Human Torch? Sub-Mariner? Captain America? Guess again.
Several of Marvel's longest-running and most iconic characters first appeared in comics released around 1939 by Timely Publications. But which character claims the distinction of being the FIRST?
Captain America first appeared in early 1941, but the shield-throwing super soldier was preceded more than a year earlier by a handful of other colorful heroes. Marvel Comics #1 hit the streets late in the summer of '39. The magazine introduced readers to two of Marvel's signature characters, the Human Torch and the Sub-Mariner. Also presented in that history-making first issue was the origin of Ka-Zar the Great, Lord of the Jungle.
Ka-Zar ran for 27 issues of Marvel Comics and continued to appear sporadically over the next several decades in other Marvel magazines, including X-Men and Amazing Spider-Man. The character started out as nothing more than one of numerous knockoffs intended to cash in on the success of Tarzan of the Apes. But of more interest, Ka-Zar started out in the pulps - three years before the publication of Marvel Comics #1.
Ka-Zar premiered in October 1936, in King of Fang and Claw, the first of three novels that appeared in the short-lived Ka-Zar pulp adventure magazine. The first novel was then adapted and serialized, as the graphic story that ran in Marvel Comics three years later.
So, Ka-Zar reigns supreme as the oldest continuing Marvel character.