Tuesday, June 24, 2014

50 Summers Ago: Marvel Tales Annual # 1

In the Summer of 1964 Marvel produced it's first compilation of super-hero reprints, reviving the name of a long running title: 

Originally beginning as Marvel Comics, Martin Goodman's first foray into comic books in 1939, the title changed to Marvel Mystery Comics with its second issue, featuring the original Human Torch, Sub-Mariner, the Angel, Vision and other characters until issue # 92, June 1949. In the following issue Marvel Mystery Comics became Marvel Tales, reflecting the change in content to horror/mystery and running until issue # 157, August 1957. Fred Kida cover art to the final issue, Image from the Grand Comic Book Database. 

Seven years later, either Editor Stan Lee or Publisher Martin Goodman decided to revive the name once again, using the same logo design, and returning the title to its superhero roots. Just three years earlier Fantastic Four # 1 proved a success, and costumed characters began taking over the monster-anthology titles. By 1964 the new heroes were an essential part of Marvel's line, with only their western and teen-romance strips remaining. Marvel Tales was an easy way to introduce many of their top features to a growing audience. Jack Kirby pencils; Sol Brodsky inks, Sam Rosen letters and Stan Goldberg colors. Spider-Man figure by Steve Ditko, taken from Amazing-Spider-Man Annual 1, page 14; panel 2. I wonder if Kirby drew a Spidey figure and it was replaced by a Ditko image?

How many kids who opened this comic related to Peter Parker, standing alone as his peers mocked him? Steve Ditko's image speaks volumes, and an unusual adventure series begins. Stan Lee co-plot and dialogue; Artie Simek letters, Stan Goldberg colors.

    Although Peter Parker gains special powers he is overwhelmed by tragedy and guilt. Each story ends with a new editorial note, likely penned by Stan Lee. At the time of this issues publication Lee and Ditko had produced 16 issues of Amazing Spider-Man, with the first Annual appearing on the stands. Spider-Man was clearly a successful product and made a strong impression on its audience. 

 Lee and Kirby introduce the Hulk, giving his best Boris Karloff/FRankenstein Monster impression. Although Lee could have chosen to re-color the Hulk in his recognizable green hue, he instead added a new blurb explaining that he was originally colored gray. Paul Reinman inks, Ray Holloway letters? , Stan Goldberg colors. 

Kirby's cinematic eye is evident in this three panel shot, as The Hulk fades into the night with Rick Jones in pursuit. While its true that the origins are "uncut" as the cover copy states, the stories themselves are truncated. The bottom blurb has Lee promoting the Hulk's revival as a new feature in Tales to Astonish, which debuted the following month.

The Astonishing Ant-Man heads off to a -  excuse the pun - short run. Likely due to space considerations, and the fact that the story was recapped here anyway, Lee chose to skip Henry Pym's pre-hero introduction. Stan Lee plot; Larry Lieber script, Jack Kirby pencils; Dick Ayers inks, Ray Holloway letters ?, Stan Goldberg colors.  

                        The final Ant-Man panel segues into the introduction of Giant-Man.

Although Ant-Man's metamorphosis into Giant-Man occurred only eight months earlier, a two-page recap appeared. Lee and Kirby story/art, Don Heck inks, Sam Rosen letters and Stan Goldberg colors.

Although Sgt. Fury was a war title it followed the frenetic pacing of the superheroes, as this splash page clearly illustrates. Despite the blurb, the story was not "exactly as it appeared in Sgt. Fury # 1", since only six pages were reprinted. It would take seventeen years before Marvel finally published a complete reprint of the first issue, closing the circle by appearing in the last issue of Sgt. Fury, which, after years of reprints ended its long run with # 167, Dec 1981. Lee and Kirby story/art, Dick Ayers inks, Artie Simek lettering, Stan G. colors.       

The priceless image of Dum Dum Dugan calmly covering his ears and parachuting to earth as a plane explodes behind him illustrates the often comical aspects of Sgt. Fury. 


A growing fan base was apparent to Stan Lee from the many fanzines and letters he was receiving. With credits that included artists, inkers and letterers on every story, Lee often chatted up staffers Stan Goldberg, Flo Steinberg, Sol Brodsky and even publisher Martin Goodman in the letters section. Here Lee presented photos of most of Marvel's then current "bullpen", although the majority worked at home as freelancers. I wonder if Stan made a Freudian slip or deliberately wrote "First, Let's polish off the Big Brass.."  

Once again, Stan decided to retain the original coloring of Iron-Man's armor. Don Heck introduces Iron-Man to the world, plot by Stan Lee, script by Larry Lieber, lettering by Artie Simek, coloring by Stan Goldberg. 

Tony Stark begins his career as the man of steel (or is that phrase already taken?) 

The four page sequence that introduced Iron-Man's sleek new costume, designed by Steve Ditko, is reprinted. While it's noted that the armor continued to be modified, the basic design has remained consistent for decades. Stan Lee script/co-plot, Dick Ayers inks, Sam Rosen letters, Stan Goldberg colors. 

An impressive introduction to Thor the Mighty by Jack Kirby, with delightful inking by Joe Sinnott. Stan Lee plot, Larry Lieber script, Artie Simek letters and Stan Goldberg colors. An error in the original publication date appears with numbers reversed: Thor debuted in Journey into Mystery # 83!

Stan kept the Thor spelling error in the last panel and pointed it out. What many don't know is that a page of original art exists where the copy in the last panel is completely different. 

Apparently the idea to use Thor as a continuing feature was decided at the last minute. Sales from other super hero features must have given Goodman faith that Thor would sell. And if that is the case, he was certainly proven correct.    

Marvel Tales Annual # 1 ended with a house ad promoting the heroes in their respective titles, reusing art from the cover. Marvel Tales returned the following year, including the origins that were skipped here, namely Avengers # 1, X-Men # 1 and Dr. Strange's origin from Strange Tales # 115. (Daredevil # 1 would be reprinted the following year in a one-shot title, Marvel Super-Heroes, which may be the subject of a future post).  Also included in that issue was a Hulk story from his first series and a delightful Lee-Ditko fantasy thriller from Amazing Adult Fantasy. With the third issue Marvel Tales was revived as an ongoing, bi-monthly title, retaining its 25 cent format and reprinting Spider-Man, the Human Torch, Ant-Man and Thor. It later switched to a standard format and continued to sequentially reprint Spider-Man for many years. While these stories were only a few years old. many fans missed them the first time around, and could only hope to purchase the originals in a used book store or second hand shop. Marvel Tales Annual # 1 encapsulates the charm, wonder and excitement that was - and remains - idiomatic of the creative juices that flowed in the early 1960's.         


Bob Bailey said...

Love it Nick. I think the Spidey image on the cover is standard Ditko some of the others appear to be the corner icons. That Iron Man may have been Ditko pencils and Ayers inks. I'm just not sure.

Nick Caputo said...

Hi Bob,

Glad you're enjoying the posts. There may be some more summer fun to come!

Kid said...

There may be? There'd better be! You can't tease us like that, Nick - we're on tenterhooks waiting for future posts and you're playing hard to get. Get writing, man. (Whaddya mean, you've got a life to live?)

Nick Caputo said...

Kid, Don't get spoiled now! The summer is just beginning!

CheckMait said...

Great piece, Nick. And that alternate final panel is an amazing find.

Nick Caputo said...

Thanks CheckMait, glad you enjoyed the post!