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]

TheComicBooks.com

TheComicBooks.com

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 Fantasy #15 1962 Key Marvel Silver Age First Ever Appearance Spider-manBest Marvel Silver Bronze High Grade Comic Collection St 110 Xmen 94 Asm 14 1291975 Marvel Giant Size X-men #1 Cgc 7.5 Ow-w 1st Appearance New X-men Vintage 1963 Marvel X-men #1 Silver Age Comic Book Cgc Graded 2.5Vintage 1966 Marvel Comics Fantastic Four #52 Cgc Graded Silver Age ComicVintage 1966 Marvel Comics Fantastic Four #48 Cgc Graded 8.0 Silver Age ComicMarvel Premiere Featuring Iron Fist, Marvel #15. (marvel. 1974.) 1st App/ OriginWerewolf By Night #32 (aug 1975, Marvel) First Appearance Moon Knight Exclusive Funko Pop! Hobgoblin Marvel Collector Corps Year One Box #165Vintage 1964 Marvel Daredevil #1 Origin Graded 4.0 Comic Book Cgc Graded 4.0*nyx #3 - 1st Appearance Of X-23 Laura Kinney Marvel 2004*Daredevil #1 (apr 1964, Marvel)Giant-size X-men #1 -higher Grade- Marvel 1975 - 1st New Xmen - 2nd Wolverine!!!1964 * Amazing Spider-man #14 * Marvel Comics Est 3.5 Vg- * Rare Off White PagesWerewolf By Night #32 • 1st Moon Knight • Hi Grade Vf Or Higher • Key MarvelMarvel Super-heroes Captain Marvel #13 Cgc Graded 9.2 Silver Age Comic SentryGene Colan Howard The Duck Magazine Original Art Issue #3 Page 24 MarvelThe Silver Surfer #4 (feb 1969, Marvel) High Grade Beauty!!Incredible Hulk #1 Marvel 1962, 1st Appearance Incredible Hulk! Missing CoverGiant-size X-men #1 Marvel Comics 1st Appearance Of The New X-men G/vgX-23 #1 Variant Gabriele Dell'otto Marvel Htf1963 Marvel Tales To Astonish #44 Cgc 8.0 Ow-w Pages 1st Appearance WaspMs. Marvel 18 Cgc 9.8 - White Pages - 1st Mystique - No Reserve Auction1962 * Fantastic Four #3 * Marvel Comics * Cgc Graded 6.5 Fn+ * Rare White PagesAmazing Spider-man # 252 - Near Mint 9.4 Nm - New Black Costume! Marvel Comics!The New Mutants #98 (feb 1991, Marvel)Thor 132 Cgc 9.8 Nm/mt Sep 1966 Marvel First Ego Living Planet Gotg Spider-manFantastic Four #48 Cgc 6.5 (mar 1966, Marvel) Rare!!!Vintage 1966 Marvel Comics Fantastic Four #49 Cgc Graded 9.0 Silver Age ComicVintage 1965 Marvel Comics Fantastic Four #45 Cgc Graded 8.5 Silver Age ComicThe Uncanny X-men #266 (aug 1990, Marvel)1963 Marvel Avengers #1 Cgc 3.5 Off White Pages 1st AppearanceEroes Of Marvel" 18" Funko Dorbz By Brittany Rose Smith1963 Amazing Spider-man #5 Marvel Comics Cgc Graded 8.5 Vf+ Restored White PagesIron Fist #14 • 1st Sabertooth • Fn/vf (7.0) • Huge Key • Netflix Show! MarvelMarvel Premiere #47 Bronze Age 1st Scott Lang As Ant-man Huge Key Vf/vf+ Gem Vintage 1968 Marvel Prince Namor, The Sub-mariner #1 Comic Book Cgc Graded 9.2The Avengers #4 (mar 1964, Marvel)Strange Tales #126 (nov 1964, Marvel) Nice Copy No Reserve! Key Key !Vintage 1966 Marvel Comics Fantastic Four #46 Cgc Graded Silver Age ComicNew Mutants #98 -near Mint- 9.4 Nm - Marvel 1991 - 1st App Of Deadpool - X-men!Marvel High Grade X-men Wolverine Spider-man Avengers Copper Comic CollectionMarvel Premiere #15 Cgc 9.0 Origin And 1st Appearance Of Iron Fist1964 Marvel Amazing Spider-man #13 1st Appearance Mysterio Cgc 9.2 Ow-w RestoredMarvel Super-heroes #13 Cgc 4.5 Vg+ Signed Stan Lee 1st App. Carol DanversMs. Marvel #1 Bronze Age Key Spider-man Wow 1st Ms. Marvel CaptainX-men #94 -near Mint- 9.2 Nm- Marvel 1975 - 2nd App Of New Xmen - 2nd Wolverine!Amazing Spider-man # 300 - High Grade - 1st Full Venom App! Marvel Check Comics!Amazing Spider-man # 238 - Near Mint 9.0 Nm - 1st App Hobgoblin! Marvel Comics!Invincible Iron Man 7 & 9 Marvel Comics 2016 First Riri Williams First Print Vintage 1965 Marvel Comics Fantastic Four #36 Cgc Graded 9.2 Silver Age ComicMarvel Premiere #15 -high Grade- Marvel 1974 - 1st App & Origin Of Iron Fist!!!Marvel Premiere #15 • Cgc 7.5 Vf- • 1st Iron Fist • Huge Key! Netflix (marvel)1964 * Amazing Spider-man #11 * Marvel Comics Est 6.0 Fn * Rare Off White Pages1964 Marvel Tales Of Suspense #57 Cgc Graded 7.0 Hawkeye Black Widow Comic BookThe New Mutants #98 - (feb 1991, Marvel)Captain America #100 High Grade Marvel Ready To Be GradedAmazing Spider-man #300 (may 1988, Marvel) First App VenomNew Mutants #100 Cgc 9.8 Wp 1st App. X-force Marvel Comics 4/91 Rob Liefeld!1973 Marvel Iron Man #55 Cgc 7.0 Ow-w Pages 1st Appearance Of Thanos Drax