Promise Collection 1949: Stan Lee and Lovecraftian Horror

"In our magazines, we try to give you good pictures and interesting stories," wrote Stan Lee in an editorial published in Marvel comic books cover-dated July 1949.  It was a sentiment the fan who assembled the Promise Collection likely agreed with. "We would like to feel, also, that we are helping you to take a stand in favor of right and justice, develop respect for law and order, and learn to protect weaker people, just like the heroes in our adventure stories. The grown-ups of this world owe you young people an apology, because we haven't made the world a very secure and peaceful place in which to live. Our comics portray, it is true, some of the unhappy things that happen in the world. But they are things you know about anyway—and in the stories, at least, the good people always win. All of us wish it were that way in real life as well. Just as there are good and bad people, good and bad radio programs, good and bad movies, so there is good and bad literature. in order to help you always choose the good, we will continue to do our best to maintain a high standard in our own magazines. Please remember that comics, with their many pictures, are just one type of literature. We also want you to grow familiar with the great books in our vast literary heritage, and we have no doubt that, with guidance from your parents, teachers, and town librarians, you will become interested in those classics, and learn to love them."

"Meanwhile, don't forget, though you can get the thrill of humor and adventure in comic magazines—they should, nonetheless, be considered in two ways: Not only for the pleasure they give you, but also as a stepping-stone to your appreciation of books that have stood the test of time as reading fare for all people, young and old. Incidentally, one of our recent editorials used the word 'endorsement' in connection with Dr. Thompson's services to us as Editorial Consultant. In the interest of further clarification of Dr. Thompson's functions, we wish to state that Marvel Comic Group submits all its published magazines to Dr. Thompson for review, criticism, and report to our staff, which is under constant instruction to accept Dr. Thompson's criticisms, and to abide by the same. In this way, we constantly strive to bring better comic magazines to our vast group of readers."

Amazing Mysteries #32, Promise Collection, Marvel 1949.
Amazing Mysteries #32, Promise Collection, Marvel 1949.

Welcome to Part 21 of the Promise Collection series, which is meant to serve as liner notes of sorts for the comic books in the collection. The Promise Collection is a set of nearly 5,000 comic books, 95% of which are blisteringly high grade, that were published from 1939 to 1952 and purchased by one young comic book fan.  The name of the Promise Collection was inspired by the reason that it was saved and kept in such amazing condition since that time. An avid comic book fan named Junie and his older brother Robert went to war in Korea.  Robert Promised Junie that he would take care of his brother's beloved comic book collection should anything happen to him. Junie was killed during the Korean War, and Robert kept his promise.  There are more details about that background in a previous post regarding this incredible collection of comic books.  And over the course of a few dozen articles in this new series of posts, we will also be revealing the complete listing of the collection.  You can always catch up with posts about this collection at this link, which will become a hub of sorts regarding these comic books over time.

Marvel Mystery Comics #92, Marvel 1949.
Marvel Mystery Comics #92, Marvel 1949.

May Through August 1949 in the Promise Collection

Mid-1949 represented a turning point for comic books, and Stan Lee and everyone else in the comic book business likely understood that.  Junie, the fan who assembled the Promise Collection, likely understood it as well.  He would've turned 18 years old in 1949, and in lots of ways, the comic book industry grew up and evolved with him — and the times they all lived in. The news was full of the possibility of Communist spy rings operating in America, in the wake of the Alger Hiss hearings of the prior few months.  And in the origin moment of the Cold War, the Soviet Union conducted its first nuclear bomb test in August 1949.  The world would learn in the months to come that this too was a result helped along by Communist spies.   ACG's Spy and Counterspy can be viewed as an early example of a Cold War era comic book.  And events such as these during this era are likely the impetus for Stan's editorial comment that, "we haven't made the world a very secure and peaceful place in which to live."

Beyond such history-altering moments, changes inside the comic book industry continued to unfold in the wake of the attacks on the industry by Fredric Wertham, as well as historic market forces. Good Girl titles were starting to give way to Romance.  Even crime comic books were past their peak era.  But perhaps most importantly, the heroes who had become famous as super-soldiers during WW2 continued their post-war decline.  The Human Torch series had ended just prior to this period, and these months would likewise see the end of Sub-Mariner Comics and Marvel Mystery Comics.  But the new series launches from the Promise Collection of May-August 1949 contain two big hints as to the next big trend.

  • Buffalo Bill Picture Stories #1
  • Casey – Crime Photographer #1
  • Spy and Counterspy #1
  • Western Love #1
  • Amazing Mysteries #32
  • Marvel Tales #93
Marvel Tales #93, Marvel 1949.
Marvel Tales #93, Marvel 1949.

Amazing Marvel Mysteries

The end of the Marvel Golden Age of Superheroes seems to have happened before the publisher was quite ready for it.  Marvel Mystery #92 contains a retelling of the Human Torch's origin with a few changes (most notably, the Human Torch and Professor Horton do not part ways on bad terms at the end of the origin, as they do in Marvel Comics #1), and the ending blurb of the story in this issue promised, "More about the early days of the torch in the next issue of Marvel Comics!"  Of course, that issue would never come.

Meanwhile, Amazing Mysteries #32 had already become Marvel's first true horror comic.  It's commonly believed that this series launched with #32 to take over numbering from Sub-Mariner Comics — but of course, Sub-Mariner Comics would also run its own series #32 the next month.  Since both titles have the same Marvel indicial publisher (Comic Combine Corp.), it's possible that this is some sort of bookkeeping error and that the horror of Amazing Mysteries #32 was launched sooner than originally anticipated.  The lead story of that issue includes obvious stand-ins for Stan Lee and Marvel publisher Martin Goodman, working for at a company that is clearly meant to be Marvel — and participating in a tale which itself was clearly inspired by H.P. Lovecraft's Shadow Over Innsmouth.  Although the Amazing Mysteries series would be short-lived, the series that did pick up where Marvel Mystery leaves off, Marvel Tales, would continue Marvel's fledgling horror line.

While Eerie Comics #1 is widely considered the first horror comic book, and ACG's Adventures into the Unknown is considered the first comic book horror series, Amazing Mysteries #32 is likely much more important than it gets credit for as the start of the boom period of Pre-Code Horror.  Marvel would become the driver of the genre with around 389 comics which can be considered PCH, vs EC Comics PCH output of about 91 comic book issues.  And before the end of 1949, Marvel's head-first dive into horror would result in one of the most famous and sought-after issues of Captain America Comics ever published.

Title Issue # Grade / Auction Link GCDBpublication_date Prices Realized
Action Comics 132 May 1949
Action Comics 133 June 1949
Action Comics 134 July 1949
Action Comics 135 August 1949
Adventure Comics 140 Adventure Comics #140 The Promise Collection Pedigree (DC, 1949) CGC NM/MT 9.8 Off-white to white pages May 1949
Adventure Comics 141 Adventure Comics #141 The Promise Collection Pedigree (DC, 1949) CGC NM/MT 9.8 White pages June 1949
Adventure Comics 142 Adventure Comics #142 The Promise Collection Pedigree (DC, 1949) CGC NM/MT 9.8 White pages July 1949
Adventure Comics 143 Adventure Comics #143 The Promise Collection Pedigree (DC, 1949) CGC NM/MT 9.8 White pages August 1949
Adventures Into The Unknown 5 9.8 June-July 1949
Adventures Into The Unknown 6 August-September 1949
Airboy Comics Vol 6 #4 May 1949
Airboy Comics Vol 6 #5 June 1949
Airboy Comics Vol 6 #6 July 1949
Airboy Comics Vol 6 #7 August 1949
Al Capp's Dogpatch Comics 71 June 1949
Al Capp's Dogpatch 2 August 1949
All-Star Comics 47 All Star Comics #47 The Promise Collection Pedigree (DC, 1949) CGC NM- 9.2 Off-white to white pages June-July 1949 $2,400.00
All-Star Comics 48 All Star Comics #48 The Promise Collection Pedigree (DC, 1949) CGC NM+ 9.6 White pages August-September 1949 $25,200.00
All Top Comics 17 May 1949
All Top Comics 18 All Top Comics #18 The Promise Collection Pedigree (Fox Features Syndicate, 1949) CGC VF- 7.5 Off-white to white pages July 1949 $4,080.00
All-American Western 108 June-July 1949
All-American Western 109 August-September 1949
All True Crime Cases Comics 33 May 1949
All True Crime Cases Comics 34 July 1949
Amazing Mysteries 32 May 1949
Amazing Mysteries 33 July 1949
Archie Comics 38 May-June 1949
Batman (1940) 53 June-July 1949
Batman (1940) 54 August-September 1949
Best Western 58 June 1949
Best Western 59 August 1949
Big Shot 101 May 1949
Big Shot 102 June 1949
Big Shot 103 July 1949
Big Shot 104 August 1949
Black Cat 17 May 1949
Black Cat 18 July 1949
Black Diamond Western 11 May 1949
Black Diamond Western 12 June 1949
Black Diamond Western 13 July 1949
Black Diamond Western 14 August 1949
Blackhawk 25 Blackhawk #25 The Promise Collection Pedigree (Quality, 1949) CGC FN+ 6.5 Off-white pages June 1949
Blackhawk 26 Blackhawk #26 The Promise Collection Pedigree (Quality, 1949) CGC NM+ 9.6 Off-white to white pages August 1949
Blaze Carson 5 June 1949
Blazing West 5 May-June 1949
Blondie Comics 12 June – July 1949
Blondie Comics 13 August – September 1949
Boy Comics 46 June 1949
Boy Comics 47 August 1949
Boy Commandos 33 May-June 1949
Boy Commandos 34 July-August 1949
Brenda Starr Comics Vol 2 #10 August 1949
Brenda Starr Comics Vol 2 #8 May 1949
Brenda Starr Comics Vol 2 #9 July 1949
Bruce Gentry Comics 6 May 1949
Bruce Gentry Comics 7 June 1949
Buffalo Bill Picture Stories 1 June-July 1949
Captain America Comics 72 Captain America Comics #72 The Promise Collection Pedigree (Timely, 1949) CGC VF+ 8.5 Off-white pages May 1949
Captain America Comics 73 Captain America Comics #73 The Promise Collection Pedigree (Timely, 1949) CGC VF- 7.5 Off-white pages July 1949
Captain Kidd 24 June 1949
Captain Kidd 25 August 1949
Captain Marvel Jr. 73 May 1949
Captain Marvel Jr. 74 June 1949
Captain Marvel Jr. 75 July 1949
Captain Marvel Jr. 76 August 1949
Captain Marvel Adventures 96 May 1949
Captain Marvel Adventures 97 June 1949
Captain Marvel Adventures 98 July 1949
Captain Marvel Adventures 99 August 1949
Casey – Crime Photographer 1 August 1949
Classics Illustrated 12 [June 1949]
Classics Illustrated 20 [June 1949]
Classics Illustrated 21 [August 1949]
Classics Illustrated 22 [June 1949]
Classics Illustrated 23 [June 1949]
Classics Illustrated 24 [June 1949]
Classics Illustrated 25 [June 1949]
Classics Illustrated 26 [June 1949]
Classics Illustrated 29 [June 1949]
Classics Illustrated 30 [June 1949]
Classics Illustrated 34 [June 1949]
Classics Illustrated 59 May 1949
Classics Illustrated 60 June 1949
Classics Illustrated 61 July 1949
Classics Illustrated 62 August 1949
Comics on Parade 66 August 1949
Cow Puncher Comics 7 1949
Crack Comics 60 May 1949
Crack Comics 61 July 1949
Crime and Punishment 14 May 1949
Crime and Punishment 15 June 1949
Crime and Punishment 16 July 1949
Crime and Punishment 17 August 1949
Crime Detective Comics 8 May-June 1949
Crime Detective Comics 9 July-August 1949
Crime Does Not Pay 75 May 1949
Crime Does Not Pay 76 June 1949
Crime Does Not Pay 77 July 1949
Crime Does Not Pay 78 August 1949
Crime Must Pay the Penalty 8 June 1949
Crime Must Pay the Penalty 9 August 1949
Crime Patrol 12 9.8 June-July 1949
Crime Patrol 13 9.8 August-September 1949
Crimefighters 7 May 1949
Crimefighters 8 July 1949
Crimes By Women 7 June 1949
Crimes By Women 8 August 1949
Crown Comics 18 May 1949
Crown Comics 19 July 1949
Dagar 25 August 1949
Daredevil Comics (1941) 54 May 1949
Daredevil Comics (1941) 55 July 1949
Dead-Eye Western Comics 4 May-June 1949
Dead-Eye Western Comics 5 July-August 1949
Detective Comics 147 9.4 May 1949
Detective Comics 148 9.4 June 1949
Detective Comics 149 9.6 July 1949
Detective Comics 150 9.6 August 1949
Star Parade Presents Dick Powell, Adventurer! 22 [June] 1949
Dick Tracy Monthly 17 May 1949
Dick Tracy Monthly 18 June 1949
Dick Tracy Monthly 19 July 1949
Dick Tracy Monthly 20 August 1949
Doll Man 22 May 1949
Doll Man 23 July 1949
Exciting Comics 67 May 1949
Exciting Comics 68 July 1949
Exposed 8 May-June 1949
Exposed 9 July-August 1949
Famous Crimes 9 May 1949
Famous Crimes 10 June 1949
Famous Crimes 11 July 1949
Famous Crimes 12 August 1949
Famous Funnies 178 May 1949
Famous Funnies 179 June 1949
Famous Funnies 180 July 1949
Famous Funnies 181 August 1949
Feature Comics 134 May 1949
Feature Comics 135 June 1949
Feature Comics 136 July 1949
Feature Comics 137 August 1949
Fight Comics 62 June 1949
Fight Comics 63 August 1949
Four Color 228 May 1949
Gang Busters 10 June-July 1949
Gang Busters 11 August-September 1949
Gangsters Can't Win 9 June-July 1949
Green Hornet, Racket Buster 45 May 1949
Green Hornet, Racket Buster 46 July 1949
Gunfighter 9 May-June 1949
Gunfighter 10 Gunfighter #10 The Promise Collection Pedigree (EC, 1949) CGC NM+ 9.6 Off-white pages July-August 1949
Guns Against Gangsters 6 9.2 July-August 1949
Gunsmoke 2 June-July 1949
Gunsmoke 3 August-September 1949
Headline Comics 35 May 1949
Headline Comics 36 July-August 1949
Hit Comics 58 May 1949
Humphrey Comics 5 June 1949
Humphrey Comics 6 August 1949
Jo-Jo Comics 27 May 1949
Jo-Jo Comics 28 June 1949
Jo-Jo Comics 29 July 1949
Joe Palooka 32 May 1949
Joe Palooka 33 June 1949
Joe Palooka 34 July 1949
Joe Palooka 35 August 1949
Jumbo Comics 123 May 1949
Jumbo Comics 124 June 1949
Jumbo Comics 125 July 1949
Jumbo Comics 126 August 1949
Jungle Comics 113 May 1949
Jungle Comics 114 June 1949
Jungle Comics 115 July 1949
Jungle Comics 116 August 1949
Justice 10 May 1949
Justice 11 June 1949
Justice 12 July 1949
Kerry Drake Detective Cases 14 May 1949
Kerry Drake Detective Cases 15 July 1949
Kid Colt Outlaw 5 May 1949
Kid Colt Outlaw 6 July 1949
Kid Eternity 15 9.8 May 1949
Kid Eternity 16 9.8 July 1949
Lawbreakers Always Lose 8 June 1949
Lawbreakers Always Lose 9 August 1949
Li'l Abner 70 May 1949
Lone Ranger 13 July 1949
Lone Ranger 14 August 1949
Marvel Family 35 May 1949
Marvel Family 36 June 1949
Marvel Family 37 July 1949
Marvel Family 38 August 1949
Marvel Mystery Comics 92 June 1949
Marvel Tales 93 9.4 August 1949
Master Comics 103 May 1949
Master Comics 104 June 1949
Master Comics 105 July 1949
Master Comics 106 August 1949
Modern Comics 85 May 1949
Modern Comics 86 June 1949
Modern Comics 87 July 1949
Modern Comics 88 August 1949
Mr. District Attorney 9 May-June 1949
Mr. District Attorney 10 July-August 1949
Murder Incorporated 10 May 1949
Murder Incorporated 11 June 1949
Murder Incorporated 12 July 1949
Murder Incorporated 13 August 1949
Mutt & Jeff 41 June-July 1949
Mutt & Jeff 42 August-September 1949
My Life 8 May 1949
My Love Secret 24 June 1949
My Story 5 May 1949
Nancy and Sluggo 16 1949
National Comics 72 June 1949
National Comics 73 August 1949
Nyoka the Jungle Girl 32 June 1949
Nyoka the Jungle Girl 33 July 1949
Nyoka the Jungle Girl 34 August 1949
Outlaws 9 June-July 1949
Ozark Ike 14 May 1949
Planet Comics 60 May 1949
Planet Comics 61 July 1949
Plastic Man 17 May 1949
Plastic Man 18 July 1949
Police Comics 90 May 1949
Police Comics 91 June 1949
Police Comics 92 July 1949
Police Comics 93 August 1949
Prize Comics Western 75 May 1949
Prize Comics Western 76 July 1949
Public Enemies 8 May-June 1949
Public Enemies 9 July-August 1949
Rangers Comics 47 June 1949
Rangers Comics 48 August 1949
Real Clue Crime Stories Vol 4 #3 May 1949
Real Clue Crime Stories Vol 4 #4 June 1949
Real Clue Crime Stories Vol 4 #5 July 1949
Real Clue Crime Stories Vol 4 #6 August 1949
Real Fact Comics 20 May-June 1949
Real West Romances 2 July 1949
Real West Romances 3 August-September 1949
Rex Hart 6 August 1949
Rulah 26 May 1949
Rulah 27 June 1949
Saddle Justice 6 May-June 1949
Saddle Justice 7 July-August 1949
Saint 7 9.8 1949
Sensation Comics 89 May 1949
Sensation Comics 90 June 1949
Sensation Comics 91 July 1949
Sensation Comics 92 August 1949
Sheena, Queen of the Jungle 5 Summer 1949
Smash Comics 83 June 1949
Smash Comics 84 August 1949
Smilin' Jack 7 July-September 1949
Spirit 16 July 1949
Spy and Counterspy 1 August-September 1949
Star Spangled Comics 92 May 1949
Star Spangled Comics 93 9.4 June 1949
Star Spangled Comics 94 9.8 July 1949
Star Spangled Comics 95 August 1949
Sub-Mariner Comics 32 7 June 1949
Super-Mystery Comics 5 9.8 May 1949
Super-Mystery Comics 6 July 1949
Superboy 2 May-June 1949
Superboy 3 July-August 1949
Superman (1939) 58 May-June 1949
Superman (1939) 59 July-August 1949
Target Comics V10 #2 Target Comics V10#2 The Promise Collection Pedigree (Novelty Press, 1949) CGC NM 9.4 Off-white to white pages June-July 1949
Terry and the Pirates Comics 16 June 1949
Terry and the Pirates Comics 17 August 1949
Tex Morgan 6 June 1949
Tex Morgan 7 August 1949
Tex Taylor 5 May 1949
Tex Taylor 6 July 1949
Texan 4 May 1949
The Barker 12 Summer 1949
The Barker 13 August 1949
Thrilling Comics 72 June 1949
Thrilling Comics 73 August 1949
True Complete Mystery 6 June 1949
True Complete Mystery 7 August 1949
True Crime Comics 6 9.6 June-July 1949
Two-Gun Kid 8 June 1949
Two-Gun Kid 8 June 1949
Two-Gun Kid 9 August 1949
Two-Gun Kid 9 August 1949
Underworld 9 June-July 1949
Wanted Comics 20 May 1949
Wanted Comics 21 July 1949
Western Adventures 4 July 1949
Western Adventures 5 June 1949
Western Adventures 6 August-September 1949
Western Comics 9 May-June 1949
Western Comics 10 July-August 1949
Western Fighters 8 June-July 1949
Western Fighters 9 August 1949
Western Love 1 July-August 1949
Western Outlaws 21 May 1949
Western Thrillers 6 June 1949
Western True Crime 6 June 1949
Western Winners 5 June 1949
Western Winners 6 August 1949
The Westerner Comics 21 June 1949
The Westerner Comics 22 August 1949
Whiz Comics 109 May 1949
Whiz Comics 110 June 1949
Whiz Comics 111 July 1949
Whiz Comics 112 August 1949
Wilbur 26 August 1949
Wild Western 7 May 1949
Wild Western 8 July 1949
Wings Comics 105 May 1949
Wings Comics 106 June 1949
Wings Comics 107 July 1949
Wings Comics 108 August 1949
Women Outlaws 6 May 1949
Women Outlaws 7 July 1949
Wonder Woman (1942) 35 May-June 1949
Wonder Woman (1942) 36 July-August 1949
World's Finest Comics 40 World's Finest Comics #40 The Promise Collection Pedigree (DC, 1949) CGC NM 9.4 Off-white to white pages May-June 1949
World's Finest Comics 41 World's Finest Comics #41 The Promise Collection Pedigree (DC, 1949) CGC NM 9.4 Off-white to white pages July-August 1949

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Mark SeifertAbout Mark Seifert

Co-founder and Creative director of Bleeding Cool parent company Avatar Press. Bleeding Cool Managing Editor, tech and data wrangler. Machine Learning hobbyist. Vintage paper addict.
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