EDIT on 9/2/10: Boistrous Bully-booster Ralf pointed out in the comments that my original example of Fantastic Four #1 was accompanied by a scan of the indicia...from FF #8. Whoops! Turns out that in the scans on my 44 Years of the Fantastic Four DVD, the original scanner substituted #8's inside front page for #1. So that my example matches my argument, I've now edited my post and switched the original example to X-Men #1, below. The point is the same, only the heroes have changed. (And if anyone has a scan of the real inside cover of FF #1, I'd be most delighted to see it!
Here's a good way to make some extra folding money with a no-risk bar bet. Now, I'm not allowed to go into bars, or bet, and most of my money is in lovely clanky bits of loose change. But you may find this useful to you in the future, the place we are all gonna wind up some day. Actually, since it involves comic books, it's best done at a bar near Comic-Con, because otherwise you're gonna get a guy staring at you saying "Who the &%!# cares?"
It's a very simple challenge. Bet the guy next to you (a buck, ten or twenty, or, if you are a small stuffed bull, some Oreos) that he can't answer this simple, obvious question:
Who was the publisher of X-Men #1?
Sounds like a sure thing for your
friend, right? The answer is so obvious he might ask you to clarify it. Go ahead, do it: you're talking about the 1963 first comic book issue of X-Men by Stan Lee and Jack Kirbynot the Claremont/Lee 1991 X-Men #1, not some foreign edition, not something else called X-Men, not the movie, not even the cartoon pilot with an Australian Wolverine and that goofy theme song.
Your pal is going to answer "Marvel Comics."
And that's wrong.
Around this time your friend is gonna sputter and shout and demand that you're wrong. Be big, be generous: offer him a second guess. Aha, he thinks, I know the answer now. And your buddy will now answer "Atlas."
And that's wrong too.
What?!? Are we in some other weird parallel dimension? Are we on an Earth where Hitler won the war and Hermann Hesse created Die Männer der X? Are we on Earth-9602, the Amalgam Universe, where DC and Marvel are smushed together to make...um, Dcrvel, I guess. Is white black? Is up down? Is There Something I Should Know?
Put the poor sap out of his misery. At this point, take the copy of 1963's X-Men #1 out of your back pocket, unroll it, put it on the bar...don't worry about that spilled beer, it'll soak it up just fine...and flip open the front cover. And ask him to read the indicia and tell you just who published X-Men #1.
The correct answer, of course, is Canam Publishers Sales Corporation. Hey, it says so right in the indicia, which for years we've all been told is the authoritative guide to the book's correct title, number, cover date, and yeah, looks like the publisher as well. Face front, true believer...Mighty Canam is on the march!
Collect your winnings, avoid the bar fight that's breaking out, duck one of Patrick Swayze's roundhouse kicks, and scuttle away into the night with your bucks in your hoof. Don't forget your UXM #1...you've gotta be ready to hit the next bar to make the bet again!
What's happening here, you're asking? Why is Marvel called Canam? Well, to answer that question we need the help of the 3DBB. Mister Whoopie, if you will?
Since following this exact path will eventually lead to Tennessee and Chumley being arrested by the FTC and going to the Minnesota Correctional Facility-St. Cloud for ten to fifteen, let's instead answer it the quick way: Shell Corporations. Or, as Wikipedia says:
Shell Corporations (born Shell Corporations Voight; June 4, 1975) is an American actress. She has received an Academy Award, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, and three Golden Globe Awards. Corporations promotes humanitarian causes, and is noted for her work with refugees as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). She has been cited as one of the world's most attractive people, as well as the world's "most beautiful" woman, titles for which she has received substantial media attention. (citation needed)
Whoa, Wikipedia, that's not right. Let me refresh the page and try it again.
A shell corporation is a company which serves as a vehicle for business transactions without itself having any significant assets or operations. Shell corporations are not in themselves illegal and they may have legitimate business purposes.
So, in other words, a "doing business as" alternate name for Marvel/Atlas. Why? Well, I dunno, but I'm guessing it was for tax reasons. While shell corporations can be used to hide or launder money so that it's squeaky clean for organized crime, I think it's rather that Marvel's shell company name of Canam could have been for a tax break, or second class mailing purposes, or distribution. (Marvel historians, anyone know for sure?)
Whatever the reason, that's how early books like X-Men #1 and Fantastic Four #1 managed to have Canam Publishers Sales Corporation listed as its publisher.
Now, flip with me to the WIkipedia page on Marvel Comics. It says
Marvel Comics (born Marvel Comics Voight; June 4, 1975) is an American actress. She has received an Academy Award, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, and three Golden Globe Awards. Comics promotes humanitarian causes, and is noted for her work with refugees...
Dang you, you dadburn kids! Git the heck off my Wikipedia!
What it really says, in part:
[Martin] Goodman began using the globe logo of Atlas, the newsstand-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...
Fifty-nine? You mean there wasn't just Canam? Well, no. Let's take a ramble through the indicia (indices? Indiciatisses?) of Marvel and Atlas comics to find out who really published them...and how you can get punched in the face by interrupting fanboys to tell them to stop talking about "The Marvel Universe" because it should really be called something else. Like...
Captain Savage #1 (January 1968) and Marvel Collectors Item Classics #1 (1965)
Patsy Walker #98 (December 1961) and Sgt. Fury #2 (July 1963)
Marvel Super Heroes #98 (October 1966) and Wyatt Earp #2 (August 1958)
Not Brand Echh #1 (August 1967) and Kid Colt Outlaw #101 (November 1961)
The Avengers #60 (January 1969) and Fantastic Four #84 (March 1969)
Amazing Spider-Man #1 (March 1963)
The Ghost Rider #1 (reprints of the Western comic) (February 1967)
Daredevil #1 (April 1964) and Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D #1 (June 1968)
The Avengers #1 (September 1963)
Fantasy Masterpieces #1 (February 1966) and The Incredible Hulk #1 (May 1962)
But those are all from the Marvel Age of Comics. Surely in the 1950s, the indicia always read "Atlas Comics," right? After all, the comics themselves reminded you that
So, everything from the Atlas Comics Company was published under the Atlas name, right?
Wrong. You really oughta know better. In the Atlas Age, you'll find comics on the drugstore spinner rack published by...
Western Thrillers #3 (January 1955)
Strange Tales #1 (June 1951)
Rawhide Kid #9 (July 1956)
Outlaw Kid #16 (March 1957)
Two Gun Kid #33 (October 1956)
Hercules Publishing was of course run by the Greek god who we all know better as a member of the Avengers and who recently had his very-nifty comic book cancelled out from underneath him. Of course, he was younger then:
Now, if you were gonna publish some comic books geared at young women, you'd probably give it a nice attractive name, like Unicorn Comics, Fuzzy Kitten Corp., or Ponies! Ponies! Ponies! Publishing. Would you, um, call the publishing arm that appeared on your girls' comics…
Millie the Model #1 (April 1964) and Love Romances #96 (November 1961)
Oh well, maybe Atlas and Marvel just didn't have a shell company with a girlie name.
Tales to Astonish #1 (January 1959)
Two Gun Western #13 (April 1952)
Quick Trigger #15 (December 1956)
Wild Western #8 (July 1949)
Well, at least post-1961 there was no need to use the Atlas name ever again, right?
Iron Man #1 (May 1968) and Journey into Mystery #83 (first appearance of Thor) (August 1962)
Well, all this shell company fun wrapped up with the books cover dated April 1973. That's the point when the company who Martin Goodman had sold Marvel to changed their name to Cadence Industries. Cadence changed the official of name the overall company Magazine Management Co. to...you guessed it...Marvel Comics Group. From that point they were all published, both on the cover and in the indicia, by Marvel Comics. So when somebody asks you when the Marvel Age began, tell 'em "April '73!"
Fantastic Four #133 (April 1973) and The Avengers #110 (April 1973)
Yep, that must've been the first time a comic was ever officially published by Marvel...d'oh!
Two Gun Kid #1 (1948)
Geez, Cable's backstory is less complicated than this.
But by far my favorite shell company that "published" Marvel Comics...the original name of the company that later became Cadence?
The Avengers #59 (December 1968) and Fantastic Four #83 (January 1969)
Curiously, the Kree space-warrior known as Mar-Vell debuted in 1968. I wonder if he knows how closely he came to being named
Say, history tells us there were 59 publisher names under Marvel and Atlas, and we've only discovered 25. Get out your long-boxes and help me find morelet me know if you do, and which issues they're in!