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The Secret Origin of Marvel Mystery Comics?

If you’re not into comics, you might not know the early history of Marvel Comics.  Back in the 1930s and 1940s, what we now call Marvel was Timely Comics.  Timely Comics published one issue of “Marvel Comics.”  Marvel Comics is notable for being the first appearance of the Human Torch (the android one that you might have noticed in the Captain America film, if you were paying attention) and the first newsstand appearance of Namor, the Submariner.  After the first issue, Marvel Comics changed it’s name to “Marvel Mystery Comics.”

Yes, I agree.  “Marvel Mystery Comics” is a strange name for a comic.  Were they aping “Detective Comics?”  Marvel Mystery wasn’t big on “mystery” in the “detective” sense of the word.  Were they using “mystery” to evoke a sense of horror?  Namor was an anti-hero.  The Human Torch caught on fire.  The original version of “The Vision” was sort of a horror character.

And then last Christmas, another theory presented itself.  Some joker had this wrapped up under the tree with my name on it:

Yes, that’s right.  Marvel Mystery Oil.  According to their website, Marvel Mystery Oil dates all the way back to 1923.  It was called Mystery Oil because of secret ingredients.  Marvel Mystery Comics wasn’t until 1939.  An influence on the name or a fairly large coincidence for a phrase as odd as “Marvel Mystery?”  It’s hard to say.  Speaking of coincidences, the current oil site has a “Marvel Tales” page where people can share their memories of the product.  “Marvel Tales” is probably best known as the Spider-Man reprint comic from the mid-1960s to mid-1990s.  What you might not know is that “Marvel Tales” is also the title Marvel Mystery Comics changed to when it switched to a horror format in 1949.

Coincidence?  Possibly, but credibility is strained if the Marvel Tales pages isn’t a knowing wink to the comics and oil connection.

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