Mike Sekowsky and Murphy Anderson original artists
THIS is the comic that started it all. THIS is the book that started The Marvel Age of Comics.

What? You thought I was gonna say something about The Silver Age of Comics? Nah. That came a few years earlier with the Flash's debut in SHOWCASE #4 (1956). Oh sure, I suppose this could be pointed to as the initial gathering of DC Comic's revitalized roster of costumed characters, a big success in and of itself, but that's become almost incidental over the year's to the fabled Tale of the Telling Tee Time...
You've all heard it before. Industry leader National Comics' big-wig Jack Liebowitz is out playing a round of golf with Martin Goodman, publisher of a tiny competing firm known then as Atlas. Apparently lording it over his small-fry golfing partner, the DC exec brags that this new Justice League comic that they'd just started up is selling like crazy. Much to Liebowitz's surprise--and delight--super-heroes appear to be back in fashion. Can't argue with the kind of sales numbers he'd been getting, after all. Making note of this potential profit-making direction for his own line of comics, Goodman quickly returns to the office and instructs his head editor and writer, Stan Lee, to rush out their own JLA knockoff. Stan's response? FANTASTIC FOUR #1. And thus are legends born.


When confronted with this oft-repeated tale during a panel appearance at the 2001 San Diego Comics Convention (and recently reprinted in the 26th issue of Roy Thomas' indispensable ALTER EGO mag), National/DC's publisher at the time, Irwin Donenfeld, blithely dismisses the entire scenario with a terse, "Never happened."

And maybe it didn't. But then, what exactly DID happen that afternoon out on the links? Well, all these years later, who can truly say for sure, but it's entirely possible that there was more than one detail that differed from later accounts and instead, something like the following might've occurred...

"Hmm. This looks like a tough shot. I think I'll need my number 9 iron. Marty?"

"Yessir, Mr. Liebowitz--here you are."

"Thanks boy. Say, are you still with that small firm? What is it they're calling it these days--Alas Comics?..."

"Atlas, Mr. Liebowitz, and I don't just work there--I'm the publisher!"

"So you are my boy, so you are. Forgive me. Sometimes it's hard for me to comprehend the notion that you and I are in the same business--BLAST IT ALL! That was lined up perfectly--what happened? I'm going to need my 6 iron for the next shot..."

"Here Mr. L. Say, any chance you can give me some sorta tip?..."

"Marty, you need to ask? Do your job well, and you know you'll receive your standard gratuity?..."

"I'm not talking about the two dollars, sir. I mean do you have any tips for me regarding the comics business?..."

"Oh. That's an entirely different matter. Well, let me think. I don't follow the books all that closely, you understand? Sort of a tawdry field to be in, m'boy, even if we are the Cadillac on the proverbial comics car lot ..."

"Yes, sir, but if you've ANYTHING that could aid a struggling little outfit?..."

"There IS one thing, now that I've considered it for a moment. We had this particular book a few months back, y'see, and sales just went through the roof. One of my editors threw together a bunch of our costumed super characters, made them into a team. Called them something like, oh, I don't know-- Justice Fighters of America, or somesuch? Doesn't really matter--THEY'RE not what convinced the illiterate unwashed urchins of our storied land to plunk down their dimes. m'boy..."

"They're not?..."

"Not at all. Everyone knows super-heroes are totally outmoded, a thing of the past. Their inclusion in that book was strictly incidental, you might even say, accidental. Do you know what REALLY sold that book, boy?..."


"The giant starfish on the cover!!"

"Giant starfish?.."

"You can take it to the bank, son. For awhile there it was gorillas, then it was dinosaurs. Why shouldn't it now be enormous sea creatures? Why, do you know how many of those sea monkeys we sell in our books every month? It only stands to reason with the increased popularity of home aquariums that the youth of the nation have become a babbling mass of fish fanatics? I'm telling you as sure as I'm standing here, it was the starfish, NOT the ridiculous characters in the bright tights that sold that book. Now, just let me take my shot, would you Marty?..."

"Yes, sir--THANK YOU, sir!..."

...and now let me take MY shot, thought a scheming Martin Goodman to himself, leaving the greens shortly thereafter (pocketing his two bucks first, of course), and excitedly calling his chief writer, Stan Lee, instructing him to come up with a book to fit the can't-miss-title, "The Fantastic Fish"! Try as he might, though, the well-seasoned author just couldn't make his publisher's inane directive come to life, and in a fit of despair, drew up a resignation letter instead. Before he had the chance to turn it in, however, his wife Joanie encouraged him to, for once, write the comic he really WANTED to write! After all, what was the worse thing that could happen? Firing a man on the verge of resigning doesn't pack much of a punch, threat-wise. So Stan, smart fella that he was, followed the missus' advice, and thus was born...THE FANTASTIC FOUR #1...

Our enterprising publisher? Well, Goodman didn't notice until it was far too late. The day the book went to press, you see, he was out collecting payments from customers on the newspaper route he'd long maintained in Archie publisher John Goldwater's fancy suburban neighborhood!?!...