There’s been a lot of hoopla lately about DC Comic’s recent reboot of its entire universe, erasing over 70 years of continuity. And this isn’t the first time this company has done this, but certainly it’s the highest profile change they’ve mustered over the years. What less people know about though, is how Marvel Comics also rebooted characters, and Stan Lee took the credit for creating new, original characters. Let me explain.
In May 1942, unknowns Walt Peters and Jake Simms approached Timely, the forerunner of Marvel, with a stable of characters that they called The Amazing Marvels. Timely liked what they saw but were unwilling to fully commit to the concept, so they printed a limited run. They sold every issue they printed but were still cautious so continued only printing limited runs, reasoning that if the characters caught on they could just reprint them. Just to hedge their bets they had the duo include The Angel, an already established character as a member of The Amazing Marvels. They did indeed develop a moderate level of popularity but one thing Timely hadn’t counted on was Peters demanding triple pay for him and his artist, Simms. Timely, of course, would do no such thing, and the result was a lawsuit. The result was, the two took had creative control of their characters, but now had no publisher. They shopped their heroes around, but no company would hire them; no one wanted to risk a lawsuit. Destiny was not kind in this case, a tragic fire in Jake Simms Brooklyn home in 1943 resulted in his death and the destruction of all the original artwork. Walt Peters had no drawing ability, and could find no artist that would work with him, so that signaled the “death” of The Amazing Marvels. It was all a moot point anyway, as Peters died of pneumonia in 1945. None of this escaped the notice of a young Stan Lee, who was working at Timely as a gofer in those days. Eventually Stan, knowing that in essence no one alive owned these characters created his own versions of them, for the modern age, and so far, he’s gotten away with it. And now the story can be told. These two comics are the only surviving issues of The Amazing Marvels privately collected. Marvel, for its part, does their best to pretend these characters never existed, except for The Angel.