TIMELY COMICS and ATLAS COMICSPrimary Product: Comic Books
Producing Since: 1939
Noted For: Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, Captain America, X-Men, Avengers, and much, much more
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now known as Marvel Comics. Many writers about comic books apply the name to everything published by that outfit during the 1940s, despite the fact that it was no more prominent than any other "company name" Goodman used back then.
Apparently, back in the 1960s, when comic book historical research was in its infancy, a fan got hold of a Goodman-published comic book that happened to have come out during the single quarter of 1942 in which the name "Timely Comics" was used on the cover. He extrapolated, erroneously but enduringly, to come up with the notion that it was the name used by Marvel during that entire period. In reality, there wasn't any name used by Marvel during that entire period. In fact, for two brief periods, it used the name "Marvel".
Similarly, the company used "Atlas" (actually the name of its in-house distributor) as an imprint for several years during the 1950s — but not during the whole 1950s. It's a little more accurate to refer to that decade's output as "Atlas Comics", but not entirely so. (In the 1970s, by the way, after he'd sold Marvel, Goodman was involved in a venture that actually was named Atlas Comics.)
Of course, these labels serve the purpose of communication — "Timely" equals Marvel Comics of the 1940s; "Atlas" equals Marvel Comics of the 1950s; and "Marvel" equals Marvel Comics from the '60s on. It's a whole lot easier to remember that, than to learn the names of dozens if not hundreds of "companies".
Here at Don Markstein's Toonopedia, we have an easier way yet to keep it straight. We simply call the company "Marvel Comics", no matter when the comic in question came out.