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    

1974 Marvel The Incredible Hulk #181 1st Appearance Wolverine Cbcs 8.5 Ow-w CgcAmazing Spider-man #361 Cgc 9.8 Wp Marvel Comics 4/92 1st App. Carnage (venom)The Avengers #1 (sep 1963, Marvel) Cgc 7.0 - 1st Appearance Of The AvengersHigh Grade All Marvel Bronze Age Comic Book Collection Key Issues Gsx 1 Im 55Amazing Spider-man #300 -near Mint- 9.0 Nm -marvel 1988- 1st App & Origin Venom!Tomb Of Dracula #10 Nm- 9.2 High Grade 1st Blade Marvel Comic Colan Art VintageWerewolf By Night #32 -higher Grade- Marvel 1975 - 1st App/origin Of Moon KnightIron Man #1 -high Grade- Marvel 1968 - Origin Of Iron Man - Check Our Comics!Avengers #1 Marvel 1963 - 1st App & Origin Of Avengers - Thor, Iron Man & Hulk!The Amazing Spider Man 1992 #361 Marvel Comics Carnage Part One 30th AnniversaryWolverine By Mark Millar Marvel Omnibus Hardcover New Sealed Old Man Logan RareFantastic Four #1 (nov. 1961, Marvel) 1st App. Fantastic Four, Silver Age RareWerewolf By Night #32 (1975 Marvel) 1st App Moon Knight Signed Stan Lee Cgc 9.2The Incredible Hulk #181 (nov 1974, Marvel) Mvs Intact First WolverineX-men #94 -near Mint- 9.2 Nm- Marvel 1975 - 2nd Colossus & Storm - 3rd WolverineHigh Grade Marvel Dc Bronze Age Comic Book Collection Key Issues X Men AdamsThe Mighty Thor Omnibus Volume 1 Marvel Hardcover Brand New Sealed Stan Lee HcGiant Size X-men #1 -marvel 1st All New Xmen - 2nd Wolverine! Marvel 1975Marvel Nyx #1 - #7 Lot: 1st And 2nd Appearance X-23 #3 #4 Wolverine- Nr1964 Marvel X-men #4 1st Appearance Quicksilver Scarlet Witch 2nd MagnetoAvengers #1 #4 Comic Book Collection Lot Run #1-130 Marvel Silver Age VintageAmazing Spider-man #300 Cgc 9.8 Wp Marvel Comics 5/88 1st App. Venom McfarlaneMarvel Mystery Comics #34 Cgc 3.0 Schomburg Human Torch Cover - No ReserveFantastic Four #12 1963 Marvel Vg/fn 5.0 No Reserve See PhotosAmazing Spider-man #121 -near Mint- 9.2 Nm- Marvel 1973 - Death Of Gwen Stacy!Fantastic Four #45 Marvel 1965 - 1st App Of The Inhumans - Check Out Our Comics!Marvel Team-up #95~cgc 9.8 Wp~marvel, 1980~1st Appearance Of Mockingbird~nm/mtMarvel Amazing Spider-man #300 1988 Cgc 9.4 1st Full Venom Direct EditionAmazing Spider-man #361 Nm/mt 9.8 White Pages 1st App. Carnage Marvel 1992Amazing Spider-man #101 (1971 Marvel) 1st Appearance Moribus No ReserveAmazing Spider-man #50 (1967 Marvel) 1st Appearance Of Kingpin (wilson Fisk) New Mutants #87 *1st Printing* First Cable Marvel Comics Key Issue McfarlaneDaredevil #2 Marvel 1964 - 2nd App Electro - Fantastic Four Cameo - Stan Lee!!!!Vintage Marvel Comics New Mutants #87 First 1st Appearance Cable!!! Deadpool 2!!Nyx #3 (feb 2004, Marvel) High Grade! Look!Marvel Comics Avengers #57 1968 Cgc 8.0 1st Appearance The Vision Buscema CoverFantastic Four #67 (oct 1967, Marvel) 1st Appearance Adam Warlock, Cgc2 Amazing Spider-man #194 First Black Cat 195 Comic Books Bronze Age Marvel 1979Amazing Spider-man #316 Cgc 9.8 Wp Marvel 6/89 1st Venom Cover Todd McfarlaneSavage Tales #1 (may 1971, Marvel) Conan The Barbarian, Man-thing. No Reserve.1974 Marvel Premiere #15 1st Appearance Iron Fist Cbcs 9.2 Ow-white Pages CgcCaptain Marvel #1-17 Silver Comic Complete Full Run Lot, High Grade Avg Vf+Amazing Spider-man 13 Low Grade Marvel Comics 1964 Complete Book See PicturesThe Amazing Spider-man #101 Marvel Comics 1971 Fn 1st Appearance MorbiusMarvel Conan The Barbarian #1-199 Complete Mid-high Grade Full Set Run L52Nick Fury Agent Of Shield #1 Nm 9.4 High Grade Marvel Comic Silver Age VintageThor #165 -high Grade- Marvel 1969 - 1st App Of Him (adam Warlock) - Guardians!Marvel Premiere #15 -high Grade-marvel 1974- 1st App/origin Of Iron FistMarvel Silk #3 Cgc 9.8 2x Ss Signed Stan Lee & J. Scott Campbell VariantThe X-men #101 (oct 1976, Marvel)Ms. Marvel #1 (1977 Marvel Comics) 1st Appearance Of Ms Marvel No ReserveThe New Mutants 98 First Appearance Of Deadpool Marvel Comic 2/91 Cbcs 9.6 W CgcIron Man Vol 1 #1 May 1968 MarvelIncredible Hulk # 180 - 1st Wolverine Cameo Vg/fine Cond. Marvel Stamp IntactConan The Barbarian #1 -high Grade- Marvel 1970 - 1st App & Origin Of Conan!!!Captain America #111 -near Mint- 9.4 Nm - Marvel 1969 - Death Of Steve Rogers!!!The Incredible Hulk 180 First 1st Appearance Of Wolverine Has Marvel Value StampAmazing Fantasy #15 (spiderman 1st App.) Cbcs 2.0 Gd/vg Marvel Comics 1962 CgcAmazing Spider-man #13 (1964 Marvel) 1st App Of Mysterio Signed Stan Lee Cgc 7.0Fantastic Four #13 Marvel 1963 1st App(s) Of The Red Ghost & The Watcher!!!