Adventure Comics was published by DC Comics from 1938 to 1983 and revived from 2009 to 2011. In its first era, the series ran for 503 issues (472 of those after the title changed from New Adventure Comics), making it the fifth-longest-running DC series, behind Detective Comics, Action Comics, Superman, and Batman. It was revived in 2009 by writer Geoff Johns with the Conner Kent incarnation of Superboy headlining the title’s main feature, and the Legion of Super-Heroes in the back-up story. It returned to its original numbering with #516 (September 2010). The series finally ended with #529 (October 2011), prior to DC’s The New 52 company reboot.
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.
In 1967, Gold Key reprinted a number of selected issues of their comics under the title Top Comics which were sold in plastic bags containing five comics at gas stations and various eateries. Like Dell, Gold Key was one of the few major American publishers of comic books never to display the Comics Code Authority seal on its covers.
Aquaman, published by DC Comics was created by Paul Norris and Mort Weisinger. The character debuted in More Fun Comics #73 (November 1941). Initially a backup feature in DC’s anthology titles, Aquaman later starred in several volumes of a solo title. During the late 1950s and 1960s superhero-revival period known as the Silver Age, he was a founding member of the Justice League of America. In the 1990s Modern Age, Aquaman’s character became more serious than in most previous interpretations, with storylines depicting the weight of his role as king of Atlantis.
Later accounts reconciled both facets of the character, casting Aquaman as serious and brooding, saddled with an ill reputation, and struggling to find a true role and purpose beyond his public side as a deposed king and a fallen hero.
Early X-Men issues introduced the original team composed of Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Beast, Angel 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.
“Menace of the Robot Raiders!” (Mystery In Space #53, October 1959) featured one of the most enduring and fondly remembered space heroes of the next ten years, Adam Strange, in a 10-page tale which led to the best known period for the Mystery In Space title. Adam Strange had begun in a three-issue run in Showcase #17 (November–December 1958), and although DC considered that those issues had not sold sufficiently to warrant granting him his own title, his return a year later in Mystery In Space#53 was to last an impressive 42 appearances over the next seven years. The Adam Strange space opera tales were crafted by Gardner Fox in the best Flash Gordon tradition, with the hero caught between two planets and a love a galaxy away, giant menacing robots, dust devils, perils on two worlds, and distinctive art by Carmine Infantino and Murphy Anderson who drew almost all issues until #92 (June 1964). A number of these stories are considered among the finest of the 1960s, including the full-issue tale “The Planet That Came to a Standstill!” (Mystery In Space #75, May 1962), which won comic fandoms Alley Award for the “Best Book-Length Story” of 1962, and was fairly unusual for the time inasmuch as it featured a cross-over with other major DC characters, the Justice League of America.
Tales of Suspense became Captain America with #100 (April 1968) This series — considered Captain America volume one by comics researchers and historians, following the 1940s Captain America Comics and its 1950s numbering continuation of Tales of Suspense — ended with #454 (Aug. 1996).
The initial Justice League lineup included seven of DC Comics’ superheroes who were regularly published at that time: Superman, Batman, 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.
The Hulk first appeared in The Incredible Hulk #1 (cover dated May 1962), written by writer-editor Stan Lee, penciled and co-plotted by Jack Kirby, and inked by Paul Reinman. Lee cites influence from Frankenstein and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in the Hulk’s creation. The Hulk’s original series was canceled with issue #6 (March 1963).
In the debut, Lee chose gray for the Hulk because he wanted a color that did not suggest any particular ethnic group. Colorist Stan Goldberg, however, had problems with the gray coloring, resulting in different shades of grey, and even green, in the issue. After seeing the first published issue, Lee chose to change the skin color to green. Green was used in retellings of the origin, with even reprints of the original story being recolored for the next two decades, until The Incredible Hulk vol. 2, #302 (December 1984) reintroduced the gray Hulk in flashbacks set close to the origin story. Since then, reprints of the first issue have displayed the original gray coloring, with the fictional canon specifying that the Hulk’s skin had initially been grey. An exception is the early trade paperback, Origins of Marvel Comics, from 1974, which explains the difficulties in keeping the gray color consistent in a Stan Lee written prologue, and reprints the origin story keeping the gray coloration.
Lee gave the Hulk’s alter ego the alliterative name Bruce Banner because he found he had less difficulty remembering alliterative names. Despite this, in later stories he misremembered the character’s name and referred to him as “Bob Banner”, an error which readers quickly picked up on. The discrepancy was resolved by giving the character the official full name of Robert Bruce Banner.
Due to strong sales on the character’s first appearance in Amazing Fantasy #15, Spider-Man was given his own ongoing series in March 1963. The initial years of the series, under Lee and Ditko, chronicled Spider-Man’s nascent career with his civilian life as hard-luck yet perpetually good-humored teenager Peter Parker. Peter balanced his career as Spider-Man with his job as a freelance photographer for The Daily Bugle under the bombastic editor-publisher J. Jonah Jameson to support himself and his frail Aunt May. At the same time, Peter dealt with public hostility towards Spider-Man and the antagonism of his classmates Flash Thompson and Liz Allan at Midtown High School, while embarking on a tentative, ill-fated romance with Jameson’s secretary, Betty Brant.
By focusing on Parker’s everyday problems, Lee and Ditko created a groundbreakingly flawed, self-doubting superhero, and the first major teenaged superhero to be a protagonist and not a sidekick. Ditko’s quirky art provided a stark contrast to the more cleanly dynamic stylings of Marvel’s most prominent artist, Jack Kirby, and combined with the humor and pathos of Lee’s writing to lay the foundation for what became an enduring mythos.