The Mysterious Debut of Marvel's Venus, Up for Auction

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Venus is a truly unusual Marvel/Timely/Atlas comic book series. The title's 19 issue run from 1948 to 1952 spans a time of major change in the American Comic book industry.  Superheroes were on the decline, and other genres such as romance, horror and science fiction were on the rise on America's newsstands.  Venus started as a sort of light-hearted superhero/romance hybrid, with the character herself perhaps having a loose connection to the 1948 Ava Gardner film One Touch of Venus or the long-running stage musical starring Mary Martin that preceded it starring.   A weird and wonderful artifact of its time, there's a Venus #1 Canadian Edition (Superior, 1948) CGC VF 8.0 Off-white to white pages up for auction at the 2021 August 15-16 Sunday & Monday Comic Books Select Auction #122133 coming up from Heritage Auctions.

Venus #1, Marvel 1948.
Venus #1, Marvel 1948.

While some feel it's likely that Stan Lee was inspired by the 1948 film One Touch of Venus in the creation of the comic book — and the aesthetic and thematic similarities make such a connection compelling — it's difficult to work out the timing for a direct inspiration.  The US version of Venus #1 has a cover date of August 1948, and an on-sale date of around May 15, 1948. Generally speaking, that means we can assume the title was likely in production around mid-March.

However, the film didn't hit theaters until September 1948, with publicity photos also making the rounds that month. The film seems to have been shot during February and March of that year. Life Magazine photographer J.R. Eyerman did a shoot with Gardner in connection with the film in March, but these photos didn't run in Life Magazine that month (or any other month in 1948, as far as I can tell).  The film certainly generated plenty of publicity during this period, however, and that plus the Broadway musical version's high-profile success just a few years earlier (it had even garnered a Life Magazine cover itself) is probably sufficient to provide the spark of inspiration for the series, with Stan Lee hoping to catch the rising publicity of the film that year.

The series has a simple premise, as outlined in this issue:  the goddess Venus is the mistress of her domain on the planet Venus, but she is lonely there.  She wishes she could live a normal life on Earth, and this wish is granted.  Once on Earth, she comes to the attention of Beauty Magazine publisher Whitney P. Hammond, who is so stunned by Venus's beauty that he makes her the magazine's editor.  Hammond reasons that beauty magazines are in a slump and that no one buys them, and he needs a way to make his magazine sell again.  This might be seen as an allegory of sorts for the state of the magazine publishing industry during this period.  Marvel rival Street & Smith, who still had a handful of comics on the stands in 1948, would announce that it was ending its pulp and comic magazine lines early the next year, because they were slumping by comparison to their booming women's and fashion magazine line.  Mademoiselle editor-in-chief Betsy Talbot Blackwell, who had overseen her line's rocket ride to success, became the first woman elevated to Street & Smith's board of directors in the century-long history of the company.

A weird and wonderful series that spans a historically fascinating time in the comic book industry, there's a Venus #1 Canadian Edition (Superior, 1948) CGC VF 8.0 Off-white to white pages up for auction at the 2021 August 15-16 Sunday & Monday Comic Books Select Auction #122133 coming up from Heritage Auctions.

Venus #1, Marvel 1948.
Venus #1, Marvel 1948.

Venus #1 Canadian Edition (Superior, 1948) CGC VF 8.0 Off-white to white pages. Canadian edition. Venus and Hedy Devine begin. Origin and first appearance of Venus. Contains an installment of Harvey Kurtzman's "Hey Look." Overstreet 2021 VF 8.0 value for US edition = $1,855. CGC census 7/21: 1 in 8.0, 1 higher.

View the certification for CGC Certification ID 1215376001 and purchase grader's notes if available.

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About 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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