Martin Goodman founded the company later known as Marvel Comics under the name Timely Publications in 1939, publishing comic books under the imprint Timely Comics. Goodman, a pulp magazine publisher who had started with a Western pulp in 1933, was expanding into the emerging—and by then already highly popular—new medium of comic books. Launching his new line from his existing company's offices at 330 West 42nd Street, New York City, New York, he officially held the titles of editor, managing editor, and business manager, with Abraham Goodman officially listed as publisher.
Timely's first publication, Marvel Comics #1 (cover dated Oct. 1939), included the first appearance of Carl Burgos' android superhero the Human Torch, and the first generally available appearance of Bill Everett's anti-hero Namor the Sub-Mariner, among other features. The issue was a great success, with it and a second printing the following month selling, combined, nearly 900,000 copies. While its contents came from an outside packager, Funnies, Inc., Timely by the following year had its own staff in place.
The company's first true editor, writer-artist Joe Simon, teamed with eminent industry legend Jack Kirby to create one of the first patriotically themed superheroes, Captain America, in Captain America Comics #1. (March 1941) It, too, proved a major sales hit, with sales of nearly one million.
While no other Timely character would achieve the success of these "big three", some notable heroes—many of which continue to appear in modern-day retcon appearances and flashbacks—include the Whizzer, Miss America, the Destroyer, the original Vision, and the Angel. Timely also published one of humor cartoonist Basil Wolverton's best-known features, "Powerhouse Pepper", as well as a line of children's funny-animal comics featuring popular characters like Super Rabbit and the duo Ziggy Pig and Silly Seal.
Goodman hired his wife's cousin, Stanley Lieber, as a general office assistant in 1939. When editor Simon left the company in late 1941, Goodman made Lieber—by then writing pseudonymously as "Stan Lee"—interim editor of the comics line, a position Lee kept for decades except for three years during his military service in World War II. Lee wrote extensively for Timely, contributing to a number of different titles.
Goodman's business strategy involved having his various magazines and comic books published by a number of corporations all operating out of the same office and with the same staff. One of these shell companies through which Timely Comics was published was named Marvel Comics by at least Marvel Mystery Comics #55 (May 1944). As well, some comics' covers, such as All Surprise Comics #12 (Winter 1946-47), were labeled "A Marvel Magazine" many years before Goodman would formally adopt the name in 1961.