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1/04/2020 8:08 pm  #1

Absolute dating of Timely comics

Historical info from Comixfan

Jan 27, 2012, 03:24 am

In the thread 'Sequencing monthly and quarterly Timely issues' I used adverts in Golden Age Masterworks reprints quoting publication dates of Timely comics, plus the more usual 'on sale now' ads, to support the 3 month backdating of real publication dates from cover dates for monthly-dated issues that is used in the online bibliographies that originally appeared in some OHOTMU issues. But I also used the same type of ads to argue for a 3 month adjustment in the bibliographies' publication dates for issues with quarterly cover dates.

I gave some examples of how my amended quarterly publication dates made sense for some character-chronology links between monthly and quarterly titles. And I ended by showing that my system seamlessly brought together some references to Pearl Harbor and subsequent events.

That last example also demonstrated that Pearl Harbor and the related events showed up in the comics 2 months after they happened. Or in this case sometimes 3 months after the fact, due to the quarterly schedule of some titles.

In this new thread I want to show that there are other topical references in early Timely comics. And they generally follow the rule of appearing in comics published 2 months after the events, or as close to 2 months as a quarterly comic can get.

In this thread I will assume my publication dating scheme, and not refer to the bibliography dates.

Most of the topical references come from Marvel Mystery Comics. As such my list perforce stops at MMC#24, until later issues are reprinted in Marvel Masterworks.

The most definitive example is right on the limits of this horizon. Patriot has a 2-parter in MMC#24-25. Standard practice in the ex-OHOTMU online bibliographies is to combine such continued stories into the month of the 1st part (which makes sense under the fiction that comics stories are reports of real events). MMC#24 is cover-dated October 1941, the bibliographies backdate its publication to July, and I propose it refers to events in May. The story in question concerns Hitler's deputy Huss escaping from Germany to USA to sue for peace. It is obviously an analogue of Rudolph Hess flying to Scotland on the 14th May 1941.

From now on I will use a (month->month->month) notation to display the link between cover date->publication date->my proposed real date. Ie the one above would be (Oct->Jul->May41).

Another example concerns a sequence of Ka-Zar tales. On 18-19 Jan 41 a British offensive into Eritrea and Ethiopia begins. In the Ka-Zar story in MMC#20 (Jun->Mar->Jan41) the British are on the far side of the Suez canal, exchanging air raids with the Italians in Africa. In MMC#21 (Jul->Apr->Feb41) they have invaded. The Italians are defeated by the end of May. Ka-Zar continues to be involved in fighting the Italians in MMC#22 and #23 (Sep->Jun->Apr). In #24 he turns his attention to Nazis planning to invade South Africa.

From 5th Mar 41 Commonwealth troops fortified Greece. The text story in MMC#21 (Jul->Apr->Feb41) has Human Torch and Toro aiding Greece against German invaders, with the British only sending supplies by ship. So this tale should be set before March.

On 13th Apr 41 Russia and Japan signed a Neutrality Pact. As part of Young Allies #1 (Summer->Jun->Apr41) the boys get caught up in a raid by Japanese forces on Russian territory, which would have to occur before the pact.

Some other stories need only be set after events they mention. But my proposed dating puts them much sooner afterwards than the bibliography system does.

The Selective Service Act 25th Sep 40 authorises the draft, which begins in Oct. The Human Torch story in MMC#18 (Apr->Jan->Nov40) has draftees arriving at a camp.

On 11th Mar 41 the Lend-Lease Act provided for supplying aid to Britain. The first mention I find of this by name is in the Captain America story in All Winners Comics #1 (Summer->Jun->Apr41). The Headline Hunter tale in Captain America Comics #5 (Aug->May->Mar41) concerns the theft of a new contract for supplying food to Britain, and so could be related. But the Angel story in MMC #20 (Jun->Mar->Jan41) already mentions the defence movement and aid to Britain. And there are other early references to US supply ships being attacked. This would seem to destroy my dating plan. But supply of food and arms to Britain had been going on for a long time already. The general neutrality rules allowed this for food, and also also for weapons as long as they were paid for up front. But Britain had run out of cash. The Lend-Lease Act was designed to allow USA to sell Britain arms on credit, somehow without breaking the neutrality rules.

There is another area which can't be pinned down unambiguously. The 27th Sep 40 Tripartite Pact established Germany, Italy and Japan as the familiar Axis powers. However the Axis is mentioned before this, eg the Sub-Mariner story in MMC#14 (Dec->Sep->Jul40). But Germany and Italy had been known as the Rome-Berlin Axis since the Pact of Steel in 1939.

The blitz-buggy that Sub-Mariner builds in MMC#22 (Aug->May->Mar41) also has a soft relation to historical dates, but is at least after the fact. The Army had been trialling candidates since late 1940 for what would eventually be the Jeep. One of them was the Bantam Blitz-Buggy. The earliest public mention of the subject that can be found is in a newspaper article 20th Feb 41.

Some things are mentioned much too late to be relevant to my thesis (but don't support the bibliography dating system either). Eg the Human Torch story in MMC#23 (Sep->Jun->Apr41) refers to the new Pennsylvania Turnpike, but it was opened 1st Oct 40.

I contend from the above that references in monthly comics to historical events/situations have a 2-3 month lag, and quarterly comics fit into this pattern too.

Someone who has studied my earlier thread with a powerful magnifying glass might notice a discrepancy in my handling of Young Allies #1. In the current submission I have used my standard quarterly conversion scheme (Summer->Jun->Apr41) to place YA#1 before the Sino-Soviet Neutrality Pact 13th Apr 41. But in the earlier thread I noted that an advert has YA#1 published Jul 10th, a month later than most quarterlies. This allowed me to put YA#1 in the same month as CAC#7 (Oct->Jul41), and then have Red Skull in CAC#7 before his YA#1 appearance, fitting the chain of back references I laid out.

But the natural real data for CAC#7 in my proposed scheme is May41. If I have to drag YA#1 back to Apr41, then I would have to move at least the 1st story (the Red Skull one) in CAC#7 back then too. And because YA#1's story is spread out over a long time, which would have to fit before the middle of Apr, then the CAC#7 RS tale, and the whole of CAC#6, might have to move into Mar.

Maybe YA#1 was intended for Apr with the other quarterlies, but its publication was delayed for some reason. Maybe the delay was even for continuity with CAC#7! (But I suspect not.) Maybe the writer Otto Binder just hadn't noticed the Russian/Japaneses detente. (I don't know who in MMC was keeping such an eye on the news!)

Having so far relied on my own dating system, I will now say a bit about the system used in the bibliographies.

The bibliographies don't just group character appearances by publication month. They also use that publication month as the 'real' month in which the events in the stories happen. Witness the deliberate movement of MMC#31 to Dec 1941 because it has 2 stories that specifically occur in that month. For a similar reason a continued story from several monthly issues is bunched up into 1 month. And stories which modern Marvel, or Timely itself, considered to happen out of sequence are placed in the months they 'really' happened in.

The 2 largest bibliographies available for Golden Age characters are those for Captain America and Sub-Mariner. They both basically follow the 3-month-ahead rule for monthly issues (but of course disagree with the dating of quarterlies I proposed in my earlier thread).

I have previously said that the SM history in the Marvel Mystery Handbook follows the sequence of stories in his bibliography (without including them all). But I now note that the history also includes a certain amount of dating, just mentioning years. It is noticeable that it specifies a transition from 1939 to 1940 with MMC#6 (cover date Apr -> publication date Jan 40), and quotes 1941 for MMC#18 (Apr->Jan 41) (after SMC#1 in that year, which by my rules is 3 months too early). It also has the same stories as the bibliography leading up to the formation of the Invaders at the end of Dec 41. Thus SM's MMH history uses the same dating system as his bibliography. I believe the MMH history of the Human Torch fits the same dating system (he doesn't have a bibliography).

Cap's career started too late for him to be included in MMH. His recent Index nearly completely agrees with the bibliography sequence, but mostly doesn't indicate dates. Except for the chronology (situated after the entry for the modern CA#109) given for his early days, expanded from the origin in CAC#1. However this violently disagrees with the the bibliography dates. The bibliography moves the Cap stories in CAC#1, excluding the origin, back from cover date Mar 41 to Dec 40. The origin (of Cap not of Steve Rogers) then extends back from there to early 1940. The Index on the other hand starts Cap's origin in Fall 40, and has the other CAC#1 stories well after Mar, in late Spring or possibly early Summer 41.

There have been other datings for Cap's origin. CA#255 and Adventures of CA ran it from late 1940 to Fall 41. The recent Marvels Project extended it from late 39 to late 41. So I'll back away quietly from the subject.

But the bibliography and Index do agree on one thing, that the last issue of CAC before Cap gets frozen is #48 Jul 1945, which the bibliography backdates to Apr. This ties in with the the accepted date for Cap and Bucky's final clash with Zemo as 18th Apr 45 (first established in What If #4). (Strangely the bibliography has it in May.)

I'll just say that it would make a consistent history easier if Cap's dating aligned with everyone else's, perhaps only after his first few issues.

I would like to go further than just noting that it takes 2 months to get a topical reference into an issue. I propose a general 2 month backdating from publication date to 'real' date for all Timely comics. This would be the basis from which to start. On top of that we can apply variations such as combining continued stories together.

Of course this would affect the placement of some modern Marvel WWII stories with specific dates. But then so does the bibliographies' change from cover date to publication date.

Rob F Johnson

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