Menace (Atlas Comics)
Menace #5 (July 1953). Cover art by Bill Everett.
|Publication date||March 1953 – May 1954|
|Number of issues||11|
Menace was a 1953 to 1954 American crime/horror anthology comic book series published by Atlas Comics, the 1950s precursor of Marvel Comics. It is best known for the first appearance of the supernatural Marvel character the Zombie, in a standalone story that became the basis for the 1970s black-and-white comics magazine Tales of the Zombie. As well, a standalone story in the final issue introduced a robot character that was revived decades later as the Human Robot, a.k.a. M-11, the Human Robot. Additionally, there is a standalone story that contains the first ever mention of HYDRA, an evil organization that would later be seen and feature promininently in the Marvel Comics.
The 11-issue series (March 1953 - May 1954) included art by such 1940s Golden Age of Comic Books creators as Bill Everett and George Tuska, and such future industry stars as Gene Colan, Russ Heath, Joe Maneely, John Romita Sr., and Joe Sinnott. As well, the first eight issues were written completely by Atlas editor-in-chief Stan Lee, the future architect of Marvel Comics' rise as a pop-cultural phenomenon.
Menace, from publisher Martin Goodman's Atlas Comics, the 1950s forerunner of Marvel Comics, debuted in 1953 during a cycle of popularity for publisher EC Comics horror comics (Tales from the Crypt et al.). It joined such existing Atlas horror/fantasy series as Adventures into Terror and Strange Tales. Atlas editor-in-chief Stan Lee sought to distinguish the title by attempting to replicate EC's specific process, as Atlas historian Michal J. Vassallo describes:
The influence of [publisher] Bill Gaines' EC line had by now become enormous. Stan was quite aware of what was going on in the industry, and what his competition was going. EC, under Gaines and artist/editor Al Feldstein, was arguably the industry leader in terms of unsurpassed quality both editorially and creatively. EC used [its] small cadre of artists to extreme advantage, tailoring unique artistic styles to specific story settings and plots. While Stan may not have been quite so particular, he was certainly willing to try to give EC a run for its money. He would take over an entire book and do it all himself, like Feldstein did, with his own small group of top-line artists.
Menace ran 11 issues, cover-dated March 1953 to May 1954. It was published monthly through issue #8, then after a three-month hiatus returned for its final three, bimonthly issues. Lee wrote each issue's four comics stories through #7, and at least two more stories through the end of the title's run.
Issue #12 was in production at the time of cancellation, scheduled for a July 1954 cover date. The contents were held as inventory and soon afterward published in the Atlas title Astonishing #35 (Oct. 1954).
Menace is considered an example of "pre-Code horror", referring to horror comics published prior to the strictures of the industry's self-censoring Comics Code Authority, in which comics would bear the postage-stamp-sized Comics Code seal. The series' covers, however, each sport a star reading "Conforms to the Comics Code", with a small rectangular box above that reading "Authorized A.C.M.P." This represents the essentially unenforced precursor sponsored by the trade group the Association of Comics Magazine Publishers.
The series' primary artist was Bill Everett, who in 1939 had created the aquatic antihero the Sub-Mariner and who was now an Atlas mainstay. He drew the covers for, and one story each in, issues #1-6, as well as drawing a story for #9 and the cover of #10. The Lee/Everett story "Zombie" in issue #5 (July 1953) introduced the Zombie, Simon Garth, in a seven-page, standalone story of a zombie outside New Orleans, Louisiana, and the ironic comeuppance visited upon his cruel master. The character was revived two decades later as the star of the black-and-white horror-comics magazine Tales of the Zombie that (Aug. 1973 - June 1974), published by the Marvel Comics imprint Curtis Magazines. The character has continued to make appearances in Marvel comic books into the 2000s.
Another character introduced in a standalone story that was revived decades later as a continuing character was an unnamed robot in the five-page story "I, the Robot", by an unknown writer and artist John Romita Sr., in issue #11 (May 1954). Rechristened the Human Robot, the character appeared in a non-canonical, alternate-universe story in What If? #9 (June 1978), as part of a 1950s version of the later-created Marvel superhero team the Avengers. The character next appeared in mainstream Marvel Universe continuity in the six-issue miniseries Agents of Atlas (Oct. 2006 - March 2007) and the subsequent ongoing series Agents of Atlas vol. 2 (April 2009-on). Now dubbed M-11, the Human Robot, it served as a member of a team of artificially or naturally long-lived 1950s superhumans gathered as the globetrotting adventurers the Agents of Atlas.
Issue #10 contained a verbal reference to HYDRA, an evil organization that would later become the nemesis of Nick Fury and SHIELD in Marvel Comics. It was only mentioned that the two agents were affiliated with HYDRA but they did not wear the trademark green HYDRA uniforms or the logo. No background information was given at the time about the organization or its motives. All of these elements would later be created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby later in Marvel Comics.
Other series artists included George Tuska and other 1940s Golden Age of Comic Books veterans such as single-story contributors Fred Kida, Sheldon Moldoff, Bob Powell, and Syd Shores. Industry newcomers and future stars included Gene Colan, Russ Heath, Joe Maneely, and John Romita Sr., and Joe Sinnott. Among other artist contributors were Tony DiPreta, Al Eadeh, John Forte, Jack Katz, Ed Winiarski, Seymour Moskowitz, Paul Reinman, Werner Roth, and Robert Q. Sale. The covers of issues #7-8 are tentatively credited to Golden Age great Carl Burgos. Two standard databases credit the final issue's unsigned cover to artist Harry Anderson.
- Vassallo, Michael J. (2009). "Introduction". Marvel Masterworks: Atlas Era Menace. Marvel Enterprises. ISBN 978-0-7851-3509-8.
- Menace: Marvel, Atlas [Hercules Publishing] imprint, 1953 Series at the Grand Comics Database
- 83rd United States Congress Committee on the Judiciary (Harley M. Kilgore, Chairman) (March 14, 1955). "Comic Books and Juvenile Delinquency: Interim Report of the Committee on the judiciary pursuant to S. Res. 89 and S. Res. 190". Congressional Record. United States Congress. Retrieved January 25, 2009.
- Reprinted in Marvel Masterworks: Atlas Era Menace and elsewhere
- Christiansen, Jeff. "Earth-9904: ([If] the Avengers Had Fought Evil During the 1950s)", The Appendix to the Handbook of the Marvel Universe
- Agents of Atlas, Marvel, 2006 Series at the Grand Comics Database
- Agents of Atlas, Marvel, 2009 Series at the Grand Comics Database
- Table of Contents, Marvel Masterworks: Atlas Era Menace
- Menace at AtlasTales.com
- Menace (1953-1954) at The Unofficial Handbook of Marvel Comics Creators