Though Marvel is associated with such well-known comic book superheroes as Captain America, the Fantastic Four, the Incredible Hulk, the Amazing Spider-Man, and the X-Men, it began as a brand for Martin Goodman of Timely Publications and then Atlas Comics. Marvel Comics was first published in October, 1939. The Frank Paul penned-and-inked character on the cover of that debut issue was the Human Torch, the brainchild of Carl Burgos. Inside, Bill Everett’s Sub-Mariner made his first newsstand appearance, which a Tarzan-like character from the pulps named Ka-Zar the Great also made his comic-book bow.

Marvel Comics was renamed Marvel Mystery Comics for issues 2 (December, 1939) through 92 (June, 1949). Highlights of that run include issue No. 4 from February, 1940, in which Sub-Mariner fights Nazis on the deck of their swastika-flagged submarine, the Death Raider. This was the first comic book with Nazi references on a color cover, but the next issue with a cover illustration of the Human Torch by Alex Schomburg is tougher to find.

Concurrently, in 1941, Captain America was added to the Marvel family. The creation of Jack Kirby and Joe Simon, Captain America naturally spent much of World War II fighting the Nazis, landing a punch on the Fuhrer himself on the cover of Captain America Comics No. 1 (March, 1941). Stan Lee’s first signed story appeared in issue No. 3 (“Captain America Foils the Traitor’s Revenge”), with art by Kirby. Published in August of 1944, issue No. 41 one was the last Captain America set on a Japanese battlefield; issue No. 47 (June, 1945) was the last one set in Germany.

With issue No. 93 (August, 1949), Marvel Mystery Comics transitioned to the horror genre as Marvel Tales, with Stan Lee now firmly ensconced as editor. Issues No. 102 and 104 are notable or the contributions of Basil Wolverton, who is probably best known as the master of grotesque parodies for “Mad” magazine. Issue No. 132 (March, 1955) was the first Marvel comic to bear the seal of approval from the Comics Code Authority.

But Marvel as we know it today began in November, 1961, when Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created the Fantastic Four, which featured the same Human Torch that had debuted for Marvel in 1939. The Incredible Hulk followed in May, 1962, for just six issues, before taking over the Tales to Astonish series in April, 1968, which is why the numbers for this second batch of Hulks begins with No. 102 and runs through No. 474 in March, 1999.

The Amazing Spider-Man was hot on the heels of the Hulk in March, 1963, although the character actually debuted in the last issue (No. 15) of Amazing Adult Fantasy, which was renamed Amazing Fantasy for the August, 1962, issue. While Jack Kirby penciled the cover, Steve Ditko did all the interior pen-and-ink work, with Lee writing.

In fact, the fall of 1962 through the spring of 1964 was an exceptionally productive period for Marvel. In addition to Spider-Man, the company introduced Thor to the world in Aug...

By the end of the 1960s, the Silver Surfer had been added to the lineup (the Kirby character was introduced in Fantastic Four No. 48, March, 1966), along with a short-lived (June, 1968 to March, 1971) psychedelic badass from the mind of Jim Steranko named Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Cover Browser

Cover Browser

Philipp Lenssen's incredible archive of over 94,000 comic book covers - Wow! Wham! Yikes! Browse by title from the … [read review or visit site]

Jamie Coville's in-progress ode to the history of 20th century comic books. Start with his Newsstand Period Part 1 … [read review or visit site]

Popeye's Thimble Theatre

Popeye's Thimble Theatre

Bruce Shults takes us on a comprehensive Popeye fan tour, from the early comic strips to cartoons and collectible m… [read review or visit site]

Barnacle Press

Barnacle Press

This collection of obscure newspaper comic strips provides scans browsable by title, year and date. Showcases comic… [read review or visit site]

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Amazing Iron Mountain Marvel Silver Comic Collection Ff1 12 48 Tos39 Avengers 1Incredible Hulk #181 Vol 1 Near Perfect High Grade 1st Wolverine W/ Marvel StampMarvel Nyx #3 1st X-23 Appearance Laura Kinney, Wolverine, Key Issue High GradeNyx #3 • Marvel 2004 • Cgc 9.8 • 1st X-23 (laura Kinney)Marvel Comics Original John Romita Signed X-men Commission Artwork Black & WhiteVenom #1 (2017 Marvel Comics) Sketch Variant Signed Todd Mcfarlane Ss Cgc 9.21963 * X-men #1 * Marvel Comics Cgc Graded 5.0 Vg/fn * Rare Off White Pages !!!!Marvel Comics Original Jim Starlin Signed Warlock Commission Artwork Black WhiteMarvel Comics ~ The New Mutants # 98 (nm) 1st Deadpool 1991 NmLogan Movie - Marvel Nyx #3 Cgc 9.6 Signature Series, Signed By Creator Of X-23!X-men #1 (sept. 1963, Marvel) 1st Appearance X-men + MagnetoMarvel Spotlight #5 Vol 1 Very Nice But Low Grade Unrestored 1st App Ghost RiderMarvel Comics Original Neal Adams Signed Black Bolt Commission Artwork B & W Marvel Comics Venom #3 J. Scott Campbell Variant Cover Edition 1:100Old Marvel Comics *** Giant-size X-men *** # 1 !!! Fine - Key Issue 1975Mega High Grade Marvel Copper Comic Collection Hulk 340 Wolverine 1 X-factor 6Marvel X-men #4 In Very Good Plus/fine Condition1963 * Avengers #1 * Marvel Comics Cgc Graded 4.5 Vg+ * Rare Off White Pages !!!Amazing Spider-man #300 Origin + 1st Full App. Venom Marvel 1988 Todd McfarlaneUncanny X-force Omnibus By Rick Remender Hc - Oop!!! Excellent Shape - Marvel1990 Marvel The New Mutants #87 1st Appearance Cable Cgc Ready Very High GradeMarvel Comics Original Bob Layton Signed Hercules Commission Artwork Black WhiteAmazing Spider-man #15 (2016 Marvel) Signed J Scott Campbell Variant Ss Cgc 9.8Old Marvel 12c Comics ~ Invincible Iron Man # 1 !!! - 1967 FineGamora #2 Mattina Variant 1:25 Marvel Comics HtfLogan Movie - Marvel Nyx #3 Cgc 9.8 Signature Series, Signed By Creator Of X-23!The Incredible Hulk #1 Marvel Comic 1962 Unrestored Original Us Ed. Majory KeyMarvel 1980 Savage She-hulk 1 Pgx Graded Gem Nm/m 9.8 Like Cgc Cbcs Red Hot BookCaptain America Comics #63 (jul 1947, Marvel) "the Parrot Strikes!"Amazing Spider-man #14 Marvel 1964 - 1st App Of The Green Goblin - Hulk X-over!1965 * Daredevil #7 Marvel Comics * Cgc Graded 8.5 Vf+ * White Pages Sub-marinerDon Heck Giant-size Defenders #5 Hulk Dr Strange Marvel Original Comic Art 1975Marvel Comics Original John Romita Signed Spiderman Commission Artwork Sketch The Amazing Spider-man #300 (may 1988, Marvel)Tales Of Suspense #52 Marvel 1964 - Iron Man - 1st App Of The Black Widow!!!Marvel Comics Marvel Spotlight On...#32 Spider-woman~9.0 (vf/nm), $1 Opening BidMega Warren Marvel Horror Magazine Collection Vampirella 1 Famous EerieFantastic Four #52 Marvel 1966 - 1st App Of The Black Panther - Check Our ComicsMighty Captain Marvel #1 Alex Ross 1:50 (1 In 50) Variant NmFantastic Four #48 Marvel 1966 - 1st App(s) & Origin Of Silver Surfer & GalactusTales Of Suspense #52 (1964 Marvel Comics) 1st Appearance Black Widow Great CopyIncredible Hulk #181 1st Wolverine (marvel 1974) Apparent Vg W/marvel StampCaptain Marvel #17 2nd Print Cgc 9.8 1st Kamala Khan 1 Ms Marvel Cover Second NmAvengers #4 Marvel 1964 - 1st Sa App Captain America & Bucky - Revival Story!!!Amazing Spider-man #14 (1964 Marvel) 1st Appearance Of Green Goblin No ReserveThe Amazing Spider-man #41 (oct 1966, Marvel) 1st RhinoFantastic Four #45 Marvel 1965 - 1st App Of The Inhumans - Check Out Our Comics!Captain Marvel Premium Format Figure Carol Danvers Sideshow Collectibles Fantastic Four By Jonathan Hickman Omnibus Volumes 1 & 2 - Oop!!! Marvel HcMarvel Comics Original Herb Trimpe Signed Hulk Commission Artwork Sketch B & WMarvel Comics Original Jim Starlin Signed Captain Marvel Commission Sketch B & WMarvel X-men #3 In Very Good Plus/fine ConditionWerewolf By Night #32 Marvel 1975 - 1st App & Origin Of Moon Knight!!!Tomb Of Dracula #10 July 1973 Marvel Comics 1st App. Blade The Vampire SlayerMarvel Preview #4 Presents 1st Star-lord! Origin / Key! / Movie ComingStar Wars #1 (jul 1977, Marvel) Comic Book Cgc Graded 7.5 Newsstand Edition Marvel New Mutants #87 9.4 Nm 1st Cable AppearanceStar Wars #1 Cgc 9.6 1977 Marvel Original Series Comic Book Vintage 1st PrintFantastic Four #45 (dec 1965, Marvel) 1st Appearance Inhumans, Black Bolt, CgcIron Fist #14 August 1977 Marvel Comics John Byrne 1st App. Sabretooth