Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Make Mine Animirth!

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?

UXM #1

Sounds like a sure thing for your patsy 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 Kirby—not 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.

Marvel Shell Companies

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?

Marvel Shell Companies

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...

Animated Timely Features Inc.!
Marvel Shell Companies
Marvel Shell Companies
Captain Savage #1 (January 1968) and Marvel Collectors Item Classics #1 (1965)

Bard Publishing Corp.!
Marvel Shell Companies
Marvel Shell Companies
Patsy Walker #98 (December 1961) and Sgt. Fury #2 (July 1963)

Interstate Publishing Corp.!
Marvel Shell Companies
Marvel Shell Companies
Marvel Super Heroes #98 (October 1966) and Wyatt Earp #2 (August 1958)

Leading Magazine Corp.!
Marvel Shell Companies
Marvel Shell Companies
Not Brand Echh #1 (August 1967) and Kid Colt Outlaw #101 (November 1961)

Magazine Management Co.!
Marvel Shell Companies
Marvel Shell Companies
The Avengers #60 (January 1969) and Fantastic Four #84 (March 1969)

Non-Pareil Publishing Corp.!
Marvel Shell Companies
Amazing Spider-Man #1 (March 1963)

Official Magazine Corp.!
Marvel Shell Companies
The Ghost Rider #1 (reprints of the Western comic) (February 1967)

Olympia Publications Inc.!
Marvel Shell Companies
Marvel Shell Companies
Daredevil #1 (April 1964) and Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D #1 (June 1968)

Vista Publications Inc.!
Marvel Shell Companies
The Avengers #1 (September 1963)

Zenith Books, Inc.!
Marvel Shell Companies
Marvel Shell Companies
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

Marvel Shell Companies

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...

Animirth Comics, Inc!
Marvel Shell Companies
Western Thrillers #3 (January 1955)

Chipiden Publishing Corp.!
Marvel Shell Companies
Strange Tales #1 (June 1951)

Cornell Publishing Corp.!
Marvel Shell Companies
Rawhide Kid #9 (July 1956)

I wonder what Emgee Publications, Inc. meant, huh? If he were still alive, maybe Martin Goodman would let us know.
Marvel Shell Companies
Outlaw Kid #16 (March 1957)

Hercules Publishing Corp.!
Marvel Shell Companies
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:

Marvel Shell Companies

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…

Male Publishing Corp.!
Marvel Shell Companies
Marvel Shell Companies
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.

Miss America Publishing Corp.!
Marvel Shell Companies
Tales to Astonish #1 (January 1959)

Medalion Publishing Corp.!
Marvel Shell Companies
Two Gun Western #13 (April 1952)

Warwick Publications, Inc.!
Marvel Shell Companies
Quick Trigger #15 (December 1956)

Western Fiction Publishing Co. Inc!
Marvel Shell Companies
Wild Western #8 (July 1949)

Well, at least post-1961 there was no need to use the Atlas name ever again, right?

Marvel Shell Companies
Marvel Shell Companies
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!"

Marvel Shell Companies
Marvel Shell Companies
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!
Marvel Shell Companies
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?

Perfect Film and Chemical Corp.!
Marvel Shell Companies
Marvel Shell Companies
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

Marvel Shell Companies

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 more—let me know if you do, and which issues they're in!


BoffoYuxDudes said...

That's pretty freaky. There must have been a tax advantage to this somewhere down the line.

Reg said...

The other point of historical 'interest' is that between April 1964 and the Release of Marvel Collectors Item Classics #1 in 1965, the company moved two blocks down Madison Avenue.

Myron said...

Wouldn't that be Captain Perfect Film and Chemicall?


Jacob T. Levy said...

That doesn't sound to me like a tax dodge-- it sounds to me like lawsuit firewalls. If your pastiche Superman is getting published by Perfect Film and Chemical and DC gets lawsuit-happy again, all they can sue you for is the assets of Perfect Film and Chemical-- which turn out to be limited to a checking account that pays for one comic book's press run and a couple of freelance contracts every month.

And, for that matter, if your book is selling badly and you cancel it without making good on the last couple of months' worth of freelance contracts, the freelancers will also find that their breach of contract lawsuit entitles them to PFC's empty checking account.

Finally, it might provide some protection against Werthamism. That million-dollar fine for obscenity? Unpayable, as Perfect Film & Chemical only has $2.87 to its name.

One micropublisher per book just insulates the rest of the company from any unpleasant financial-legal problems arising out of any one book.

I think I remember there being a subplot about this kind of thing in Kavalier & Clay...?

KentL said...

Wow! I bow to the awesomeness of Bully. Amazing article.

Kid Kyoto said...

Wow, nice bit of scholarship.

Ryan Roe said...

This is some excellent comic book journalism. Marvelous work, Bully... Or should I say "Perfect film and chemical-ous work?" No, I probably shouldn't.

Edward Liu said...

I don't know what impresses me more: the scholarship or the world record for alt-text jokes in one blog post.

Although the same typographical gremlins who turned Not Brand Echh into Brand Echh also seem to have crept into that alt-text joke as well.

Philip G. said...

Great stuff! You are the smartest Little Stuffed Bull in the whole wide world. And I will start paying more attention to the indicia of my back-issue finds.

Ralf Haring said...

Yeah, there are a lot. http://www.comics.org/publisher/78/indicia_publishers And that doesn't even count all the times it was "Marvel, a division of X"

Bully said...

Excellent list; I've never seen that at GCD. Thanks, Ralf! Consider yourself awarded the Bull-Price, Perfect Film and Chemical Division!

Ralf Haring said...

It's a relatively new field, added within the last year. So it is still blank for many, many issues. I'm filling in all the ones from your scans. [your first scan is FF #8 and not #1, btw :-) ]

Bully said...

your first scan is FF #8 and not #1

A-ha! I see what happened--whoever scanned the issues for the DVD-ROM 44 Years of the FF substituted the inside front page from #8 for #1. Let me check another file I have at home and see if I can find the right one.

Thanks for your eagle eye!

Britt Reid said...

Jacob T Levy is correct.
A number of comics publishers did the same thing for the reasons he lists (and tax purposes).

However, I wonder if they actually transferred all the copyrights to Cadence when they merged.
Anything pre-1945 had to be renewed by the individual "parent" company at the end of the 28-year initial copyright period before the merger in 1973 (which transferred all in-effect copyrights to Cadence).
With 59 different companies, I'd think some things fell thru the cracks.
That's how the 1940s Superman cartoons became public domain!

Martin Jackson said...


I was wondering the same thing. It will be interesting if it turns out marvel doesn't own Spider-man or the X-men or something.

I also wonder if Marvel still has the rights to use the names of those companies, if so maybe they can use them as names for new lines of comics or other business.

You know you want to read the Bard comics line or Non-Pareil comics (as oppose to Pareil comics)

Anonymous said...

Chipiden was likely an alias name based on Goodman's son Chip who later became the failure of Atlas/Seaboard in the 70s and its evolution into the porn mag producer it became....