The Golden Age of Comics was nearly over, and the superhero/adventure genre was on the wane, with romance on the rise.  Good thing Atlas Comics was ready to merge the two!  Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of Venus #1 awaits!

Venus1CoverVENUS #1
Writer: Uncredited
Penciler: Ken Bald (Unconfirmed)
Inker: Lin Streeter
Colorist: Uncredited
Editor: Stan Lee
Publisher: Atlas (Marvel) Comics
Cover Price: 10 Cents
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $3,000.00

Previously in Venus:  I’m gonna be honest: When I started this week’s Retro Review, I was considering 1950s Marvel Boy #1, one of Marvel/Atlas Comics’ attempts to rekindle the fires of their comic fortunes, only to find I didn’t own it.  Of course, that led me to Venus, another 50s Marvel protagonist revived in recent years, which actually makes for a better read.  We begin our story one planet over, with the ancient goddess who gave it its name…


After centuries of dominion over the second planet, Venus is tired and lonely, seeking out the kind of friendship (and romance!) that you can only get on Earth.  Of course, when you’re an ancient goddess, you can actually take action on an interplanetary scale to put the end to your ennui…


At Marvel Comics, Earth is textually the center of the universe, with the back story of the entire multiverse tied to its history.  And, at the center of that center of the universe, is New York City, so naturally, Venus ends up on those 1948 streets.  And, since she is the most beautiful woman on two worlds, she literally stops traffic…


Enter Whitney Hammond, publisher of Beauty Magazine, who is immediately smitten by her immortal beauty, and vows to make Venus the face of his mag’s new age!  He is also a liar, who takes custody of a strange woman and drags her off into the night, which is something that isn’t quite as “silly, madcap adventure” in the 21st Century as it might have seemed in the years after WWII.  Fortunately, Venus isn’t very tolerant of blowhards and flounces off…


…unfortunately, the journey has left her without her powers, and she utterly fails to walk through the wall to freedom.  Realizing that she has a rare opportunity, Venus quickly decides to employ a secret identity, hiding her goddess nature, and weirdly hybridizing the mostly romance story.

It’s really unclear who the audience for this book was expected to be; Marvel made strides in the late 1940s to appeal to girls and grown-up women (as seen by Miss America’s magazine, which morphed from superhero book to teen mag), but the art throughout this issue feels very Good Girl pin-up.  It’s a strange story made even stranger as Whitney decides to make her not only the FACE of his magazine, but its metaphorical head as well…


The first story ends, leading to a time-jump wherein we discover that Whitney’s plan has been successful, and Venus explains how it all came down: First a whirlwind trip to get her a new wardrobe…


But when the former editor of Beauty puts out a press release claiming he has found the 10 most beautiful women on Earth, Venus is forced to earn her editorial credentials…

…through magic!


Apparently, he assumption that her powers were entirely gone was not exactly accurate, and she transcends space back to her home world.  If her rival has the most beautiful women on Earth, thinks our errant goddess, the only answer is to look somewhere other than Earth, summoning her handmaidens…


I don’t know who wrote this story, but the merging of Cliff’s Notes history with mythology sure feels like a Stan Lee idea.  (The dialogue doesn’t have any of his hallmarks, though.)  With the most gorgeous women in pseudo-history at her command, Venus returns to Beauty Magazine, ready to devastate her readers with the pretty-pretty…


In a lot of ways, you kind of have to feel bad for her competitors.  But, that’s not important right now, what’s important is that she creates the best-selling issue of Beauty ever, far outstripping Lovely Lady Magazine’s ten ladies, snubs her rival for Whitney’s affections, and gets to go out on a real date for the first time in her centuries of existence.  It’s a happy ending!


…so long as you don’t think about a publisher taking massive losses, Della losing her would-be boyfriend and promotion and Whitney spending his time trying to woo an immortal who will likely be completely unrelatable and likely lose interest long before he does.  But, let’s be honest: If we pulled at all the threads in comic books, the whole thing would collapse like a flan in a cupboard.  Still, even after all that, the thing that I find most interesting about this issue is the appearance of a one-page Harvey Kurtzmann ‘Hey, Look!’ strip…


Still a couple of years from his stint as founding editor of Mad Magazine, Kurtzman’s classic timing is still in evidence in this strip, one of an ongoing series for Timely/Atlas/Gonna Be Marvel Comics, and it’s always fun to run across one in its natural habitat.  All in all, though, Venus #1 is something of an anomaly, hedging its bets in trying to be both romance and quasi-superhero adventure, and sorta succeeding on the strength of its art, earning a better than expected 3 out of 5 stars overall.  (For those wondering, this is the same Venus who later ended up a member of the Agents Of Atlas in the 2000s, with a change in hair color and, eventually, a new origin to explain how she isn’t the same Venus from the Olympian pantheon.)



A cute post-Golden Age tale, mostly memorable for later use of the character and some really attractive Good Girl art...

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Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.

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