-than-thou superhero stereotypes by being flawed individuals who argued, held grudges, and sought fame. Check out this infographic timeline that traces the comic book origins of 101 Marvel characters, revealing zeitgeists of society along the way.