Human Torch was first Marvel Comics superhero

Posted6/29/2015 12:44 PM

You wanted to know

"Who was the first Marvel superhero?" asked a superhero fan at Cook Memorial Library's Aspen Drive (Vernon Hills) Lego Adventure program.


Like the larger-than-life superhero characters who start as mild-mannered people with no special powers then burst into superheroes to fight injustice, Marvel Comics is the morph of what was once Timely Publications and then Atlas comic books.

Sean Howe, author of the giant, go-to history of Marvel comics, "Marvel Comics: the Untold Story," that knits together background on characters, writers and artists, said "the Human Torch" was Marvel's very first superhero.

"The first comic book published by Timely/Marvel was 'MARVEL COMICS' #1, in 1939. That issue included the first appearances of both the Human Torch, created by Carl Burgos, and Namor, the Sub-Mariner, created by Bill Everett. There was also a costumed character named The Angel, but he had no super powers. Namor, the Sub-Mariner, continues to appear in Marvel publications. A second version of the Human Torch, similar in appearance to the first, is a member of the Fantastic Four."

That first comic book was a hit -- 80,000 copies flew of the shelves and a reprint of 800,000 copies kept comic book fans happy.

Marvel's band of superheroes include such greats as Spider-Man, Wolverine, Captain America, the X-Men, the Guardians of the Galaxy and the Fantastic Four. The company, now owned by Disney, holds 33 percent of the market; the other major comics company is DC Comics with 30 percent of comic book sales.

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This summer Marvel characters Ant-Man and the Fantastic Four will be defeating enemies at your local movie theater.

While the two main publishers, DC and Marvel, at one time enjoyed a Sox/Cubs-type rivalry, Anderson said comic fans now follow the story writers who develop strong plots and characters for both companies.

With comic books and graphic novel sales reaching $900 million annually, superheroes have a proven fan base. Keith Anderson, owner of Keith's Komix in Schaumburg, said the fans relate to the characters and the stories.

"Superheroes are able to do stuff we can't do, like in an action movie. For the most part, they stand up for weaker people. It's a utopian look at what someone with all these powers could do," Anderson said.

Annual comic conventions, such as the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo C2E2 in March and Wizard World Comic Con Chicago coming in August, attract families to see the comic books and live comics characters from movies. Both conventions offer discounts or free admission for younger children accompanied by adults.

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