In 1939, Goodman elected to expand his publishing business into the newly emerging field of comic books by buying content from comics packager Funnies, Inc. His first effort, Marvel Comics #1 (Oct. 1939), featured the first appearances of writer-artist Carl Burgos's android superhero the Human Torch, and Paul Gustavson's costumed detective the Angel. It also contained the first generally available appearance of Bill Everett's mutant anti-hero Namor the Sub-Mariner, created for the unpublished movie-theater giveaway comic Motion Picture Funnies Weekly earlier that year, with the eight-page original story now expanded by four pages.
Also included was Al Anders' Western hero the Masked Raider; the jungle lord Ka-Zar the Great, who'd first appeared in Goodman's pulp magazine Ka-Zar #1 (Oct. 1936); the non-continuing-character story "Jungle Terror," featuring an adventurer named Ken Masters, written by the quirkily named Tohm Dixon; "Now I'll Tell One", five single-panel, black-and-white gag cartoons by Fred Schwab, on the inside front cover; and a two-page prose story by Ray Gill, "Burning Rubber", about auto racing. A painted cover by veteran science fiction pulp artist Frank R. Paul featured the Human Torch, looking very different from the way he did in the interior story.
That initial comic, cover-dated October 1939, quickly sold out 80,000 copies, prompting Goodman to produce a second printing, cover-dated November 1939 and identical except for a black bar in the inside-front-cover indicia over the October date, and the November date added at the end. That sold approximately 800,000 copies. With a hit on his hands, Goodman began assembling an in-house staff, hiring Funnies, Inc. writer-artist Joe Simon as editor. Simon brought along his collaborator, artist Jack Kirby, followed by artist Syd Shores.
The Torch and the Sub-Mariner would continue to star in the long-running title even after receiving their own solo comic-book series shortly afterward. The Angel, who was featured on the covers of issues #2-3, would appear in every issue through #79 (Dec. 1946). Other characters introduced in the title include the aviator the American Ace, with part one of his origin reprinted; the Ferret; and writer-artist Steve Dahlman's robot hero Electro (appearing in every issue from #4-19, Feb. 1940 - May 1941). Issue #13 saw the first appearance of the Vision, the inspiration for the same-name Marvel Comics superhero created in 1968. The original Vision appeared in solo stories through Marvel Mystery Comics #48. The Sub-Mariner's cousin Namora (who pre-dated Superman's cousin Supergirl) debuted in #82. Other contemporary characters to appear in the title included Captain America, the Young Allies, the Blonde Phantom, and Sun Girl.