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    

John Byrne Fantastic Four She Hulk #48 Marvel Original Comic Book Art 1993Marvel 1966 Fantastic Four # 48 Vf+ Silver SurferLot 10 Old Marvel Comic Fantastic Four #12 HulkWerewolf By Night #32 Marvel 1975 - 1st App & Origin Of Moon Knight - Look!!!Marvel Spotlight # 5 - 1st Ghost Rider Cgc 9.0 Ow/white Pgs.Herb Trimpe Super Villain Team Up #6 Marvel Original Comic Art Bronze Age 1976Amazing Spider-man #50 Marvel 1967 - 1st App The Kingpin - Stan Lee, John RomitaNew Mutants #98 Nm+ 9.6 White Pages 1st App. Deadpool Marvel 1991 No ReserveMs Marvel #1 (1977) Cgc 9.8 - 1st App As Ms Marvel - Marvel Movie - No Reserve!Amazing Spider-man #300 -near Mint- 9.0 Nm - Marvel 1988 - 1st App Of Venom!!!Marvel Premiere # 15 - 1st Iron Fist Cgc 9.6 White Pgs.Fantastic Four #5 (vg-) 3.5 Silver Age Marvel Origin & 1st App Doctor DoomThe Incredible Hulk #181 Nov 1974 Marvel Comics - 1st Wolverine High GradeThe New Mutants #98 (feb 1991, Marvel) Nm++ Easy 9.6+. Cgc It!Tales Of Suspense #52 Marvel 1964 - 1st App The Black Widow - Crimson Dynamo AppFantastic Four #48 (vg/f) 5.0 Silver Age Marvel 1st Silver Surfer & GalactusWolverine Omnibus Vol. 1 Oop New Sealed Logan Hardcover, Hc 2009 X-men MarvelThe New Mutants #98 Nm+ 9.6 1st App. Of Deadpool! 1991 Marvel Incredible Hulk #180 Marvel 1974 - 1st Cameo App Of Wolverine - Wendigo App!!!Siege #3 Pgx 9.8 Deadpool Variant Signed By Stan Lee & J Scott Campbell MarvelTales To Astonish #35 -higher Grade- Marvel 1962 - 1st App Of Ant-man In CostumeAmazing Spider-man #194 -near Mint- 9.4 Nm - Marvel 1979 - 1st App Of Black Cat!Lot 2 Old Marvel Comic Fantastic Four #4 1st Silverage Submariner NamorMarvel Premiere #47 -near Mint- 9.2 Nm- 1979 - 1st App & Origin Of New Ant-man!Amazing Spider-man #121 -high Grade- Marvel 1973 - Death Of Gwen Stacy - Look!!!New Mutants #98 Nm 9.4 White Pages 1st App. Deadpool Marvel 1991 No ReserveMarvel Super-heroes #13 -higher Grade- Marvel 1968 - 1st App Of Carol Danvers!!!Captain Marvel #17 2nd Print 1st Kamala Khan Low Print !Star Wars #1 -higher Grade- Marvel 1977 - Movie Adaptation - Check Our Comics!!!Lot 1 Old Marvel Comic Fantastic Four #3 First CostumesHulk Marvel Team-up Annual #2 Original Comic Art Bronze Alan Kupperberg 1979Avengers #1 Marvel 1963 - - 1st App & Origin Of Avengers (iron Man)! Fn 6.0-6.5Fantastic Four #12 Marvel 1963 - Hulk Battles The Thing - 1st Marvel X-over!!!Lot 30 Old Marvel Comic Fantastic Four #48 1st Silver Surfer And GalactusFantastic Four #46 Marvel 1966 - 1st App Of Black Bolt - 2nd App Of The InhumansVintage Original Copy Marvel Comic Incredible Hulk Wolverine 181 November 1974Howard The Duck #1 2015 Marvel Frank Cho Original Sketch Art Outrage Cover Cgc X-men #12 Marvel 1965 - Origin Of Professor X & 1st App & Origin Of Juggernaut!!Doctor Strange #169 -higher Grade- Marvel 1968 - Origin - Check Out Our Comics!Star Wars #1 Nm- 9.2 White Pages Marvel 1977 No ReserveTales Of Suspense #59 Marvel 1964 - 1st App Jarvis - Captain America Solo Story!Marvel Amazing Spider-man #1 Key 2nd Appearance Cbcs 4.0 Vg Ow/w! Grail Key NiceThe X-men #129 Cgc 9.8 Nm/mt White Pgs(jan 1980, Marvel) Kitty Pryde Emma FrostEmma Frost Hellfire Club Sideshow Exclusive Premium Format Figure ~marvel/x-menMarvel Comics Fantastic Four By Hickman Omnibus Hard Cover Volume #1 And #2Lot 34 Old Marvel Comic Fantastic Four #52 1st Black PantherTales Of Suspense #49 -higher Grade- Marvel 1964 - 1st X-men & Avengers X-over!Incredible Hulk #102 -higher Grade- Marvel 1968 - Origin Of The Hulk - Look!!!The Uncanny X-men #266 (aug 1990, Marvel) 1st Gambit New Movie Cgc GradedTales Of Suspense #57 Marvel 1964 - 1st App & Origin Of Hawkeye - Iron Man!!!Marvel Premiere #15 Fn/vf 7.0 Origin & 1st App. Iron Fist 1974 No ReserveAvengers #57 Marvel 1968 - 1st App Of The Vision - Black Panther & Hawkeye!!!Marvel Comics Amazing Spider-man Annual #1 Fn/vf 1964 1st App Sinister Six KeyLot 28 Old Marvel Comic Fantastic Four #46 2nd Inhumans 1st Full Black BoltThe Avengers #s 57 And 58 (nov 1968, Marvel). First Appearance Of The VisionDaredevil #131 / Cgc 9.2 / 1st Bullseye / Oww Pages / Bronze Key / Marvel 1976Incredible Hulk #271 -near Mint- 9.6 Nm+ Marvel 1982 - 1st App Of Rocket RaccoonAlias 1 Comic Marvel High GradeMarvel Comics Daredevil Omnibus By Bendis & Maleev Hc #2 Sealed! New! Oop!!Marvel Hero For Hire #1 Cbcs 9.0 Vf/nm White! Key 1st Luke Cage Investment Grade