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Origins of Marvel Comics by Stan Lee

Origins of Marvel Comics (1974)

by Stan Lee, John Buscema (Illustrator), Steve Ditko (Illustrator), Jack Kirby (Illustrator), Larry Lieber (Author)2 more, Marie Severin (Illustrator), Herb Trimpe (Illustrator)

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In Origins of Marvel Comics, Stan Lee examines the creation of several of Marvel’s original stars along with example stories. He suggests the reader call the volume “a remedy, a pictorial tonic to relieve the awesome affliction that threatens us all: the endlessly spreading virus of too much reality in a world that is losing its legends – a world that has lost its heroes” (pg. 9). Lee examines the Fantastic Four, the Incredible Hulk, the Amazing Spider-Man, the Mighty Thor, and Doctor Strange. He excerpts stories from Fantastic Four nos. 1 and 55; The Incredible Hulk nos. 1 and 118; Amazing Fantasy no. 15 and Amazing Spider-Man 72; Journey Into Mystery no. 83 and The Mighty Thor 143; and Strange Tales nos. 110, 115, and 155.

Each chapter begins with a brief history of the characters’ creation and subsequent legacy, such as Lee’s writing the Fantastic Four as a team book following the success of DC’s Justice League of America along with his decision that they should have no secret identities or kid sidekicks in order to make them more relatable. Turning to the Hulk, Lee describes his attempt to further break the mold in making a monster into a hero along with the problems of coloring the Hulk that led to his current green color. The reprint of The Incredible Hulk no. 1 recolors Hulk as green on the interior pages “since this is the way he is presently known to both friend and foe alike” (pg. 77). Lee does offer the caveat, “To satisfy the archivists and the purists among you, The Hulk cover which accompanies this daring denouement is depicted in its original gray, as Marvel constantly strives to bring you the very best of both possible worlds” (pg. 77). This type of recoloring would not appeal to readers today, steeped as they are in comic book history, but prior to the modern graphic novel in 1974, it was an acceptable change.

Turning to the creation of the Mighty Thor and the desire to top the previously-created characters with a deity, Lee writes, “There was no way we could present a strip featuring God without possibly offending any reader of almost any religious affiliation. Remember, this was before the days of the so-called underground comics where anything goes. But even that wouldn’t have mattered. The underground type of publication wasn’t our thing. Marvel has always aimed for a family audience – fun for the kiddies and fantasy for the older readers. Or the other way if you prefer. So I knew we just couldn’t swing with Super-God” (pg. 178). To that end, Lee turned to other mythologies for a deity figure that wouldn’t risk running afoul of readers. He continues his journey into strange tales with Doctor Strange. On the impact of Doctor Strange, Lee writes, “Dr. Strange, which I always thought would prove exceptionally appealing to our younger readers, began to develop a cult among those at the other end of the spectrum. Suddenly the mail started pouring in – from colleges, if you will. In ever-increasing numbers students were actually devoting term papers and theses to the language of Dr. Strange, investigating the derivation of his various spells and incantations” (pg. 225). Lee points out at numerous points that he values older readers.

Describing Marvel’s readership, Lee writes, “Nowadays, almost a generation after the start of Marvel Comics, more than one-third of our readers are of college age – though that’s a subject for another book” (pg. 74). In discussing the way Marvel personalized its creative talent to its readers, Lee writes, “Prior to the emergence of Marvel Comics, the artists and writers who produced the strips, as well as the editors, art directors, and letterers, were mostly unknown to the reader, who rarely if ever saw their names in print. In order to change that image and attempt to give a bit more glamour to our hitherto unpublicized creative caliphs, I resorted to every device I could think of – and the nutty nicknames seemed to work” (pg. 131). Lee concludes by terming Origins of Marvel Comics “the beginning of an ever-continuing journey into the realm of Marvel mythology – a realm where all, regardless of color, sex, or creed, are truly kindred souls, united by a common love of adventure, fantasy, and just plan fun. Perhaps, just perhaps, that’s what Marvel’s really all about. Excelsior!” (pg. 254) ( )
  DarthDeverell | Nov 13, 2018 |
Comics reprints with comment
  stevholt | Nov 19, 2017 |
Origins of the superheroes I grew upon, when comics were twelve cents and my allowance was a quarter--you do the math. Each origin story is followed by a later story of the same comic.. ( )
  unclebob53703 | Feb 19, 2016 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Stan Leeprimary authorall editionscalculated
Buscema, JohnIllustratormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Ditko, SteveIllustratormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Kirby, JackIllustratormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Lieber, LarryAuthormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Severin, MarieIllustratormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Trimpe, HerbIllustratormain authorall editionsconfirmed

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