FLASH COMICS 1940 #1
CGC NM: 9.4
For a time in the 1940s, Fawcett's Captain Marvel was the most popular and best-selling superhero in comics, outstripping even Superman and Captain America in sales and fame, his square-jawed exploits appealing to younger readers and older pulp fans alike. Initially developed as a swipe of the then-new Superman and Batman, the character was designed by C.C Beck and Bill Parker to act as a beautifully detailed and carefully plotted alternative to what they felt were crude and hastily assembled cape comics cluttering the newsstands, and the results, graced by Beck's impeccable lines and Parker's liberal borrowing from mythology and classic fairy tales, were an instant smash. Little did Captain Marvel's initial fans know that their hero was originally given the meaty moniker of Captain Thunder and was intended for Flash Comics, neither of which proved to be available for trademark to Fawcett. A hasty redesign of the cover logo and last-minute relettering of the debut story resulted in the hero premiering instead in Whiz Comics #1. A very small batch of in-house copies were created, however, of the original version, dubbed as "ashcans" in industry parlance. These incredibly rare, extremely important documents are among the most treasured and desirable of Golden Age keys, and we are honored and delighted to offer this astonishing find to comics historians and serious collectors. Forget the first appearances of Superman, Batman, heck, even Marvel #1 -- this is the rarest of the rare, possibly the grail of grails for Golden Age comic collectors, akin to finding an untouched First Folio. These copyright-claiming editor-only ashcans were never meant to be seen by public eyes, and only a handful were ever printed -- of that number, less than ten are known to exist. Add to that, this being the only printed appearance of Captain Marvel with his original moniker, we can't think of a scarcer Golden Age treasure.
So let's talk about rarity. We can talk about how copies of Action #1 and Detective #27 exist in the low hundreds, how some 50's romance comics exist in numbers of only a few dozen, how comics that had print runs of nearly a million now exist in numbers of less than a thousand. But. If you want to discuss real rarity and real comic book history, these are the absolute gems of comics collecting.
Ashcans were hastily printed and thrown together in runs of less than ten, sometimes as little as two or three copies each, solely to capture copyrights to titles and characters. In the hard-scrabble and frantic early days of the business, heroes and series could explode in popularity and then die a quick death in as little as a year. The brutally competitive comic book field led to significant trickery, infighting, and chicanery amongst the hardened, determined publishers both big and small.
When the sparks of creativity fly, results need to be immediate, leading to unfinished art or repurposed inventory stories filling black-and-white cheapies with hastily constructed covers. An issue would be sent to the copyright office to claim first place in the ongoing war for new properties with the others copies resting carefully in legal folders, on hand in case of litigation threats from publishers. The remainder of the copies, if any, usually went straight into the "circular file" by the editor's desk, leading to the moniker "ashcan copy" for these in-house creations. Few ashcans survive. The ones that do offer rare glimpses into the rough-and-tumble early history of the great American art form.
This extraordinary offering is a truly legendary collectible, Flash #1, Fawcett's ultimately unsuccessful attempt to claim the title for Captain Thunder, soon to be renamed Captain Marvel. This unbelievably rare comic, probably the scarcest and most legendary of Golden Age key appearances, published only in extremely low numbers to claim copyright, is the most coveted of Fawcett keys, and nearly never comes to market. Many collectors consider this the first true appearance of Captain Marvel.
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