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This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Atlas Comics (1950s). The list of authors can be seen in the Comics (1950s)&action=history page history. As with Marvel Universe, the text of Wikipedia:Wikipedia is available under the Wikipedia:GNU Free Documentation License.
Atlas Comics

Atlas Comics is the 1950s comic book publishing company that would evolve into Marvel Comics. Magazine and paperback-novel publisher Martin Goodman, whose business strategy involved having a multitude of corporate entities, used Atlas as the umbrella name for his comic-book division during this time. Atlas was located on the 14th floor of the Empire State Building. This company is distinct from the 1970s comic-book company, also founded by Goodman, that is generally known as Atlas/Seaboard Comics.

After the Golden Age[]

Atlas grew out of Timely Comics, the company Goodman founded in 1939 and whose star characters during the 1930s and '40s Golden Age of comic books were the Human Torch, the Sub-Mariner, and Captain America. The post-war era, however, found superheroes falling out of fashion. Television and paperback books now also competed for readers and leisure time.

The line marking the end of the Golden Age is vague, but for Timely, at least, it appears to have ended with the cancellation of Captain America Comics at issue Captain America's Weird Tales #75 (Feb. 1950) — by which time the series had already been Captain America's Weird Tales for two issues, with the finale featuring merely anthological suspense stories and no superheroes. The company's flagship title, Marvel Mystery Comics, starring the Human Torch, had already ended its run (with #92, June 1949), as had Sub-Mariner Comics (with #32, the same month).

Goodman began using the globe logo of Atlas (see above), the news stand-distribution company he owned, on comics cover-dated November 1951. This united a line put out by the same publisher, staff and freelancers through 59 shell companies, from Animirth Comics to Zenith Publications.

Atlas would attempt to revive superheroes in Young Men #24-28 (Dec. 1953 - June 1954), with the Human Torch (art by Syd Shores and Dick Ayers, variously), the Sub-Mariner (drawn and most stories written by Bill Everett), and Captain America (writer Stan Lee, artist John Romita Sr.). Yet they featured the same sort of Communist Red Scare villains as the late-'40s comics, broke no new ground, and looked old-fashioned — particularly in comparison with the clean, uncluttered, streamlined reimagining of super-speedster The Flash two years later in DC Comics' Showcase #4 (Sept. 1956), which would successfully bring back superheroes and kick off the Silver Age of comics.


Atlas, rather than similarly innovate, took what it saw as the proven route of following popular trends in TV and movies — Westerns and war dramas prevailing for a time, drive-in movie monsters another time — and even other comic books, particularly the EC horror line. Until the early 1960s, when editor-in-chief and head writer Stan Lee would help revolutionize comic books with the advent of The Fantastic Four and Spider-Man, Atlas was content to flood newsstands with profitable, cheaply produced product — often, despite itself, beautifully rendered by talented if low-paid young artists.

Goodman's "everything but the kitchen sink" approach resulted in a wider variety of genres than even Timely had published, emphasizing horror, Westerns, humor, crime and war comics, along with a helping of jungle books, romance titles, and even espionage, medieval adventure, Bible stories and sports. There were at least five staff writers (officially called editors) besides Lee: Hank Chapman, Paul S. Newman, Don Rico, Carl Wessler, and, in the teen-humor division, future MAD Magazine cartoonist Al Jaffee. Daniel Keyes, future author of the classic novelette Flowers for Algernon, was an associate editor circa 1952. Other writers, generally freelance, included Robert Bernstein.

The artists — some freelance, some on staff — included such veterans as Human Torch creator Carl Burgos, who did exquisite covers for the Young Men superhero-revival attempt, and Sub-Mariner creator Bill Everett. The next generation included the prolific and much-admired Joe Maneely, whose work in all genres but particularly Westerns and on the medieval adventure The Black Knight, produced an exquisite oeuvre until his untimely death just prior to Marvel's 1960s breakthrough. The shadowy, voluptuous textures of Russ Heath's suspense tales, the languid fluidity of Gene Colan's war stories, and the sharp, individualistic stylings of a fledgling Steve Ditko's quirky bagatelles, among other artists and works, provided treasures amid the trash. Atlas' most prominent Western titles, many reprinted in the 1970s, were Ringo Kid, with art by Maneely, Fred Kida and John Severin; Doug Wildey's The Outlaw Kid; Jack Keller's Kid Colt, Outlaw and the anthology Gunsmoke Western, starring Kid Colt; and The Black Rider, by Maneely, Syd Shores and others. The Atlas versions of two prominent '60s Western characters, the Rawhide Kid and the Two-Gun Kid, were different and historically undistinguished iterations.

Humor and miscellanea[]

Atlas also published a plethora of children's and teen humor titles, including Dan DeCarlo's Homer, the Happy Ghost (a la Casper the Friendly Ghost) and Homer Hooper (a la Archie Andrews). If newspapers had Dennis the Menace, Atlas had the Joe Maneely-drawn Melvin the Monster. TV had Sgt. Bilko? Atlas had the lovably conniving Sergeant Barney Barker — drawn by John Severin, one of comics' top war artists, no less.

One of the most popular titles was the long-running Millie the Model, which began as a Timely Comics humor book in 1945 and ran a remarkable 207 issues, well into the Marvel-era '70s, launching spin-offs along the way. Created or co-created (accounts differ) by artist Ruth Atkinson, it later became the proving ground for cartoonist DeCarlo — the future creator of Josie and the Pussycats, Sabrina the Teenage Witch and other Archie Comics characters, and the artist who established Archie's modern look. DeCarlo wrote and drew Millie for a remarkable ten years, even while such companion titles as Tillie the Typist, Nellie the Nurse and even his own Sherry the Showgirl fell by the wayside.

The high-school series Patsy Walker, also created or co-created by Atkinson in 1945, ran until 1967 and spun-off three titles. More naturalistic than the slapsticky Millie, it featured attractive but sedate art by Al Hartley, Al Jaffee, Morris Weiss and others. Given the tone and the target audience, Patsy Walker oddly included the legendary Harvey Kurtzman's bizarre "Hey Look!" one-pagers in several early issues. Patsy herself would be integrated into Marvel Universe continuity years later as the supernatural superheroine Hellcat.

No hellcats graced Atlas' funny animal books, but they did have cartoonist Ed Winiarski's trouble-prone Buck Duck, Maneely's mentally suspect Dippy Duck, and Howie Post's The Monkey and the Bear, which bore a striking resemblance to DC Comics' Fox and the Crow. Buck and others saw life again briefly in the early 1970s, when Marvel published the five-issue reprint title, Li'l Pals ("Fun-Filled Animal Antics!").

Notable miscellanea include the espionage title Yellow Claw, with sumptuous Maneely, Severin, and Jack Kirby art; the Native American hero Red Warrior, with art by Tom Gill; the Tom Corbett, Space Cadet-like Space Squadron, written and drawn by future Marvel production executive Sol Brodsky; and Sports Action, initially with true-life stories about the likes of George Gipp and Jackie Robinson, and later with fictional "Rugged Tales of Danger and Red-Hot Action!"

Atlas shrugs[]

From 1952 to late 1956, Goodman distributed this torrent of comics to newsstands through his self-owned distributor, Atlas. He then switched to American News Company, the nation's largest distributor and a virtual monopoly—which shortly afterward lost a Justice Department lawsuit and discontinued its business. As historian and author Gerard Jones explains, the company in 1956.

"...had been found guilty of restraint of trade and ordered to divest itself of the newsstands it owned. Its biggest client, George Delacorte, announced he would seek a new distributor for his Dell Comics and paperbacks. The owners of American News estimated the effect that would have on their income. Then they looked at the value of the New Jersey real estate where their headquarters sat. They liquidated the company and sold the land. The company ... vanished without a trace in the suburban growth of the 1950s."

Stan Lee, in a 1988 interview, recalled that Goodman:

"...had gone with the American News Company. I remember saying to him, 'Gee, why did you do that? I thought that we had a good distribution company.' His answer was like, 'Oh, Stan, you wouldn't understand. It has to do with finance.' I didn't really give a damn, and I went back to doing the comics. Later, we were left without a distributor and we couldn't go back to distributing our own books because the fact that Martin quit doing it and went with American News had gotten the wholesalers very angry ... and it would have been impossible for Martin to just say, 'Okay, we'll go back to where we were and distribute our books.' [We had been] turning out 40, 50, 60 books a month, maybe more, and [now] the only company we could get to distribute our books was our closest rival, National (DC) Comics. Suddenly we went ... to either eight or 12 books a month, which was all [that DC's] Independent News Distributors would accept from us."

For that and other reasons, including a recession in the overall economy, Atlas retrenched in 1957. A fabled story has the publisher discovering a closet-full of unused, but paid-for, art, leading him to have virtually the entire staff fired while he used up the inventory. In the interview noted above, Lee, one of the few able to give a firsthand account, told a seemingly self-contradictory version of the downsizing:

"It would never have happened just because he opened a closet door. But I think that I may have been in a little trouble when that happened. We had bought a lot of strips that I didn't think were really all that good, but I paid the artists and writers for them anyway, and I kinda hid them in the closet! And Martin found them and I think he wasn't too happy. If I wasn't satisfied with the work, I wasn't supposed to have paid, but I was never sure it was really the artist's or the writer's fault. But when the job was finished I didn't think that it was anything that I wanted to use. I felt that we could use it in inventory—put it out in other books. Martin, probably rightly so, was a little annoyed because it was his money I was spending."

In a 2003 interview, Joe Sinnott, one of the company's top artists for more than 50 years, recalled Lee citing the inventory issue as a primary cause:

"Stan called me and said, 'Joe, Martin Goodman told me to suspend operations because I have all this artwork in house and have to use it up before I can hire you again.' It turned out to be six months, in my case. He may have called back some of the other artists later, but that's what happened with me."

Return of Jack Kirby[]

Goodman's men's magazines and paperback books were still successful — the comics, except in the early Golden Age, were a relatively small part of the business — and Goodman considered shutting the division down.

The details of his decision not to do so are murky. Jack Kirby, who after his amicable split with creative partner Joe Simon a few years earlier was not as busy as he would have liked, recalled in a 1990 interview for The Comics Journal that in late 1958 or early 1959,

"I came in [to the Marvel offices] and they were moving out the furniture, they were taking desks out — and I needed the work! ... Stan Lee is sitting on a chair crying. He didn't know what to do, he's sitting on a chair crying — he was still just out of his adolescence [Note: Lee, born Dec. 28, 1922, would actually have been about 36.] I told him to stop crying. I says, 'Go in to Martin and tell him to stop moving the furniture out, and I'll see that the books make money".

The interviewer, Comics Journal publisher Gary Groth, later wrote of this interview in general, "Some of Kirby's more extreme statements ... should be taken with a grain of salt...." Lee, specifically asked about the office-closing anecdote, said,

"I never remember being there when people were moving out the furniture. If they ever moved the furniture, they did it during the weekend when everybody was home. Jack tended toward hyperbole, just like the time he was quoted as saying that he came in and I was crying and I said, "Please save the company!" I'm not a crier and I would never have said that. I was very happy that Jack was there and I loved working with him, but I never cried to him. (laughs)".

Whatever the specific circumstances, Atlas gave Kirby a high-profile market, splashing the maestro's work across countless covers and lead stories, while the singular quality and dynamism of Kirby's art elevated such preexisting comics as Strange Tales and the newly launched Amazing Adventures, Strange Worlds, Tales of Suspense and Tales to Astonish above the look-alike fare of other horror/science fiction titles that had proliferated in EC's wake.

A Kirby monster story, usually inked by Dick Ayers, would generally open each book, followed by one or two twist-ending thrillers or sci-fi tales drawn by Don Heck, Paul Reinman, or Joe Sinnott, with the whole thing capped by an often-surreal, sometimes self-reflexive Lee-Ditko short.

Pre-Superhero Marvel[]

The exact point at which "Atlas" began to be considered "Marvel" has never been definitively established. Goodman had begun moving away from newsstand distributor Kable News by branding his comics with the Atlas globe on issues cover-dated Nov. 1951, even though Kable's "K" logo and North American map symbol remained through the Aug. 1952 issues.

Goodman shut down his self-distributorship on Nov. 1, 1956, and began newsstand distribution through American News Service. The Atlas globe remained, however, through the Oct. 1957 issues, when American News went out of business. Goodman switched to the distributor Independent News, owned by rival DC Comics, and dropped the Atlas globe at that time. Goodman would reuse the name Atlas for the next comics company he founded, in the 1970s.

The final comic to bear the Atlas globe logo was Dippy Duck, the company's only release with an October 1957 cover date.

Goodman's switch to the distributor Independent News (see above), owned by rival DC Comics, was on constrained terms that allowed only eight titles per month. Fans sometimes refer to these surviving, bi-monthly titles as the "sweet 16". The first of these to bear the new "Ind." label was Patsy Walker #73 — ironically cover-dated, like Dippy Duck #1, October 1957. The best-selling titles were Westerns (with Kid Colt starring in two titles) and girl humor (led by the long-running Millie the Model). The two fantasy titles (Strange Tales and World of Fantasy) clung on printing stored inventory material from late 1957 through late 1958.

Although for several months in 1949 and 1950 Timely's titles bore a circular logo labeled "Marvel Comic", the first modern comic book so labeled was the science-fiction anthology Amazing Adventures, which showed the "MC" box on its cover. Cover-dated August 1961, it was published May 9, 1961. However, collectors routinely refer to the companies' comics from the April 1959 cover-dates onward (when they began featuring Jack Kirby artwork on his return to Goodman's company), as pre-superhero Marvel.


Stan Goldberg on the Atlas Comics staff: "I was in the Bullpen with a lot of well-known artists who worked up there at that time. We had our Bullpen up there until about 1958 or '59. [sic; the Bullpen staff was let go in 1957] The guys ... who actually worked nine-to-five and put in a regular day, and not the freelance guys who'd come in a drop off their work ... were almost a hall of fame group of people. There was John Severin, Bill Everett, Carl Burgos. There was the all-time great Joe Maneely.... We all worked together, all the colorists and correction guys, the letterers and artists. ... We had a great time".

Atlas titles by genre[]

Information from Atlas Tales [1] and other references. Some titles may be arguably Timely at the earlier end, or Marvel at the later end. Note: In titles numbered from or into the various All Winners Comics, additional clarifying information is supplied. List, in progress, complete through L.



Funny-animal and other children's comics[]

Humor - satire[]

Humor - sitcom[]





Horror/suspense/science fiction[]






  • 3-D Action  #1 (Jan. 1954)
  • Battle  #1-70 (March 1951 - June 1960)
  • Battle Action  #1-30 (Feb. 1952 - Aug. 1957)
  • Battleground (first four issues Battle-Ground)  #1-20 (Sept. 1954 - Sept.1957)
  • Battlefield  #1-11 (April 1952 - May 1953)
  • Battlefront  #1-48 (June 1952 - Aug. 1957)
  • Combat  #1-11 (June 1952 - April 1953)
  • Combat Kelly  #1-44 (Nov. 1951 - Aug. 1957)
  • Commando Adventures  #1-2 (June-Aug. 1957)
  • G.I. Tales  #4-6 (Feb.-July 1957; continued from Humor title Sergeant Barney Barker)
  • Men in Action  #1-9 (April-Dec. 1952) continued as
    • Battle Brady  #10-14 (Jan.-June 1953)
  • War Combat  #1-5 (March-Nov. 1952) continued as
    • Combat Casey  #6-34 (Jan. 1953 - July 1957)
  • Devil-Dog Dugan  #1-3 (July-Nov. 1956) continued as
    • Tales of the Marines  #4 (Feb. 1957) continued as
    • Marines at War  #5-7 (April-Aug. 1957)


  • 3-D Tales of the West  #1 (Jan. 1954)
  • All Western Winners  #2-4 (Winter 1948 - April 1949; continued from Timely's All Winners Comics #1 [1948 series]); continued as
    • Western Winners  #5-7 (June 1949 - Dec. 1949) continued as
    • Black Rider  #8-27 (March 1950 - March 1955) continued as
    • Western Tales of Black Rider  #28-31 (May 1955 - Nov. 1955) continued as
    • Gunsmoke Western  #32-77 (Dec. 1955 - July 1963)
  • Annie Oakley  #1-11 (Spring-Nov. 1948; June 1955 - June 1956)
  • Arizona Kid  #1-6 (March 1951 - Jan. 1952)
  • Arrowhead  #1-4 (April 1954 - Nov. 1954)
  • Best Western  #58-59 (June 1949 - Aug. 1949; continued from n.a.) continued as
    • Western Outlaws & Sheriffs  #60-73 (Dec. 1949 - June 1952)
  • Billy Buckskin Western  #1-3 (Nov. 1955 - March 1956) continued as
    • 2-Gun Western  #4 (May 1956) continued as
    • Two-Gun Western  #5-12 (July 1956 - Sept. 1957)
  • The Black Rider Rides Again!  #1 (Sept. 1957) See also Black Rider, above
  • Frontier Western  #1-10 (Feb. 1956 - August 1957)
  • The Gunhawk  #12-18 (Nov. 1950 - Dec. 1951; continued from successive Timely titles Blaze Carson, Rex Hart, and Whip Wilson)
  • Kid Colt, Hero of the West  #1-2 (Aug.-Oct. 1948) continued as
  • The Kid from Dodge City  #1-2 (July-Sept. 1957)
  • The Kid from Texas  #1-2 (July-Aug. 1957)
  • Matt Slade, Gunfighter  #1-4 (May-Nov. 1956) continued as
    • Kid Slade, Gunfighter  #5-8 (Jan.-July 1957)
  • The Outlaw Kid  #1-19 (Sept. 1954 - Sept. 1957)
  • Rawhide Kid  #1-16 (March 1955 - Dec. 1961)
  • Red Warrior  #1-6 (Jan.-Dec. 1951)
  • Reno Browne, Hollywood's Greatest Cowgirl  #50-52 (April-Sept. 1950; continued from Timely's Margie) continued as
    • The Apache Kid  #53 (Dec. 1950) continued as
    • Apache Kid  #2-19 (Feb. 1951 - Jan. 1952; Dec. 1954 - April 1956) continued as
    • Western Gunfighters  #20-27 (June 1956 - Aug. 1957)
  • Ringo Kid Western  #1-4 (Aug. 1954 - Feb. 1955) continued as
  • Western Thrillers  #1-4 (Nov. 1954 - Feb. 1955) continued as
    • Cowboy Action  #5-11 (March 1955 - March 1956) continued as
    • Quick-Trigger Western  #12-19 (May 1956 - Sept. 1957)


  • Bible Tales for Young Folk  #1-5 (Aug. 1953 - March 1954)
  • Black Knight  #1-5 (May 1955 - April 1956)
  • Girl Comics  #1-12 (Oct. 1949 - Jan. 1952) continued as Romance title Girl Confessions
  • Young Men  #4-23 (June 1950 - Oct. 1953; continued from Timely's Cowboy Romances; note: cover title is Young Men on the Battlefield!  #12-20) continues as Superhero title Young Men

Note: The romance title Linda Carter, Student Nurse  #1-9 (Sept. 1961 - Jan. 1963), sometimes grouped together with Atlas Comics, chronologically falls within Marvel, and all covers have the "MC" box.


External links[]