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 loosely inspired by the 1948 Ava Gardner film One Touch of Venus. The series then got more serious about romance, moved into weird science fiction in 1950, and by the end of the run in 1952 had become a horror title. The Venus series ends with three spectacularly creepy Bill Everett horror covers, and Venus #18 might just be the best of the bunch. There's a Venus #18 (Timely, 1952) CGC VG+ 4.5 White pages up for auction at the 2021 June 17 – 19 Comics & Comic Art Signature Auction coming up from Heritage Auctions.
The "Terror in the Tunnel" from the cover comes from the opening six page interior story "The Sealed Specters" also written and drawn by Bill Everett. In the story, Venus and her companion Whitney Hammond ride the tunnel of love in an amusement park, only to be kidnapped by real-life goblins and a creepy caretaker named Old Joe. The terrifying creatures intend to use the bodies of the living to live in the outside world. It's a spectacularly spooky tale created by a master of the medium.
In another stand-out story by Everett this issue titled "Tidal Wave of Terror", Venus has to contend with Neptunia, daughter of Neptune. As Neptunia explains in dialog, she is laying waste to the Eastern Seaboard of the United States in vengeance for the death of her father: "Was it love that killed my father, King Neptune? No! It was your evil, stupid humans with their underwater atomic blasts at Bikini and Eniwetok! They killed him, and I'll kill–"
The reference there to both the Bikini Atoll and the Eniwetok Atoll is a fascinating artifact of the times of this early 1950s era during which this comic book was created and published. Of course, Bikini Atoll was famously a U.S. Nuclear test site where 23 nuclear devises were detonated 1946 to 1958. An additional forty-three nuclear tests were conducted on nearby Enewetak Atoll during the same period. Notably, Enewetak Atoll was making national headlines around the time Venus #18 was being created as the U.S. was ramping up its activities there. Those newspaper journalists didn't know it at the time, but Enewetak would be the site of the first Hydrogen Bomb detonation later in 1952.
It's worth noting that the impact of atomic tests on life in the ocean would likewise become a theme in the origins of both Aquaman and Sub-Mariner in the coming years. As we discussed in a recent post about Adventure Comics #260 in 1959, Aquaman revealed his origin to a Navy commander because the lost city of Atlantis was at the bottom of the ocean directly below the prospective atomic test site. And the Sub-Mariner was too late to prevent such atomic testing from destroying his Atlantis, turning him against mankind and the Fantastic Four during his 1961 reboot moment in Fantastic Four #4.
One of the most highly sought-after Marvel comics of the early 1950s, there are only 43 entries for Venus #18 on the CGC Census. There's a Venus #18 (Timely, 1952) CGC VG+ 4.5 White pages up for auction at the 2021 June 17 – 19 Comics & Comic Art Signature Auction coming up from Heritage Auctions.
CGC VG+ 4.5 White pages. The penultimate issue of the title. Bill Everett horror cover, story, and art. Manny Stallman art. Overstreet 2020 VG 4.0 value = $662. CGC census 6/21: 3 in 4.5, 24 higher.