A bit of evidence has surfaced which casts some doubt on the story I related previously concerning how the difficulties in getting DAREDEVIL #1 to print on time led to the emergency creation of AVENGERS #1. I’m not ready to throw in the towel on this belief completely just yet, but I do feel the need to run this addendum to the original story, so that everybody can decide for themselves.
As you’ll recall from the earlier accounting, in the final published books, neither AVENGERS #1 nor DAREDEVIL #1 carried a job number, those routing codes typically tucked away into a corner of the splash page that indicated what number work on the job would be billed against. Not all Marvel stories of this period have obvious job numbers, but most of them do, and since they were assigned sequentially as the work came in, they can provide us with a good picture as to what sequence different stories were produced in. The job number on X-MEN #1 was X-401.
It was historian Will Murray who thought to look for the job number for AVENGERS #1 in reprints of that story, and e found it in the version printed in SON OF ORIGINS OF MARVEL COMICS. There on the splash page, a job number is given for the story; and that job number, as you can see above, is X-337, a solid sixty-plus slots before that of X-MEN #1. So what does this all mean?
Well, on the surface of it, this certainly makes it appear as though AVENGERS #1 was in production well before X-MEN #1, and any haste in its production would therefore have been due to no more than a heavy workload on all concerned. Additionally, it could be extrapolated that it was X-MEN #1 which was rushed together in order to take the place of the challenged DAREDEVIL #1 on press. That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me on a content level, since every aspect of X-MEN #1 was brand new–but that very well may have been the way it went.
The question for me, though, is why that job number had been eliminated at some point in the process of completing AVENGERS #1? It could simply have been an error, or a snap decision. Alternately, it could indicate something a bit more. This is a bit of a stretch, but assuming that the original story about AVENGERS #1 being a response to DAREDEVIL #1 being late, how do we square this circle? Looking at the opening two pages of AVENGERS #1, apart from the cast roster down the right side of the splash and the appearance of the Hulk in the final panel of Page 2, there’s nothing on these pages that might not have been present in a THOR story from this period. Were these first two pages recycled from some earlier THOR story that was put aside for some reason?
I’ll admit, that’s a tough leap to make. I tend to be a believer in Occam’s Razor in these situations, where the simplest solution is most often the correct one. And in this instance, that would seem to indicate that AVENGERS #1 was in production well before X-MEN #1 (whether or not X-MEN #1 took DAREDEVIL #1’s spot on the printing schedule.) There was also some vague chatter in the fanzines of the era from Stan Lee hinting at an upcoming team-up between all of the Marvel characters which indicates that he was at least thinking about the idea which would eventually become the Avengers around this period.
There is one other thing that occurred to me as I looked over all of this again and thought about it. And that’s that the splash page to DAREDEVIL #1 not only doesn’t have a job number on it, but is also crudely cobbled together from the design drawing of the character and a stat of the cover to AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #1. Now, sure, the issue was running late, but can you imagine a long-time professional like Bill Everett not drawing an opening splash page on a job like this and just beginning with Page 2? I can’t–and that suggests to me that there may have once been an Everett-drawn splash page that Stan chose to throw out in favor of this paste-up job from production man Sol Brodsky. No such page has ever surfaced, but that’s the only way its absence makes sense to me.