My indexing at the GCD almost always takes me to interesting roads which often lead me to a new blog post. I’ve been adding lettering and coloring credits to Marvel’s titles, starting from the late 1950’s and likely ending in the late 1970’s, mainly because, while I can identify some of the creators of the latter period, I’m nowhere near as confident as I am in the 1960s and early 1970s era. Most of my indexing lately has been concentrated on cover letterers and colorists, along with correcting art credits (I’ve corrected some of my own errors as well; as my old pal Doc V attests, you never stop learning). I discovered that lettering credits on romance comics of the late 1960s-early 1970s were mostly eliminated from the published comics, although the original art sometimes shows that they originally were there. I suppose Stan Lee thought that the female readership was less interested in complete credits that the fans of superheroes. I decided to go over some of the early Amazing Spider-Man interior credits so that I could add Stan Goldberg’s coloring credit (he colored just about all Marvel’s product from the late 1950s to probably 1968, when he left the company for a while). I was actually surprised to discover that the GCD did not include most of the early letters pages, and Ditko’s outstanding pin-ups were not indexed.
One interesting credit I corrected was a house ad in Amazing Spider-Man # 1: “A Personal Message from Spider-Man”, which is actually a personal message from Stan Lee, explaining that a new letters section would soon be appearing.
"A Personal Message from Spider-Man" from Amazing Spider-Man # 1, Mar 1963, as reprinted in the Marvel Milestone Edition. Kirby and/or Brodsky art. Lee calls for letters and explains why they won't be printed in the 2nd issue.
The GCD had Steve Ditko credited with the art, but that is clearly not the case. I suspect this is a quick drawing by Jack Kirby, likely inked by Sol Brodsky. Ditko did not draw Spider-Man so big-boned, nor did he draw the webbing on the side of the arms in that fashion.
This got me thinking about Stan Lee’s house ads and promotional work in the early days of Marvel. While promotions early on consisted of copy, sometimes crudely lettered (perhaps by Lee himself) scrawled on the top and bottom margins of story pages, Lee soon began to take up full pages to promote the comics or new titles. This was not something entirely new, as there were many ads placed in the Timely era, likely written by Lee. In time, though, a narrative was beginning to take shape, and Lee’s energetic style and dynamic copy set a pace that others were unable to duplicate.
An early full-page ad for Amazing Adult Fantasy and the Fantastic Four, from Strange Tales # 95, Apr 1962. This would have appeared at the time FF # 3 was on the stands. Ditko drew the top half; an inventive 3 panel vignette; Kirby drew the bottom half, with inking by Sol Brodsky. Lee, ever bombastic, proclaims the two comics the greatest new fantasy magazines in the world! It's worth noting that Lee was also giving attention to his co-creators early on. The cover to this issue features a caption that reads "Also..another off-beat little classic by Lee and Ditko..."
Lee's ad copy for the Fantastic Four is over the top but compelling. What kid wouldn't be interested in reading it? From Strange Tales # 97, June 1962
Lee singled out Amazing Adult Fantasy in his ads, which appeared on the last page of his Ditko written stories in the other fantasy magazines. Alas, the title failed to sell, although the last issue featured a character that went on to some degree of notoriety....
Lee scattered these ads for the new Hulk comic throughout his fantasy line. Heck, for all I know he snuck them into Millie the Model! The first two examples are from Strange Tales # 97, June 1962. The last one is from Fantastic Four # 4, May 1962. It's likely that the crudely lettered ones are by Lee himself. The FF one is probably by Artie Simek. Sol Brodsky and Flo Steinberg were the extent of the Marvel operation at this point, and anyone who walked in the door usually pitched in at one time or another.
Lee promotes the new Amazing Spider-Man # 1 in the letters section of FF # 12 (Mar 1963). The FF, coincidentally, made an appearance in that issue, and the Hulk had a cross-over in the FF's current issue. Even in the humor titles Lee featured cross-overs with other titles characters. It was a wise move that incurred brand recognition and under one guiding hand it worked well.
By the time this ad appeared in the May 1963 issue of Fantastic Four # 14 Lee was hitting his stride. He now has a corner symbol to identify his line (invented by Steve Ditko); a Logo (Marvel Comics Group, a name which actually appeared from time to time in ads in the 1950s); and a slogan: "The House of Ideas!" The super-heroes were becoming an important part of the line, and Lee promoted them with authority. Art by Kirby and Sol Brodsky. Spider-Man figure probably pencilled by Kirby and inked by Ditko, similar to - but not the same figure - as the one on the cover to Amazing # 1.
I guess we'll never know if Lee was two pages short and filling up space, or he deliberately used those pages to promote the new Sgt. Fury title; the next issue AND Fantastic Four Fan Clubs! (Fantastic Four # 15, June 1963). It does seem unusual though. Note that Sgt. Fury is advertised as "In the Fantastic Four style". Lee was quite aware of Dr. Doom's popularity, and his use of Ant-Man was an attempt to raise sales on a weak title. The Dr. Doom figure, as well as the Torch (who looks very awkward) may be swipes by Sol Brodsky, although Ant-Man may be pencilled by Kirby and inked by Brodsky.
Finally, we have a coming attraction page that appeared in The Avengers # 2, Nov 1963. The Sub-Mariner was a main antagonist in the early Marvel Superhero period; taking on the FF and the Avengers, but also making appearances in Strange Tales (the Human Torch feature), and later the X-Men and Daredevil, before he eventually returned to a feature role in Tales to Astonish. The heroes had a common foe to unite them, and Namor was an interesting and somewhat sympathetic character, who Lee used to great effect. Jack Kirby pencils, Sol Brodsky inks.
Lee's promotional skills would continue to escalate in the years ahead. The ads, along with the letters pages, Bullpen Bulletins and the MMMS fan club made Marvel stand out as a fresh face among a rather conservative competition. Coming soon will be a look at some of the MMMS ads, including one written and drawn by Marie Severin which was noticed by Publisher Martin Goodman, leading to her obtaining pencilling work at Marvel.