Atlas Monster Comics – Part 1

by Douglas Ohlandt

122922A-1024x536 Atlas Monster Comics - Part 1Shortly before the Marvel Age of Comics began, Atlas Comics, the forebear of Marvel was scrambling to figure out what to publish that readers actually wanted to buy. Thus, they hatched their latest scheme – Monsters!

Monster Mania

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Following the advent of the Comics Code, Atlas, like many comic publishers, was struggling. Their bread and butter of copying EC was gone; EC had ceased to exist. They tried sci-fi and fantasy and ghost tales but nothing seemed to click. So, they went with something Stan and company just knew would entice the children to fork over a dime. The film Godzilla had been released in 1954 and the kids couldn’t get enough of giant monsters.

In 1959, Atlas moved into monsters big time, devoting four of their titles – Strange Tales, Journey Into Mystery, Tales of Suspense, and Tales to Astonish – to telling the stories of the big, freakish, and weird. Some still exist to this day. But for every Groot and Fin Fang Foom there’s a Zzutak or Gomdulla no one remembers. We’re going to look at the big, the bad, and (pardon the pun) the ugly of Atlas’ monster books.

From the Sphinx to the Two-Headed Thing

ST89-201x300 Atlas Monster Comics - Part 1From Strange Tales #70, featuring the Sphinx, to Strange Tales #95, starring the Two-Headed Thing, nearly every issue in the series featured a giant monster threatening a city or the entire world. One of the most well-known of these monsters was Fin Fang Foom, appearing for the first time in Strange Tales #89.

There are 475 graded copies in the CGC census, roughly seven times the census count for other Strange Tales monster issues. A 6.0 graded copy sold in the December 6 Heritage auction for $3,600, a record in the grade. There has been a definite upward trend in pricing for this book in the mid grades but a softening of prices in the high and low grades.

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Another issue with a slightly elevated census count is Strange Tales #84. This issue heralds Magneto on the cover. However, he’s not the mutant we know; he’s a hairy gorilla with magnetic powers. The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide calls this a prototype of the mutant Magneto, but I don’t see any similarity between the two.

This issue and all the remaining monster issues of Strange Tales can be found in the mid-grades for an average price of $297. Best three monster names – Grottu (Strange Tales #73), Dragoom (Strange Tales #76), and Zzutak (Strange Tales #88). Honorable mention to Pildorr (Strange Tales #94).

From Monstro to the Scorpion

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Everyone knows the first appearance of the Hulk was in Incredible Hulk #1, right? Wrong. That was the first appearance of the second Hulk. The first Hulk made his debut in Journey Into Mystery #62, although he has since been renamed Xemnu.

The monster tales began in this series with Journey Into Mystery #54, starring Monstro, and ended with the Scorpion in Journey Into Mystery #82, the issue prior to the first appearance of Thor.

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Getting back to Xemnu, there are 163 graded copies of Journey Into Mystery #62, roughly 2.5 the number of copies graded for other issues in the series. A 6.0 graded copy sold in the December 20 Heritage auction for $1,020, a record in the grade. A 6.5 graded copy sold in a December 11 eBay auction for $1,200, a drop in price from the $1,440 sale in a June 22 Heritage auction, although that difference could just be the Heritage buyer’s premium. So, we’ll call that one a wash.

This book doesn’t sell very often in the higher grades. We do see a rough upward trend in the mid-grades and even some of the lower grades, likely aided by the fact that the character still exists in the Marvel Universe.

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Xemnu’s second appearance in Journey Into Mystery #66 is typically the runner-up to Journey Into Mystery #62, both in terms of census count (126) and price (6.0 average price of $560 in two January 2021 sales).

The remaining issues in the mid-grades have an average sales price of $292. Best three monster names – Rro (Journey Into Mystery #58), Gomdulla (Journey Into Mystery #61), and Gruto (Journey Into Mystery #67). Honorable mention to Lo-Karr (Journey Into Mystery #75).

Join us next time as we dissect the beasts found in Tales of Suspense and Tales to Astonish, including every monster from Gor-Kill to Googam to everyone’s favorite talking tree.

Do you collect Atlas monster comics? Do you have a favorite Atlas monster? Let us know below.

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*Any perceived investment advice is that of the freelance blogger and does not represent advice on behalf of GoCollect.01

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2 comments

Thomas Lynn Potter January 3, 2023 - 8:48 am

I enjoyed your article on the early Marvel monster books. I’ve long been a fan of all pre-hero Marvel comics. I’ve managed to acquire all of them over the years, complete sets of Amazing Adult Fantasy, Amazing Adventures, Strange Worlds, Tales Of Suspense, Tales To Astonish, and full runs of Strange Tales and Journey Into Mystery from well before the “summer of death’ of 1957. There is an old joke that Stan Lee would drop a kitchen utensil on the floor and name his next monster whatever sound the utensil made. I look forward to your next article. Lynn

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Douglas Ohlandt January 5, 2023 - 9:10 pm

Thanks for the kind words, Lynn. These are some really cool books that don’t get a lot of attention. That sounds like an amazing collection!

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