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    

The New Mutants #98 (feb 1991, Marvel)The Incredible Hulk #1 Cgc 5.0 Ow/white Pages Marvel Comics 1962Amazing Fantasy 15 Marvel 1962 Cgc 4.0 Vg 1st App. Spider-manHero For Hire #1 -high Grade- Marvel 1972 - 1st App & Origin Of Luke Cage!!!Lot Of 1,007 Silver To Modern Age, Marvel & Dc Comics / Avengers, Ff, Batman,Vintage Rarest Third Eye Marvel Black Light Poster Marvel Super-heroes 1971Timely Marvel Mystery Comics #33 Classic Schomburg Wwii Japanese Kamikaze Cover Astonishing Tales #24 Original Marvel Comic Book Bronze Age Art 1974 Dick AyersWerewolf By Night #32 Marvel 1975 - 1st App & Origin Of Moon Knight - Look!!!Marvel Giant Size X-men #1 1975 Pgx 7.5 Vf- 1st App New Team Nightcrawler StormThe Incredible Hulk #181 Marvel Comics 1st Appearance Wolverine 1974 Amazing Spider-man #129 Key (1st Punisher) Affordable Grade, Marvel ComicsIron Man 55 Cgc 9.6 Nm+ * Marvel 1977 * 1st App. Thanos!!!1972 Marvel Comics Hero For Hire #1 Pgx 8.0 (like Cgc) High Grade 1st Luke CageAmazing Fantasy 15 Marvel 1962 Cgc 3.5 Vg 1st App. Spider-manMarvel Comics X-men #1 1963 Pgx 4.5 Vg+ 1st App Original Team/magneto Big Key!!Incredible Hulk #181 Key (1st Wolverine, Full) Value Stamp Intact, Marvel ComicsHero For Hire #1 (jun 1972, Marvel) First Appearance Luke Cage! Netflix Tv Show!Werewolf By Night #32 1st Appearance Moon Knight Netflix Marvel Bronze Age KeyHulk #181 Key (1st Wolverine, Full App.) Low Grade, Value Stamp Intact, MarvelFantastic Four #45 (1965 Marvel) 1st Appearance Inhumans 4.5 Or Better Rare HotMarvel Spotlight #5 Vg/fn 4.5/5.0!1st App Ghost Rider!ww Ship!hotMarvel Comics Incredible Hulk #181 1974 Pgx 6.5 Fn+ 1st Wolverine Key W/ StampX-men Dazzler #7 Hulk Original Comic Bronze Art Marvel Springer 1981 1/2 SplashIron Man #55 1st Appearance Of Thanos, Drax-major Bronze Age Key-1973 MarvelFantastic Four#48 Marvel 1966 - 1st App(s) & Origins Of Silver Surfer & GalactusAlias #1 First Appearance Of Jessica Jones Nm 1st Print Marvel Netflix Marvel Mystery Comics Vol 1 #30 April, 1942 Human Torch C.g.c. Fn/vf7.0 Rare Marvel Comics Amazing Spider-man #6 1963 Pgx 6.0 Fn 1st App Lizard Key IssueEarl Norem Original Art Dungeons & Dragons Marvel Books 1983 Painting Pg. 1 Marvel Premiere # 15 - Higher Grade - Origin 1st App Iron Fist! Marvel Comics!!1988 Marvel Comics Amazing Spider-man #300 9.6 Nm+ High Grade 1st App Venom NiceMarvel Comics Amazing Spider-man #121 1973 Pgx 8.0 Vf Death Of Gwen Stacy KeySideshow Red Hulk Premium Format Marvel Comics Incredible Hulk Non ExclusiveMarvel Premiere #15 - 1974 - Nm 9.4 - Ow/w Pages - 1st Appearance Of Iron FistX-men Giant Size #1 Vf (8.0) Marvel, UncertifiedThe Avengers #57 (oct 1968, Marvel) !st Vision. UltronMarvel Comics Amazing Spider-man #129 1974 Pgx 8.0 Vf 1st App Punisher KeyMarvel Comics Invincible Iron Man #55 Vf/nm 1973 1st App Thanos & Drax Grade It!Earl Norem Original Art Dungeons & Dragons Marvel Books 1983 Painting Pg. 11 Nyx #3 Fn-. 1st Appearance X-23 Wolverine's Daugther (2004 Marvel)2013 Marvel Comics Captain Marvel #17 9.0 Vf/nm 2nd Printing 1st App Kamala KhanTales Of Suspense #57 -higher Grade- Marvel 1964 - 1st App & Origin Of Hawkeye!Marvel Comics Amazing Spider-man #41 1966 Pgx 7.5 Vf- 1st App Rhino Key IssueMarvel Amazing Spider-man #4 + #20 / #11 + #601 / #12 J. Scott Campbell VariantMarvel Comics Amazing Spider-man #2 1963 Pgx 4.5 Vg+ 1st App Vulture Key IssueNew Mutants #98 High Grade 1st App. Of Deadpool (marvel 1991) Rob LiefeldDaredevil #4 -higher Grade- Marvel 1964 - 1st App & Origin Of The Purple Man!!!Marvel Comics Amazing Spider-man #129 Vf/nm 1974 1st App Punisher Key Grade It!Star Wars #1 (jul 1977, Marvel) Cgc 9.6, White Pages! First Issue!Marvel Comics Iron Man #55- Cgc 6.0 - First Thanos & Drax The DestroyerIron Man #1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Lot Marvel 1st 8 Issue Complete Run AvengersMarvel Premiere 15 Origin/1st App Iron Fist! Marvel Comics No Reserve!Marvel Comics Invincible Iron Man #1 1968 Pgx 8.5 Vf+ 1st Issue Origin KeyDaredevil Marvel Omnibus Volume 1 Bendis Maleev Rare Oop First Print NetflixThe Punisher Omnibus Marvel Garth Ennis Max Oop RareIncredible Hulk 181 Cgc 3.0 With Marvel Stamp! 1st Wolverine! No Reserve!!!The Amazing Spider-man #300 (05/88, Marvel) Cgc High Grade 9.2, 1st App VenomAmazing Spider-man #300 - Cgc 9.0 Vf/nm (marvel Comics 1988)The New Mutants #98 (feb 1991, Marvel)