Back in 1954, Marvel Comics was known as Atlas and, like most publishing companies, it was putting out its share of horror-themed comics. In those days, before Fredric Wertham declared that comic books were destroying America’s youth and the industry sought to protect itself by creating the Comics Code Authority, comic books were full of stories about monsters, killers, and macabre revenge.
Published by Atlas, Menace was one of many horror comics to populate the nation’s newsstands in the 50s. It was an anthology series and today, it’s best remembered for featuring work from Golden Age artists like Bill Everett and George Tuska. The credited writer for the first eight issues was a young Stan Lee, decades away from becoming the public face of Marvel Comics.
Menace only ran for 11 issues but during that time, it introduced one character who would later make a comeback and become a part of the Marvel universe. That character was The Zombie!
Zombie was introduced in the top story of Menace #5 (July 1953). At the time, he had no name and was given no past, beyond having a daughter. Living in the swamps of Louisiana, he is controlled by a madman who orders the Zombie to mug someone in New Orleas. The Zombie goes down to the French Quarter (where, humorously, no one notices anything strange about him) but his attempt at mugging is thwarted by a policeman. The Zombie returns home, where his angry master orders the Zombie to attack the young woman that the master is in love with. His master wants to rescue the young woman and win her love. However, the woman reminds the Zombie of his daughter so the Zombie strangles his master instead!
It was a typical horror comic stuff, not quite as graphic as what EC was producing but still more macabre than what Marvel would later be known for. Though Menace only lasted for 6 more issues and the Comics Code would temporarily put an end to the horror comics boom, the Zombie would eventually return, with a slight makeover.
In the 1970s, when the Comics Code Authority finally started to loosen up, Marvel returned to publishing horror with vengeance. Along with comic books featuring Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, and Werewolf By Night, Marvel also published black-and-white horror magazines, which were not regulated by the Comics Code and could therefore include graphic violence, tame profanity, and cleavage, lots and lots of cleavage. Among those magazines was Tales of the Zombie.
The Zombie returned, now with longer hair and a backstory that established that he was once a millionaire named Simon Garth until his former gardener (his master from the original story) put him under a voodoo curse. The first issue of Tales of the Zombie featured an extended retelling of the first Zombie story. The subsequent issues followed the undead Simon as he haunted the bayous of Louisiana and fought other supernatural creatures. It turned out that there wasn’t really much that could be done with a mindless zombie and Tales of the Zombie only ran for 10 issues, one less than Menace. In 1975, Tales of the Zombie ended with Simon Garth finally reaching his final resting place and dying a second time.
But you know Marvel! No one, not even a zombie, dies forever. Simon Garth has since been resurrected, though he’s only been used sparingly. There’s not much that can be done with him but his first appearance in Menace remains popular and has since been included in many horror comic anthologies.
You can’t keep a good zombie down.
Menace (Vol.1 #5, July 1953)
- Writer — Stan Lee
- Artist — Bill Everett
- Inker– Bill Everett
- Letterer — Bill Everett
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- The Avengers Appear on David Letterman
- Crisis on Campus
- “Even in Death”
- The Debut of Man-Wolf in Amazing Spider-Man
- Spider-Man Meets The Monster Maker
- Conan The Barbarian Visits Times Square
- Dracula Joins The Marvel Universe
- The Death of Dr. Druid
- To All A Good Night