Collecting comics has a strange way of leading you down various paths – one day you’re collecting gga, the next motorcycle covers, and then superheroes, superheroes on motorcycles, football covers, etc.,
Through this evolution I decided having at least one representative of each of D.C and Marvel’s golden age “Big Three” would be a goal for my collection. I succeeded in procuring Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman from D.C.. I also succeeded in obtaining Captain America, Human Torch and Sub-Mariner from Marvel.
Human Torch, Sub-Mariner and Captain America were the most popular heroes to emerge from the 1940s startup Timely Comics by Martin Goodman. The Marvel franchise we know today started here. Its first effort, Marvel Comics #1 (Oct. 1939), featured the first appearance of android superhero, the Human Torch by Carl Burgos. The issue is also considered the first major appearance of Namor, the Sub-Mariner by Bill Everett. That comic sold 80,000 copies which prompted a second printing (with cover dated November 1939) that sold approximately 800,000 issues.
My copy of Human Torch (#23 June 1946) is yet another classic Schomburg cover – complete with what might well be the “true” origin of Bender the robot. Interestingly the character Human Torch itself is actually a robot (“a synthetic man” or android) created by Professor Phineas T. Horton. The robot has a fascinating “defect” – when exposed to air it explodes into flame. Eventually it learns how to ignite the flame by using the words “Flame On.” One main vulnerability (to water) created a natural contrast with the Sub-Mariner that led to one of the greatest match-ups in comic history.
The classic battle between the Human Torch and the Sub-Mariner appeared in Marvel Mystery Comics #8-10 (this copy with a “S” stamp from famous San Francisco’s Fillmore street). Another one of the duo’s most epic battle stretched to an amazing sixty pages – taking up the entire issue of Human Torch #5 “60 Thrilling Pages of the Human Torch Fighting the Sub-Mariner in a Life and Death Struggle.”
Human Torch was second only to Captain America (by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, Captain America Comics #1 March 1941) for the most total appearances across Timely titles such as All Winners, Daring, All-Select, Captain America, and Mystic Comics.
* Sold copy