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]

Doug Gilford’s Mad Cover Site

Doug Gilford’s Mad Cover Site

Doug Gilford's great Mad Magazine reference site features cover scans and reference information on every issue of t… [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    

Marvel Silver Age Comic Collection Lot Amazing Spider-man Avengers 1st UltronAmazing Spider-man #129 Marvel 1974 -near Mint- 9.2 Nm- 1st App Of The Punisher!Giant-size X-men #1 Cgc 9.6 2nd Wolverine Colossus Storm Marvel Bronze Age ComicCgc 9.0 Iron Man #55 1st Thanos 1970's Marvel Comic Book Jim Starlin Story & ArtInvincible Iron Man #55 - 1st Thanos - Marvel Comics - Key Book - Movie *The Amazing Spider-man #121 (apr 1973, Marvel) Death Of Gwen StacyCgc 9.8= Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars #8 (see All My Items!) Origin/black/nmMarvel Bronze Age Comic Collection Lot Amazing Spider-man X-men AvengersMarvel Preview #4 -near Mint 9.4- 1st App Of Star-lord! Guardians Of The Galaxy!Journey Into Mystery #103 Marvel -higher Grade - Thor - 1st App EnchantressAvengers #55 Marvel 1968 -high Grade- 1st App Of Ultron - New Avengers Movie!Tales Of Suspense #52 Iron Man 1st Black Widow Marvel Silver Age Comic AvengersWow Silver Age Tales Of Suspense #57 (marvel, 1964) 1st Hawkeye Fn 6.5Strange Tales #135 Marvel 1st Nick Fury Agent Of Shield 1965 High Grade Cgc ItIncredible Hulk Comic #181 Cgc Graded 9.2 Nm- 1st Appearance Wolverine MarvelFantastic Four #48,mar.'66,fn/vf,7.0,marvel Silver Age,1st App.silver Surfer,keyAmazing Spider-man #4 Origin & 1st Sandman Marvel Silver Age ComicSal Buscema Joe Sinnott Incredible Hulk # Original Comic Art Marvel Bronze AgeThe Incredible Hulk #271 (may 1982, Marvel) Nm/nm+ Solid Rocket Raccoon!!Sci-fi Golden Silver Bronze Age Comic Collection Lot Marvel Dc Aliens EcThe Amazing Spider-man #1 (mar 1963, Marvel) Pgx 5.0 Not Cgc No Reserve!!The Amazing Spider-man #129 (feb 1974, Marvel) 1st Appearance Of The PunisherDaredevil #168 Marvel 1981 -near Mint 9.6/9.8 Nm- 1st App Elektra - Frank MillerCaptain America #117 Marvel 1969 1st App The Falcon!!! In Capt America 2 Movie!Gene Colan Sub-mariner #47 Original Comic Art Marvel Bronze Age 1972 1/2 SplashGiant Size X-men 1# 6.5 Fine+ 2nd Full Appearance Of Wolverine Marvel Mega Key!!Vtg Classic 1st Thanos Marvel Silver Age Iron Man 55 Vg/f Great Book Affordable Uncanny X-men #141 & 142 Days Of Future Past Marvel 1981 Comic Set 1st Prints 1Marvel Premiere #47 Cgc 9.8 White Ant-man Byrne Marvel Bronze Age Comic AvengersCb4034 Tales Of Suspense #57 (marvel, 1964) Fn 6.0New Mutants #98 Marvel Comics (1991) First Appearance Of Deadpool The Incredible Hulk #180 Oct 1974 Marvel Comics 1st Appearance Of WolverineMarvel 1964 The Amazing Spider-man Annual # 1 F/vfPunisher Limited Series #1 Cgc 9.8 Marvel Comics 1986Amazing Spider-man #10 Marvel Comics 1964 Stan Lee & Steve Ditko 1st EnforcersGhost Rider #3 Original Art Page #15 Mark Texeira Doctor Strange (marvel/movie)Strange Tales #180 Marvel 1975 -near Mint 9.0 Nm- 1st App Of Gamora - GotgAmazing Spider-man #14 1st Green Goblin Hulk Marvel Silver Age Comic// Comic-:marvel Premiere Featyuring Iron Fist -1974---# 15- Fine/vf+Ghost Rider #3 Original Art Page #16 Mark Texeira Doctor Strange (marvel/movie)Marvel 1979 The Amazing Spider-man # 194 NmStrange Tales Silver Age Comic Book Lot 41 Issues Nick Fury 101,135,180 MarvelIncredible Hulk #180 Marvel 1974 -higher Grade- 1st Cameo App Wolverine (x-men)!Silver Surfer #1 Vf 7.5-8.0 1968 Marvel Silver Age Mega Key!Large Marvel Dc Comics Lot 1964-79 Superman Thor Batman Captain Marvel Lois LaneLarge Marvel Dc Comics Lot 1965-79 Batman Daredevil Strange Tales Alice Cooper +Amazing Spider-man #9 Origin & 1st Electro Marvel Silver Age ComicThe Amazing Spider-man #121 (marvel, 1973) Cgc Nm- 9.2The Silver Surfer #1 Marvel Comics Big Premiere Issue 25 Cent 1968Marvel Silver Age Comic Collection Lot Amazing Spider-man Avengers 1st UltronAvengers #54 Marvel 1968 -high Grade- 1st App Of Ultron! (cameo)Bishoujo Pvc Figure Marvel Rogue Long Coat Variant Kotobukiya New UnopenedAmazing Spider-man Annual #1 (marvel 1964) Gd: The Sinister SixCaptain America #1-30 Full Nm Run Brubaker Winter Soldier Movie + Extras! MarvelAmazing Spider-man Marvel Comic Lot #239, 289, 361, 362 1st Appearance Carnage *Ghost Rider #4 Original Art Page #3 Mark Texeira Doctor Strange (marvel/movie)The Incredible Hulk #1 Cgc Graded 1.5 1st Appearance Silver Age Marvel 1962Amazing Spiderman #14 July 1964 Marvel 1st Green Goblin Key Issue Silver AgeIron Man #1 (marvel 1967) Gd/vg: First Issue Of His Solo BookX-men #94 Marvel 1975 - Start Of All New Xmen (colossus, Wolverine & Storm)!!!