Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Classics - Marvel Tales #1

These days we live in a Golden Age of reprints, so it's no challenge to track down the Silver Age origins of your favorite hero.

But in the early '60s, it wasn't easy. While comics would occasionally recap origins, it was rare to find a reprint of the actual comic.

As kids, we would play the part of different heroes, but because their origins were lost to the mists of time (having taken place as long ago as a year or two), we had to make up our own ideas to fill in the gaps. For example, when we "fought" Electro, we had no idea how he got his powers, so we dreamed up a device that allowed him to throw electric bolts (like Spider-Man's web-shooters). We were kids, what did we know?

But we were all thrilled when comics like this issue of Marvel Tales started appearing.

This issue was published in the summer of 1964, and it contained the origins of Spider-Man, the Hulk, Giant-Man (and Ant-Man), Thor, Iron Man (both his original armor and the sleeker red-and-gold version) and Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos.

What a treat, to be able to read all those origins in one issue! Some of the stories were complete reprints, while a few were edited-down, but this comic became one of my most treasured issues. You can see from the scan above how well-worn my copy is - I read it countless times.

The issue also featured a two-page photo spread with shots of the actual members of the Marvel Bullpen. Despite the terrible reproduction, it was something of a revelation to my young self that there were actually people who made comics for a living. Who knew?

It's difficult to realize how isolated fans were in those days. No Internet, no fanzine publications (that I was aware of), no email - these issues just appeared like magic at the newsstand, to be devoured by fans who were starved for any clues about the early days of comics.

How things have changed!

Grade: A


Dwayne said...

Reminds me that one of my favorite comics of the 70's was DC's Secret Origins. Just like you, I learned about my favorite characters' beginnings and got to see that old artwork and storytelling.

Anonymous said...

It was Marvel Tales and Marvel Collectors' Item Classics that did so much to seal the deal with young Marvel comic magazine readers. You say you missed the early chapters? We'll give you a chance to catch up and get on board the Merry Marvel Bandwagon! These titles were essential in getting us newbies up to speed and in the know.
We weren't just excited to read these important origin and early adventures, we were GRATEFUL.
This was Stan Lee's TRUE genius, beyond the writing and the characters and the strong artist
collaborations...building a fervent fan base and making a little company into the biggest in
the world!

Sam Kujava

Chuck said...

Dwayne, "Secret Origins" was one of my favorites, too - I'll have to tackle that one in a future "Classics" review.

Sam, all I can say is: I agree completely!