Martan and Vana. Artist: William Kent.


Medium: Comic books
Published by: Dell Comics
First Appeared: 1939
Creators: G. Ellerbock (writer) and William Kent (artist)
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Popular Comics, which started with a lineup of mostly Chicago Tribune comic strips such as Dick Tracy, The Gumps and Winnie Winkle, was one of several Dell Comics titles that existed mainly to reprint newspaper comics during the late 1930a. But the practice of running original material …

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… in reprint comics was growing more widespread, and it was getting so practically everybody who published comic books was putting in a non-reprinted feature or two. A year or so later, any original adventure character would, likely as not, be a superhero; but Martan the Marvel Man, like DC's Gary Concord, Ultra Man, was a pulp-style sci-fi adventurerer who looks more superhero-like in retrospect than he did at the time.

Martan was an alien from the planet Antaclea, but could pass for human at least as easily as Superman, a native of Krypton, did. He and his bride, Vana, came to Earth as honeymooning tourists but stayed as interventionists — they'd found our planet in the throes of an invasion from Mars, right after a series of debilitating wars had rendered it weak. Vana wasn't mentioned in the series title despite the fact that her support was every bit as valuable to Martan's Earth-rescuing project as were his own super strength, telepathic powers, and Antaclean technology. (Perhaps the reason for this is similar to whatever caused Wing, The Crimson Avenger's sidekick, not to be listed as a member of The Seven Soldiers of Victory.)

Martan's adventures (with, let's not fail to mention, Vana) were attributed to writer G. Ellerbock and artist William Kent. Neither is known to have other credits in comics, leading to a suspicion that both may be house names. If so, the creator of Martan and Vana is unknown.

Martan and Vana passed for superheroes well enough to hold their own in the early 1940s American comic book market (tho Popular Comics did field more typical members of the genre, such as The Voice and The Owl, not much later). They even appeared on a half-dozen or so covers during 1941. But they were gone and forgotten within a few years.


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Text ©2007 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Western Printing.