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    

Jack Kirby Eternals #16 Original Marvel Comic Book Bronze Art 1977Incredible Hulk #181 Amazing Spiderman #121+ Bonus Comic Book Collection MarvelIncredible Hulk 181 Cgc 9.4! 1st Wolverine Comic White Pages! Stan Lee Marvel 1Incredible Hulk #181 Marvel 1974 - 1st App Of Wolverine - Bronze Age Holy Grail!Amazing Spider-man #129 (marvel 1974) 1st Appearence Of The Punisher & JackalHero For Hire #1 -higher Grade- Marvel 1972 - 1st App & Origin Of Luke Cage!!!Arvell Jones Iron Fist Marvel Premiere #22 Original Comic Book Bronze Art Night Nurse #1 Marvel Comics 1972 Fine 6.0Daredevil #131 -near Mint- 9.2 Nm- Marvel 1976 - 1st App & Origin Of Bullseye!!!Fantastic Four #1 1961 Cgc 1.0 & Fantastic Four #2 1962 Cgc 2.0 Marvel Classic Fantastic Four #45 Key Cgc 7.5 Universal (1st Inhumans) Marvel ComicsThe Incredible Hulk #181 (nov 1974, Marvel)Signed Original Wolverine Marvel Comic Art Sketch ~jim LeeThe New Mutants #98 (feb 1991, Marvel) 1st Appearance Deadpool The New Mutants #98 (feb 1991, Marvel)Strange Tales #110 Cgc 6.5! 1st Appearance Dr. Strange Movie Marvel Silver AgeMarvel Comics Invincible Iron Man #55 Fine 1st Thanos 1st Drax AvengersDaredevil#1 Cgc 6.5 Marvel Ow/white Pages Origin & 1st Appearance DaredevilDaredevil #1 Marvel 1964 - 1st App & Origin Of Daredevil - 1st App Foggy Nelson!Punisher Max Omnibus By Garth Ennis & Steve Dillon Oop Marvel Free ShippingIron Fist #14 Marvel 1977 - 1st App Sabre-tooth - Stan Lee!!!!!!Marvel New Mutants #98! First Appearance Deadpool Hot Key Cgc 9.4!!!!!!!Marvel Spotlight # 32 - 1st Spider-woman Cgc 9.4 White Pgs. Astonishing X-men Omnibus Marvel Hardcover Collected Edition New SealedFantastic Four #52 (jul 1966, Marvel) Cgc 6.0Daredevil Vol 1 Omnibus By Ed Brubaker Marvel Free Shipping Oop Gotham CentralHuge Silver & Bronze Age Marvel / Dc Comic Lot (300+) Superman Spider-man BatmanTales To Astonish #13 Key Cgc 1.5 (1st Groot "guardians Of The Galaxy") MarvelAmazing Spider-man #14 Marvel 1964 - 1st App Of The Green Goblin - Hulk X-over!Marvel Comics *amazing Spider-man #129* 1974 First Appearance PunisherDaredevil Vol 1 Omnibus By Brian Michael Bendis Marvel Free Shipping OopIron Fist #14 (9.4 Nm) 1st App. Sabretooth New Netflix Show!!! Marvel ComicsMarvel Spotlight 5; Cgc 8.0; 1st App Of Ghost RiderStar Wars #4 2015 Marvel Boba Fett Action Figure Variant Signed Stan Lee Cgc 9.8Captain America #117 -near Mint- 9.0 Nm - Marvel 1969 - 1st App Of The Falcon!!!Amazing Spider-man #300 (1988, Marvel),1st Appearance Of Venom - Nm! - ScansThe Amazing Spider-man #300 (may 1988, Marvel)Amazing Spider-man #101 1971 Marvel Comics 1st Appearance Morbius No Reserve Fn-Ms. Marvel #18 Marvel 1978 - High Grade - 1st App Mystique - Stan Lee!!!!!!Tales To Astonish #35 -higher Grade- Marvel 1962 - 1st App Of Ant-man In CostumeDaredevil Frank Miller Companion Omnibus Marvel Hardcover New SealedMarvel Super-heroes # 12 - 1st Captain Marvel Cgc 9.0 Off-white Pgs. Secret Wars #8 Marvel 1984 - High Grade - 1st App Venom As Alien Costume!!!!!1968 Marvel Comics Silver Surfer #1 Pgx 8.0 (like Cgc) Origin Lee Fantastic Four1968 Marvel Comics Avengers #57 Pgx 8.0 (like Cgc) 1st Vision High Grade UltronThe Amazing Spider-man #13 (jun 1964, Marvel) 1st App Mysterio. **no Reserve**Fantastic Four #49 Cgc 8.0, New Marvel Movie! No Reserve!!!!!Iron Man #55 (feb 1973, Marvel) First Appearance Of Thanos And Draxx High GradeAmazing Spider-man #50 Marvel 1967 - 1st App Of The Kingpin - Check Our Comics!Amazing Spider-man #15 (1964 Marvel) 1st Appearance Of Kraven No Reserve FnThe New Mutants #98, 1991 Marvel Comics, Deadpool First Appearance, 5.0Journey Into Mystery 103!! Cgc 7.5 Ow To White!! 1st Enchantress! 4/64! Marvel!!1966 Marvel Comics Fantastic Four #52 Pgx 5.0 (like Cgc) 1st Black Panther NiceThe New Mutants #98 (feb 1991, Marvel)Amazing Spider-man 298 299 And 300 (1988), 1st App Venom Marvel Key IssueDaredevil #7 Marvel 1965 - Daredevil Battles Sub-mariner - Dons Red Costume!!!Captain America #100 Marvel 1968 - Origin Of Captain America - Avengers - Look!Amazing Spider-man #13 (1964 Marvel) 1st Appearance Of Mysterio No ReserveIncredible Hulk #180 -near Mint- 9.2 Nm- Marvel 1974 - 1st Cameo App Wolverine!1965 Marvel Comics Fantastic Four #45 Pgx 5.5 (like Cgc) 1st Inhumans Very Nice