Stan’s Silver Age Hits
Dig into a month of Stan Lee spotlights as we celebrate the creator’s 100th birthday! Let’s start at the beginning...
This December everyone here at Marvel hopes you will join us to celebrate Stan Lee's 100th birthday as we honor his ongoing legacy and legendary impact on comic books and entertainment. Every week this month and into January, we'll offer a deep dive on the remarkable history, creations, and contributions of Stan Lee! You can follow along at https://www.marvel.com/stanlee100 and share your favorite Stan Lee memories and creations on social media with #StanLee100!
Now, to get things started, why not start at the beginning?
Some important backstory: In the 1940s, publisher Martin Goodman’s Timely Comics proved one of the biggest brands in the comic industry’s Golden Age, with stories focusing on such beloved heroes as Captain America and the Human Torch. However, as the ‘50s wore on, the publisher found itself in dire financial straits due to a shifting market. Then, in the ‘60s, everything changed when assistant-turned-editor Stan Lee, the cousin of Goodman’s wife, emerged as a major creative force for the newest iteration of the company: Marvel Comics.
Marvel’s bullpen at the time featured some of the biggest and best creatives around, and during that period, known as the Silver Age, Lee worked with such talents as Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, John Romita Sr., and Bill Everett to create some of the most beloved characters in all of media. Here's our roundup on those Silver Age stories that built the foundation of Marvel Comics.
THE FANTASTIC FOUR PUTS MARVEL ON THE MAP
FANTASTIC FOUR #1 was a revelation for readers when it hit shelves in 1961. Unlike so many other books on the market, the title emphasized the personal lives and personalities of the team’s individual members. Readers responded fantastically, and the title breathed new life into the publisher’s flagging line-up while also kicking off Marvel’s Silver Age.
Lee and Kirby crafted a ton of iconic stories in the early days of the FANTASTIC FOUR and introduced some of Marvel’s most beloved characters. One of the duo’s best stories remains “The Galactus Trilogy,” which took place in FANTASTIC FOUR #48 through issue #50. The series brought the titular planet-eater to Earth along with his herald, the Silver Surfer, giving the Marvel Universe its biggest threat yet. Not content to stop there, a few short months later in FANTASTIC FOUR #52, Lee and Kirby continued to hit it out of the park with their stories and introduced the King of Wakanda: T’Challa, AKA Black Panther.
THE HULK SMASHES HIS WAY INTO COMICS HISTORY
Capitalizing on the popularity of the Fantastic Four’s Ben Grimm, AKA the Thing, Lee and Kirby put together their own take on the classic story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in 1962’s THE INCREDIBLE HULK #1. What resulted was the creation of one of Marvel’s most important heroes.
That book’s story introduced scientist Bruce Banner, who was exposed to gamma radiation while saving a young man named Rick Jones. As a result, Banner turned into a nearly unstoppable juggernaut named the Hulk. And even from the start, the Hulk made very clear that you wouldn’t like him when he was angry.
LEE AND DITKO’S SPIDER-MAN STORIES REMAIN ICONIC
In 1962’s AMAZING FANTASY #15, Lee collaborated with Ditko to create one of Marvel’s most beloved heroes: Peter Parker, AKA Spider-Man. The character, who gained super-powers after being bitten by a radioactive spider, proved a pop culture sensation, thanks in large part to his relatability and inventiveness.
While so many of those early stories are sensational, “If This Be My Destiny…!” remains unparalleled. Running from AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #31 through issue #33, the story saw Peter taking on Doctor Otto Octavius and nearly losing to the villain. It’s in this story that one of the Silver Age’s most iconic sequences happened: Peter, struggling to push his way out from under some heavy machinery, nearly lost his will to keep fighting. However, when things seemed bleakest, he pushed on, proving just why we still love him so much decades later.
[RELATED: Spider-Man's Greatest Moments]
THE UNCANNY RISE OF THE X-MEN
While so many of Marvel’s early heroes gained their powers through radiation, the X-Men took things in an entirely new direction. In 1963’s UNCANNY X-MEN #1, Lee and Ditko introduced readers to a group of heroes who had their powers because they were born that way.
In their first adventure, Charles Xavier led the original iteration of his team into battle against his old foe, Magneto, who attacked a military base to further his cause of mutant supremacy. So much of what people continue to love about the X-Men is present in that humble beginning.
DAREDEVIL FEARLESSLY SWINGS INTO ACTION
In 1964, Matt Murdock debuted as the titular hero in DAREDEVIL #1. Created by Everett, Lee, and Kirby, the hero’s first outing revealed that, as a child, he’d been blinded while saving an old man from getting hit by a chemical truck. From there, his father, “Battling” Jack Murdock urged him to become a lawyer. However, Battling Jack was eventually killed for refusing to throw a fight.
In response, Murdock became a lawyer-by-day and a crime-punishing vigilante by night. Even in that first issue, so much of the duality that has come to define Daredevil is present, even if his iconic red suit didn’t debut until the next year in DAREDEVIL #7, which featured art from Wally Wood.
“TALES OF ASGARD” DEFINES MARVEL’S THOR
Debuting in 1962’s JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #83, Thor Odinson was created by Lee, Kirby, and Larry Lieber. Based on the Norse God of the same name, Thor was sent to Earth by his father, Odin, to learn humility. Soon, though, he became one of the planet’s greatest defenders.
In terms of the early Thor stories, there are, perhaps, none better than those found in the “Tales of Asgard” backups, which ran from JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #97 until issue #106. While not exclusively focused on Thor, these stories defined the history of Marvel’s Asgard and the God of Thunder’s youth. Events from those incredible fantasy stories still influence the character to this day.
THE AVENGERS ASSEMBLE FOR THE FIRST TIME
In 1963, one of Marvel’s most important teams assembled for the first time: The Avengers. In the team’s first outing, Thor, Hulk, Hank Pym’s Ant-Man, Janet van Dyne’s Wasp and Tony Stark’s Iron Man teamed up to take on Loki, the God of Thunder’s trickiest foe (and his brother). Later, in AVENGERS #4, the team’s most iconic member finally joined up when a newly thawed Captain America, AKA Steve Rogers, stepped into the Silver Age.
Since then, the Avengers have remained one of Marvel’s premiere hero teams, and that line-up has continued to play a key role in the universe’s events decades later.
Join Marvel.com all month long to celebrate Stan Lee’s 100th birthday! Share your own favorite moments on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and more with #StanLee100!
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