The Pulp Origins of Marvel's Quantum Realm

It's no secret that countless comic book concepts were inspired by their pulp and even dime novel predecessors. For example, it's fairly well known that the origins of the Justice League of America were deeply influenced by important pulp science fiction figures such as HP Lovecraft and Ray Cummings.  Their first villain crossed the weirdness of a Lovecraft Cthulhu monster with the ambitions of Cummings' Tarrano the Conqueror, which debuted in Hugo Gernsback's Science & Invention in 1925.  But an even earlier story from Science & Invention helped pave the way towards Marvel's Quantum Realm. There's a Fine-condition copy of that issue, Science & Invention August 1923 which cover-features the story Man from the Atom in this week's Amazing Pulps and Collectibles Auction featuring the Joe Rainone Collection at Heritage Auctions.  This auction lot also includes a copy of Science & Invention February 1922.

The Pulp Origins of Marvel's Quantum Realm
LEFT: Science and Invention August 1923 "Man from the Atom" cover by H.V. Brown. RIGHT: The Avengers enter the Quantum Realm (Avengers: Endgame, 2019).

The Marvel Quantum Realm is an aspect of the classic Marvel Multiverse concept which has become an important factor in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  Referred to as the Microverse in the comics, the origins of the Quantum Realm idea reach back to Marvel's Golden Age — and beyond.  But a century before Avengers: Endgame, brought the quantum realm into the fabric of the highest-grossing film of all time, pulp science fiction author Ray Cummings would start developing the concept of what we now call the Quantum Realm in the story Girl in the Golden Atom story from All-Story Magazine, March 15, 1919.

Cummings himself adapted his seminal Girl in the Golden Atom story for Marvel/Timely in a two-part story called Princess of the Atom in Captain America #25 & 26.  One can make a pretty convincing argument that Princess of the Atom is Marvel's first Microverse story, which makes it the key to the Quantum Realm concepts that are so important to the MCU today. Cummings, who had worked for Thomas Edison as a technical writer, was one of the most influential science fiction authors of the pulp era. So influential, in fact, that other authors built on his concepts.  Such is the case for the Science and Invention August 1923 The Man from the Atom cover story by author G. Peyton Wertenbaker. The issue also includes work by Cummings himself and the legendary Hugo Gernsback.

While this Science and Invention "Science Fiction Number" is regarded by many as the first science fiction magazine, it's easy to quibble with that based on your definition of "magazine" (two separate runs plus international editions of the Frank Reade title are hard to look past).  Nevertheless, this issue is still incredibly important in the scheme of things, particularly considering its early tinkering with Ray Cummings' Quantum Realm concepts. There's a Fine-condition copy of that issue, Science & Invention August 1923 which cover-features the story Man from the Atom in this week's Amazing Pulps and Collectibles Auction featuring the Joe Rainone Collection at Heritage Auctions.

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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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