Marvel Comics In The 1960s

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Marvel Comics in the 1960s: An Issue-by-Issue Field Guide to a Pop Culture Phenomenon presents a step-by-step look at how a company that had the reputation of being one of the least creative in a generally moribund industry, emerged as one of the most dynamic, slightly irreverent and downright original contributions to an era when pop-culture emerged as the dominant force in the artistic life of America. In scores of handy, easy to reference entries, it takes the reader from the legendary companys first fumbling beginnings as helmed by savvy editor/writer Stan Lee (aided by such artists as Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko), to the full maturity of its wild, colorful, offbeat grandiosity. It explains just how Lee, Kirby, Ditko, et. al. created a line of comic books that, while grounded in the traditional elements of panel-to-panel storytelling, broke through the juvenile mindset of a low brow industry and provided a tapestry of full blown pop culture icons.

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  • Contents 3

    ContentsIntroduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5

    Part I: The Early, Formative Years . . . . . . . . . . . . 11

    Part II: The Years of Consolidation . . . . . . . . . . 57

    Part III: The Grandiose Years . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 95

    Creator Spotlights:Stan Lee . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10

    Jack Kirby. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15

    Steve Ditko . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23

    Don Heck . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35

    Bill Everett . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 65

    Joe Sinnott . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 102

    George Tuska . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 106

    Gene Colan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 120

    John Severin . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 122

    John Romita . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 130

    Jim Steranko . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 153

    Marie Severin. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 157

    Herb Trimpe. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 170

    Roy Thomas . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 173

    John Buscema . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 175

    Barry Smith . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 219

    Key Marvel Moments:Merry Marvel Marching Society . . . . . . . . . . . 73

    Marvel Swag . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 85, 141

    F.O.O.M. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 127

    Marvelmania . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 168

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  • hy a field guide? Simply put, becausethere was a lot to like about Marvel Comicsin the 1960s, when everything about the

    company seemed new and anything was possible.But all that was almost a half-century ago andSpider-Man, Hulk and their costumed cohorts havebeen with some of us since before we were born. Bynow, everyone knows all about them, theyvebecome the latest cultural icons and have proventheir staying power in movies, books, computergames, even theme parks. What need to go back topre-historic times to find out more about them? Theshort answer is that most people dont know all aboutthem, the company that spawned them, and especial-ly the creative minds of theeditors, writers, and artiststhat invented them. Today,more than ever, with tensof thousands of peoplebecoming newly interestedin the universe of Marvelheroes, an easy to usehandbook or field guide totheir origins is indispensable.

    Thats the reason thisbook was written (and itssubsequent volume coveringMarvels Twilight Years),to provide a handy, easy touse and, especially, fun ref-erence volume for anyone,whether youngsters whoseonly familiarity with thecharacters is from movies or

    the latest comics or those young at heart whod sim-ply like to reacquaint themselves with old friendsafter many years. Designed for the casual browser aswell as those already familiar with its subject, thebook can be read from the beginning or opened atany page for quick reference. What allows such ver-satility is the books unique format which includes atext divided into easily digestible, quick to readcapsule reviews of hundreds of the most impor-tant (and a few not so important) individual issuesof Marvel Comics from the 1960s. These capsulecommentaries not only provide brief but succinctroundups of the action and significance of thecomics discussed, but also who wrote and drew

    them, where the creatorsreceived their inspiration,what their backgroundswere and where it all fits intothe pop culture scene of thetimes. Here, the reader willbe introduced to pop-cultureguru and mastermind ofMarvel Comics, Stan Lee;the pulse-pounding art ofaction king, Jack Kirby;the inscrutable master ofpsychological and angst-ridden art, Steve Ditko; thecool master of psychedeliaand fast track pop-art, JimSteranko; the free form, nearphotographic realism ofGene Colan; Lees heirapparent and second editor

    Introduction 5

    Introduction

    Before Stan Lee there was Joe Simon;Jack Kirbys other partner through the1940s and 50s.

    W

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  • of the Marvel line ofbooks, Roy Thomas; thepre-Raphaelite beauty ofartist Barry Smith; andmany others includingartists Neal Adams, JohnBuscema, Gil Kane, TomPalmer, Dan Adkins,Wally Wood, JohnRomita, and Don Heck.

    But before plunginginto the deep end of thepool, a reader might dowell to first orient himselfregarding just howMarvel Comics fit into thebigger picture of thecomics industry itself.Even the company thatwas to revolutionizecomics, after all, didntspring full-blown fromthe brow of Stan Lee!

    It all began in the late1930s, when comic booksin America and as a massmedium (million-sellingtitles were not uncommon in the 1940s) were viewedby the public at large, and with justification, as juve-nile literature. This was especially true when comicbooks ceased to be the forum for reprints of widelypopular newspaper strips and became, instead, thedomain of colorfully costumed super-heroes. Withthe advent of Superman and his descendents, comicbooks became inevitably associated with chil-drens entertainment. And so, when some publish-ers in the 1950s (most notably EC Comics) began topresent comics whose content was primarily that ofviolence and gore, the wider public became con-cerned, and when even the federal governmentthreatened to step in to regulate the industry, pub-lishers were frightened into forming the ComicsCode Authority in self-defense. Guided by strictrules designed to shield the nations youngstersfrom harmful content, comic books came to be seenmore than ever as the province of children.

    Until, that is, Marvel Comics came along in theearly 1960s.

    As it would later turn out, the decade of the sixtieswas a time of vast social upheaval when manybegan to reappraise the status quo; rebellion was inthe air regarding civil rights and justification of theVietnam War. It even reached the art world whereartists like Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein began

    to open up the stuffyworld of art criticism toinclude the creativeproducts of pop culture.

    Colliding with therising popularity ofMarvel Comics of themid-to-late 1960s, thesetrends opened the publicmind to the worth ofsuch products of popularculture as comic booksand the possibility thatthey could be more thandisposable art createdfor children.

    At the center of thatsea change in popularperception was Marveleditor in chief, Stan Leeand his chief lieutenants,Jack Kirby and SteveDitko.

    By the early 1960s,aside from a brief stint inthe army and occasionalattempts to break out

    with newspaper strip features or humor books,Lee had spent his entire working career in the comicbook field. He managed to get his foot in the door in1940 when he was still known as Stanley Lieber, andMartin Goodman, his cousins husband (or somethinglike that) who was in the habit of giving jobs to hisrelatives anyway, hired him and set him to work withJoe Simon, editor of the publishing companys newlyformed Timely comic book division.

    6 Marvel Comics in the 1960s

    The furor spearheaded by Dr. FredericWerthams Seduction of the Innocent led to theend of ECs popular line of horror comics andthe establishment of the Comics Code Authority.

    Goodmans company was a going concern in1942 when this photo of its staff was taken.

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  • At the time, Simon and his partner, Jack Kirby, were already big wheelsin the comic industry. Both had spent time earlier in their careers inindependently operated shops that contracted with publishers toprovide them with fully rendered packages of completed comic book titles:editing, scripting, penciling, and inking were all covered and delivered toclients ready for printing. But publishers, always interested in finding waysto save money, soon figured out that if they could cut out the middle manand do the work themselves, they could save money. And so, whenGoodman decided to do just that, he created Timely Comics and hiredSimon to run it for him. Simon, in turn, brought in Kirby, and the twobegan a long and fruitful career as partners in the comics industry.

    Simon and Kirby kept busy through the 1950s, sometimesfollowing trends and sometimes blazing their own trails with titlessuch as Black Magic, Justice Traps the Guilty, and Young Love.

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    Introduction 7

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  • Together, Simon and Kirby co-created CaptainAmerica, the new companys first major star, andwere riding high on that triumph when Lee enteredthe scene as office boy at age 17 doing everythingfrom erasing Kirbys pencils after his art pages wereinked to writing single-page text features to saveGoodman on postage rates. His first text pieceappeared in Captain America #3 and was signed asbeing by Stan Lee. But not all was right at Timely.Suspecting that Goodman was shortchanging them,Simon and Kirby began to moonlight for otherpublishers, and when they were discovered,Goodman fired them. As a result, Lee suddenlyfound himself taking over as editor.

    Although Goodmanhad intended to eventuallyhire a more experiencedreplacement for Simon,he never seemed to getaround to it, and anywayLee seemed to be doingall right at the job. Sothere Lee remained asthe Timely line of comicsslowly grew. Acting asboth editor and artdirector, he learnedabout the comics industryfrom every angle anddeveloped a professionaleye for art and an ear fora turn of phrase thatwould serve him well as

    the company became one of the largest producers ofcomics in the industry. He was also on hand for theless savory part of the job when he had to tellemployees and loyal freelancers that their serviceswere no longer required because cousin Martindecided to cut back on production when inventorybegan to pile up.

    Lee himself was replaced once, and only briefly,while he served in the army, but when he returnedhe found his old job waiting for him, and throughoutthe 1950s he wrote thousands of comic book scriptsfor every imaginable genre, constantly honing his lit-erary skills, finding different voices to tell his sto-ries and even guided a failed attempt to bring backthe companys super-heroes who had faded sincethe glory years of the 1940s. Throughout, however,Lee began to fear that he was caught in a rut, thathis writing skills, keen as they were, might only befit for the ghetto of comic books. He yearned to dosome serious writing, a novel or a screenplay, butmanaged only a book on how to write for comics

    and some mild successes with humor. By the late1950s, he was working at moving out of the artisticbasement of comic books and into the penthouseof newspaper comic strips, but with only limitedsuccess.

    Meeting the same kind of disappointment wasJack Kirby, who, although returning from the warscarred by his experiences of battle, barely skippeda beat as he immediately hooked up again withSimon to reassert their place in the industry as thepremier producers of comics. The two struck goldby adapting pulp magazine style romance to comicsand managing to find a previously untapped veinof female readers. Next, they started Black Magic,a horror comic that was an early precursor of thedeluge of even more virulent fare from other publishersthat would eventually lead to congressional hearingsand the establishment of the Comics CodeAuthority. In 1954, the pair went independent andstarted their own company under the Mainlinelabel, but dissolved it along with their partnershiponly two years later.

    Although Simon, never a shy sort, had no diffi-culty securing work in a string of editorial positionsfollowing the demise of Mainline, Kirby found him-self increasingly at loose ends. Many comic bookcompanies used the bad press that came out of thecongressional hearings to cut their growing lossesand dissolved their comic book divisions resultingin a stratification of the industry that was dominat-ed by a handful of large publishers, each with theirown house styles. Styles that Kirbys uniquebrand of art seemed unable to fit. By the late 1950s,Kirby was lucky to get a few assignments from DC,for whom he had co-created many of its best-sellingtitles in years past.

    It was while Kirby was keeping busy with weirdfantasy stories, five-page back-ups of Green Arrowand introducing a new feature called Challengersof the Unknown, that he partnered with the power-ful Jack Schiff, a managing editor at DC, to create anewspaper strip called Sky Masters. Like Lee over atAtlas (or Marvel or Timely or Magazine Management,whatever Goodman was calling his company thatweek), Kirby had visions of breaking out of comicsand into the far more lucrative and more prestigiousfield of newspaper strips. But although he had astrong start out of the gate, a falling out with Schiffover money and subsequent litigation sundered therelationship and ended that dream as well as his jobat DC where he soon became persona non grata. Acrosswhat looked like an increasingly bleak comic booklandscape, Kirby managed to pick up work hereand there with Simon at Archie Comics and other

    Timely publisherMartin Goodman.

    8 Marvel Comics in the 1960s

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  • smaller companies before finally approaching Leefor some freelance assignments. His timing wasgood, but not the best.

    Atlas (or Marvel) had suffered another one of itsreverses, but this time it was worse than ever. In abad business move, Goodman had sold off hismagazine distribution company and signed onwith the American News Company which promptlywent out of business leaving him with no way toget his magazines to the newsstands. Desperate,he brokered a deal with rival DC Comics thatallowed him to remain in business but limited hiscomic book company to the production of onlyeight titles per month. The consequent implosionresulted in massive layoffs of both employees andfreelancers, a catastrophe from which Lee as editorin chief of the companys comic book division wasonly beginning to regain his balance as the 1950sdrew to a close. Thus, when Kirby knocked on thedoor in 1958, Lee was ready to take on morefreelance help and finding himself able to affordthe co-creator of Captain America, was more thanhappy to give the artist work.

    As time passed, and the two began to test thewaters for super-heroic characters again, they foundthe temperatures to their likingand the readers.Virtually unplanned, they discovered new wrinklesin the shopworn super-hero formula and in time,Lee in particular grew increasingly attuned with thetimes and realized that his comics (which he filledwith a kind of self-deprecating humor that gentlymocked the inherent seriousness of the super-heroas American icon and authority figure) were resonating

    with young people on college campuses acrossthe country. His consciousness having been ra...