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    

Jack Kirby Machine Man #4 Original Marvel Comic Book Bronze Age Art 1978The New Mutants #98 (feb 1991, Marvel) 1st Appearance Of DeadpoolOriginal Arthur Adams Art Signed Marvel Card Series Ii Doom Thanos Galactus Portland Original Owner Mid-grade Marvel Silver Age Comic Collection Xmen 1Rare Marvel Silver Age Lot 52 Comics Tales Of Suspense Astonish X-men Thor KeysOriginal Marvel Comics Thor #325 Art Interior Page Vs Darkoth Kupperberg MooneyMarvel Premiere 15 1st Iron Fist! Stamp Intact! 8.5 Very High Grade!!Marvel Tales Of Suspense 39 Cgc 5.0 (apparent B-3) Ow Super Key 1st Iron Man!Avengers #1 Marvel 1963 - 1st App & Origin Of Avengers - Thor, Iron Man & Hulk!Amazing Spider-man 129 (solid!) 1st App. Punisher! 1974; Marvel Comics (c#04363)Avengers #57 Marvel 1968 - 1st App Vision - Death Of Ultron - John Buscema!!Marvel Preview #1- 24 High Grade 9.8 Lot 2 4 7 Bronze Age Cgc 1975Avengers #4 Marvel 1964 - 1st Sa App Of Captain America & Bucky - Revival Story!Marvel New Mutants #98 1991 1st Appearance Deadpool Key Issue Domino Great BookGiant-size X-men #1 Marvel 1975 - 1st App Of Colossus, Storm & Nightcrawler!!!The Incredible Hulk Marvel Comic #1 May 1962 Cgc Universal Grade 4.51970 * Conan The Barbarian #1 * Marvel Comics Est 9.2 Nm- Rare White Pages FirstAmazing Spider-man #15 Key (1st Kraken The Hunter) Aug.1964 Marvel Comics1964 Amazing Spider-man #10 Marvel Comics Cgc Graded 7.0 Fn/vf Rare White PagesX-men #101 -near Mint- 9.0 Nm - Marvel 1976 - 1st App & Origin Of The Phoenix!!!Marvel Comics Avengers By Busiek And Perez Omnibus Hc Volume #2 1248 Pages Fantastic Four Silver Age Marvel Comic Book Collection Lot + Bonus 50 Comics Marvel 1973 Iron Man #55 F-vf Condition. Comic4 J Scott Campbell Variants: Silk #3 + Ms. Marvel #2 + Gwenpool #1 + Secret WarsMarvel Premiere 15 1st Iron Fist! Stamp Intact! 7.5 High Grade!!Marvel Planet Of The Apes #1- 28 High Grade 9.8 Bronze Age Lot 1974 Cgc1963 * Fantastic Four #11 * Marvel Comics Est 6.0 Fn Rare Off White Pages Pin-upIron Man 1 Cgc 7.0 Fn/vf * Marvel 1968 * Premiere Issue!!!! Origin Retold!!Huge Lot Of Dc And Marvel Comic Books, Silver To Bronze Age, Old And Vintage!Marvel Comics Fantastic Four By John Byrne Omnibus Hard Cover Volume #1 & 2 NewTales To Astonish #35 Key (1st Ant-man In Costume) Sep.1962, Marvel ComicsMarvel Treasury Edition #1- 23 High Grade Bronze Age 9.6 Lot 1974 CgcThe New Mutants #87 (mar 1990, Marvel) - Key Issue - 1st Appearance CableMarvel Comics Secret Warriors Omnibus Hc Brian Michael Bendis 904 PagesDaredevil #1 Marvel 1964 - 1st App & Origin Of Daredevil - 1st App Foggy Nelson!1966 * Fantastic Four #50 * Marvel Comics * Cgc 8.5 Vf+ * Rare Off White Pages !Vintage 12 Cent Marvel Dc Classics Illustrated Comic Book Lot Of 30 Lot10X-men Omnibus #1 By Chris Claremont & Jim Lee-marvel Comics-wolverine-magneto-nrSideshow Marvel The Amazing Spider-man Comiquette Exclusive #369/650Iron Man #1 (solid!) 1st Issue! Origin Retold; 1968; Marvel Comics (c#04384)The Avengers #57 Vg (oct 1968, Marvel) First Appearance Of The Vision The New Mutants #98 (feb 1991, Marvel) Cgc 9.8 1st Appearance Deadpool NmMarvel Super-heroes #13 Key Cgc 8.5 (1st Carol Danvers, Captain Marvel) Mar.1968Iron Man #1 (may 1968, Marvel)Mike Vosburg Spider-man Marvel Team-up #80 Original Comic Art 1979Uncanny X-men #266 -mint- 9.8 Nm/mt - Marvel 1990 - 1st App Of Gambit!!!Silver Surfer Omnibus Hc Hardcover Marvel Comics Stan Lee John BuscemaFantastic Four #45 Marvel 1965 - 1st App Of The Inhumans - Thing & Human Torch!Black Panther #1 To #11 (missing #4) Newsstand High Grade Nm+ 9.6 Marvel BronzeNew Mutants #98 Vg Key 1st Appearance Deadpool 1991 Marvel ~ Domino ~ LiefeldMarvel The Deadly Hands Of Kung Fu #22- 26 High Grade 9.8 Lot 1976 Cgc RareNew Mutants #98 Cgc 9.6 Nm+ (near Mint) 1st Appearance Deadpool White Pgs MarvelMarvel Comics Daredevil Omnibus By Bendis & Maleev Hc #2 Sealed! New! Oop!!Fantastic Four #46 Marvel 1966 - 1st App Of Black Bolt - Jack Kirby, Stan Lee!!!Silk #3 J. Scott Campbell 1:25 Variant Marvel Black Cat 2016 NmDaredevil #131 -high Grade- Marvel 1976 - 1st App & Origin Of Bullseye!!!Marvel Comics X-men Age Of Apocalypse Omnibus Companion Hard Cover New! $100Human Torch #30 Cgc 7.5 Headlights Bondage Everett Art Timely/marvel1962 * Fantastic Four #8 * Marvel Comics * Est 4.0 Vg * Rare Off White Pages !!!Captain America #110 Newsstand High Grade Nm- 9.2 Steranko Hulk Marvel Comic