Justice League of America (Silver Age)

The initial Justice League lineup included seven of DC Comics’ superheroes who were regularly published at that time: SupermanBatman, Aquaman, Flash, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, and Wonder Woman. Rarely featured in most of the stories, Superman and Batman did not even appear on the cover most of the time. Three of DC’s other surviving or revived characters, Green Arrow, the Atom, and Hawkman were added to the roster over the next four years.

The title’s early success was indirectly responsible for the creation of the Fantastic Four. In his autobiography Stan Lee relates how in 1961, during a round of golf, DC publisher Jack Liebowitz mentioned to Marvel-Timely owner Martin Goodman how well DC’s new book (Justice League) was selling. Later that day Goodman, a publishing trend-follower aware of the JLA’s strong sales, told Lee, his comics editor, to come up with a team of superheroes for Marvel.

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Strange Tales – Silver Age

Strange Tales switched to superheroes during the Silver Age of Comic Books, retaining the sci-fi, suspense and monsters as backup features for a time. Strange Tales‘ first superhero, in 12- to 14-page stories, was the Fantastic Four‘s Human Torch, Johnny Storm, beginning in #101 (Oct. 1962). Here, Johnny still lived with his elder sister, Susan Storm, in fictional Glenview, Long Island, New York, where he continued to attend high school and, with youthful naivete, attempted to maintain his “secret identity” (later retconned to reveal that his friends and neighbors knew of his dual identity from Fantastic Four news reports, but simply played along).

The title became a “split book” with the introduction of sorcerer Doctor Strange, by Lee and artist Steve Ditko. This 9- to 10-page feature debuted in #110 (July 1963), and after an additional story and then skipping two issues returned permanently with #114. Ditko’s surrealistic mystical landscapes and increasingly head-trippy visuals helped make the feature a favorite of college students, according to Lee himself. Eventually, as co-plotter and later sole plotter, in the “Marvel Method“, Ditko would take Strange into ever-more-abstract realms, which yet remained well-grounded thanks to Lee’s reliably humanistic, adventure/soap opera dialog. Adversaries for the new hero included Baron Mordo introduced in issue #111 (Aug. 1963) and Dormammu in issue #126 (Nov. 1964). Clea, who would become a longtime love interest for Doctor Strange, was also introduced in issue #126.

Journey into Mystery – Silver Age

Journey into Mystery was initially published by Atlas Comics, then by its successor, Marvel Comics. Initially a horror comics anthology, it segued to giant-monster and science fiction stories in the late 1950s. Beginning with issue #83 (cover dated August 1962), it ran the superhero feature “The Mighty Thor“, created by writers Stan Lee and Larry Lieber and artist Jack Kirby, and inspired by the mythological Norse thunder god. The series, which was renamed for its superhero star with issue #126 (March 1966), has been revived three times: in the 1970s as a horror anthology, and in the 1990s and 2010s with characters from Marvel’s Thor mythos.

 

Steed, Peel and John Drake – Silver Age

In 1968 Gold Key reprinted a couple of TV Comic Avengers strips as a one-shot comic for the US market. For trademark reasons, since Marvel had the Avengers comic trademark in the USA, the comic was titled after the featured characters, John Steed and Emma Peel.

The Avengers is a spy-fi British television series created in the 1960s. The Avengers initially focused on Dr. David Keel (Ian Hendry) and his assistant John Steed (Patrick Macnee). Hendry left after the first series and Steed became the main character, partnered with a succession of assistants. Steed’s most famous assistants were intelligent, stylish and assertive women: Cathy Gale (Honor Blackman), Emma Peel (Diana Rigg), and later Tara King (Linda Thorson). Later episodes increasingly incorporated elements of science fiction and fantasy, parody and British eccentricity. The Avengers ran from 1961 until 1969, screening as one-hour episodes its entire run.

In 1966, Gold Key Comics published two issues of a Secret Agent comic book based upon the series Danger Man (titled Secret Agent in the United States), a British television series which was broadcast between 1960 and 1962, and again between 1964 and 1968. The series featured Patrick McGoohan as secret agent John Drake.

Prisoner fans frequently debate whether John Drake of Danger Man and Number Six in The Prisoner are the same person. Like John Drake, Number Six is evidently a secret agent, but one who has resigned from his job. Moreover, in the surreal Prisoner episode “The Girl Who Was Death“, Number Six meets “Potter”, John Drake’s Danger Man contact. Christopher Benjamin portrayed the character in both series.

The Atom – Silver Age

The Atom introduced in Showcase #34 (1961) is physicist and university professor Dr. Raymond Palmer, Ph.D. (He was named for real-life science fiction writer Raymond A. Palmer, who was himself quite short.) After stumbling onto a mass of white dwarf star matter that had fallen to Earth, he fashioned a lens which allowed him to shrink down to subatomic size. Originally, his size and molecular density abilities derived from the white dwarf star material of his costume, controlled by mechanisms in his belt, and later by controls in the palms of his gloves. Much later, he gained the innate equivalent powers within his own body. After the events of Identity Crisis, Ray shrank himself to microscopic size and disappeared. Finding him became a major theme of the Countdown year long series and crossover event.

Thor – Silver Age

Thor debuted in the science fiction/fantasy anthology title Journey into Mystery #83 (cover-date Aug. 1962), and was created by editor-plotter Stan Lee, scripter Larry Lieber, and penciller-plotter Jack Kirby. A different version of the mythological Thor had appeared previously in Venus #12-13 (Feb.-April 1951).

In a 1984 interview Kirby said “I did a version of Thor for D.C. in the Fifties before I did him for Marvel. I created Thor at Marvel because I was forever enamored of legends, which is why I knew about Balder, Heimdall, and Odin. I tried to update Thor and put him into a superhero costume, but he was still Thor.” And in a 1992 interview, Kirby said “[I] knew the Thor legends very well, but I wanted to modernize them. I felt that might be a new thing for comics, taking the old legends and modernizing them.”

Journey into Mystery was retitled Thor (per the indicia, or The Mighty Thor per most covers) with issue #126 (March 1966). “Tales of Asgard” was replaced by a five-page featurette starring the Inhumans from #146–152 (Nov. 1967 – May 1968), after which featurettes were dropped and the Thor stories expanded to Marvel’s then-standard 20-page length.

Showcase – Silver Age

Showcase has been the title of several comic anthology series published by DC Comics. The general theme of these series has been to feature new and minor characters as a way to gauge reader interest in them, without the difficulty and risk of featuring “untested” characters in their own ongoing titles. The original series ran from March-April 1956 to September 1970 suspending publication with issue #93, and then was revived for eleven issues from August 1977 to September 1978.

The Showcase series featured characters in either one-shot appearances or brief two or three issue runs as a way to determine reader interest, without the financial risk of featuring “untested” characters in their own ongoing titles. The series began in March-April 1956 and saw the first appearance of several major characters including the Silver Age Flash, the Challengers of the Unknown, Space Ranger, Adam Strange, Rip Hunter, the Silver Age Green Lantern, the Sea Devils, the Silver Age Atom, the Metal Men, the Inferior Five, the Creeper, Anthro, the Hawk and Dove,Angel and the Ape, Bat Lash and The Spectre.

Silver Surfer V1 (1968)

The Silver Surfer debuted as an unplanned addition to Fantastic Four #48 (March 1966). The comic’s writer-editor, Stan Lee, and its penciller and co-plotter, Jack Kirby, had by the mid-1960s developed a collaborative technique known as the “Marvel Method“: the two would discuss story ideas, Kirby would work from a brief synopsis to draw the individual scenes and plot details, and Lee would finally add the dialog and captions. When Kirby turned in his pencil art for the story, he included a new character he and Lee had not discussed. As Lee recalled in 1995, “There, in the middle of the story we had so carefully worked out, was a nut on some sort of flying surfboard”. He later expanded on this, recalling, “I thought, ‘Jack, this time you’ve gone too far'”. Kirby explained that the story’s agreed-upon antagonist, a god-like cosmic predator of planets named Galactus, should have some sort of herald, and that he created the surfboard “because I’m tired of drawing spaceships!” Taken by the noble features of the new character, who turned on his master to help defend Earth, Lee overcame his initial skepticism and began adding characterization. The Silver Surfer soon became a key part of the unfolding story.

Four Color (1960’s)

Four Color, also known as Four Color Comics and One Shots, was a long-running American comic book anthology series published by Dell Comics between 1939 and 1968. The title is a reference to the four basic colors used when printing comic books (cyan, magenta, yellow and black at the time).

More than 1,000 issues were published, usually with multiple titles released every month. An exact accounting of the actual number of unique issues produced is difficult because occasional issue numbers were skipped and a number of reprint issues were also included. Nonetheless, the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide lists well over 1,000 individual issues, ending with #1354. It currently holds the record for most issues produced of an American comic book; its nearest rivals, Action Comics and Detective Comics, ended their initial runs in 2011 at 904 issues and 881 issues, respectively. The first 25 issues are known as “series 1”; after they were published, the numbering began again and “series 2” began. Four Color published many of the first comics featuring characters licensed from Walt Disney.

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Four Color #1173 F+ $69

X-Men (Silver Age)

Early X-Men issues introduced the original team composed of Cyclops, Marvel Girl, BeastAngel and Iceman among a few others, their archenemy Magneto and his Brotherhood of Evil Mutants featuring Mastermind, Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, and Toad. The comic focused on a common human theme of good versus evil and later included storylines and themes about prejudice and racism, all of which have persisted throughout the series in one form or another. The evil side in the fight was shown in human form and under some sympathetic beginnings via Magneto, a character who was later revealed to have survived Nazi concentration camps only to pursue a hatred for normal humanity. His key followers, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, were Romani. Only one new member of the X-Men was added, Mimic/Calvin Rankin, but soon left due to his temporary loss of power.

The title lagged in sales behind Marvel’s other comic franchises. In 1969, writer Roy Thomas and illustrator Neal Adams rejuvenated the comic book and gave regular roles to two recently introduced characters: Havok/Alex Summers (who had been introduced by Roy Thomas before Adams began work on the comic) and Lorna Dane, later called Polaris (created by Arnold Drake and Jim Steranko). However, these later X-Men issues failed to attract sales and Marvel stopped producing new stories with issue #66, later reprinting a number of the older comics as issues #67–93.