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    

Tales Of Suspense 39 Cgc 3.0 First Iron Man Avengers 1 Marvel Silver Age GrailWerewolf By Night #32 -near Mint- 9.0 Nm - Marvel - 1st App & Origin Moon KnightIncredible Hulk 181 Cgc 8.0 First Wolverine Avengers Marvel Bronze Age Grail 1Tales To Astonish 13 Cgc 3.0 First Groot Guardians Of The Galaxy Marvel Ant ManAmazing Spider-man #14 (1964 Marvel) 1st Appearance Of Green Goblin No ReserveSideshow Exclusives! Hulkbuster Iron Man Comiquette Marvel Avengers HulkGiant-size X-men #1 ([july] 1975, Marvel)Avengers #6 Marvel 1964 -near Mint 9.0 Nm- 1st App Original Zemo - Thor Iron ManMarvel Movie Copper Age Comic Collection Run Lot Amazing Spider-man #300 252 238Giant-size X-men #1 ([july] 1975, Marvel) 1st Appearance Colossus, Nightcrawler+Amazing Spider-man #129 -near Mint- 9.2 Nm - Marvel 1974 - 1st App The Punisher!Dave Cockrum X-men Ms. Marvel #20 Original Comic Book Art Marvel Bronze Age 1978The Avengers #1 (sep 1963, Marvel) Cgc 6.5 UnrestoredAvengers Bowen Designs Iron Man Hulkbuster - Marvel Studios Sample #213/1500Marvel Movie Copper Age Comic Collection Lot Spider-man Avengers X-men HulkMarvel Giant Size X Men 1 4.0 To 5.0 Cgc Worthy!!!!!Fantastic Four # 52 (july 1966, Marvel) Cgc 5.5 OwThe Amazing Spider-man #129 (feb 1974, Marvel) 1st App. The PunisherFantastic Four # 52 (july 1966, Marvel) Cgc 4.5 Ow/wFantastic Four #52 Marvel 1966 - 1st App Of The Black Panther - Of The Avengers!Amazing Spider-man #122 -near Mint- 9.0 Nm- Death Of Green Goblin!!! Marvel 1973Fantastic Four #36 -higher Grade- Marvel 1965 - 1st App Medusa & Frightful Four!Amazing Spider-man Annual #1 1964 Marvel 1st Appearance Sinister Six No ReserveAmazing Spider-man #50 (1967 Marvel Comics) 1st Appearance Kingpin No Reserve Spider-gwen #1 1:100 Adam Hughes Variant MarvelStar Wars #1 Marvel 1977 1st Issue - Check Out Our Other Nr Auctions This WeekMarvel Super-heroes #13 Captain Marvel 2nd App. Comic Book LotThe Avengers #57 (oct 1968, Marvel) Cgc 5.0 Plus Marvel Super Action #18!!!Edge Of Spider-verse #2 1:25 Land Variant Nm 1st App Spider-gwen Marvel ComicsMarvel Adventure Fantastic Four Cover By Carlo Pagulayan And Jeff HuetMarvel 891 Comics Early Thor Ironman Fantastic Four Captain America Dr Strange The Amazing Spider-man #300 (may 1988, Marvel)~*incredible Hulk #181*~ First Appearance Of Wolverine!!! ~marvel ~x-men (1974)New Mutants 98 Cgc 9.8 Nm/mt White Pages Marvel 1st Deadpool Be The First Owner!Amazing Spider-man #31 (1965 Marvel) 1st Appearances Of Gwen Stacy Harry Osborn The Avengers #55 (aug 1968, Marvel) 1st Appearance Ultron, New Avengers 2 Movie!Doctor Strange #169 Marvel 1968 -higher Grade- Origin Retold - Look!!!Amazing Spiderman #300 High Grade 1st Full Venom App. Marvel Comic 1988 VfWerewolf By Night Comic, Marvel # 32, Moon Knight, Etc.The Amazing Spider-man #129 (feb 1974, Marvel) 1st Appearance Punisher, Rare!!1964 * X-men #3 Marvel Comics * Cgc Graded 8.5 Vf+ * Rare White Pages First BlobSub-mariner #1 -higher Grade- Marvel 1968 - The Origin Of The Sub-mariner!The Amazing Spider-man #129 (feb 1974, Marvel)X-men #4 (mar 1964, Marvel)Fantastic Four #47 Marvel -near Mint 9.0 Nm- 3rd App Of Inhumans! 2nd Black BoltMarvel Spotlight #32 Marvel 1977 -near Mint 9.0- 1st App & Origin Spider-woman!Ms Marvel #1,2,3,4 Bronze-age Beauties Avg Vf- Condition Movie!?!Marvel Mystery Comics #50 1943 Golden Age, Timely Comics, Cgc 7.0Giant Size X-men # 1 Marvel 1975 Cgc 6.5The Uncanny X-men #266 Cgc 9.6 (aug 1990, Marvel)Edge Of Spider-verse #2 Nm 1st Print Spider-gwen 1st App Marvel Spider-manTales Of Suspense #57 (sep 1964, Marvel) 1st Appearance Hawkeye, Avengers 2Amazing Spider-man #41 42 43 1966 Marvel 1st Appearance Rhino No Reserve Set LotIncredible Hulk #181 1st Wolverine Marvel Value Stamp Intact Hot Hot No ReserveMarvel Mystery # 35 Timely 1942 Alex Schomburg Cover World War 2 Human TorchThe Amazing Spider-man #129 (feb 1974, Marvel) First Punisher!Kotobukiya Marvel Emma Frost Bishoujo X-men 1/8 Pvc Figure No Reserve Used Marvel Super-heroes #12 Marvel 1967 High Grade 1st App & Origin Captain MarvelStrange Tales Annual #2 Marvel 1963 - Human Torch, Spider-man App - Jack Kirby!Amazing Spider-man #119 -near Mint- 9.6 Nm - Marvel 1973 - Spidey Vs. The Hulk!