Jack Kirby had helped DC to revitalize the superhero in 1957 with
the Challengers of the Unknown. He helped to write and draw 4 issues of
Showcase, and then 8 issues of their own title before leaving DC in 1959 and
returning to Atlas Comics, which was about to change it's name to Marvel
photo: Jack "the
Marvel had not yet gotten back into publishing superheroes
however and Jack drew sci-fi, mystery and western comics for the next year and
Then one day in 1961 Jack arrived at the Marvel offices
finding editor Stan Lee sobbing and movers taking the furniture out of Marvel's
offices. Marvel, the company that Stan's uncle Martin Goodman founded in 1939
with Marvel Comics #1 was about to go out of business.
Stan may have been sobbing, but Jack on the other hand
wasn't about to lay down. He had been making a living from the comics industry
since the thirties and had seen the best of it and then in the fifties, the
worst of it, and he had nowhere else to go!
Jack convinced Stan to let him try something new for Marvel. Jack
after all was right there when DC brought back super heroes and he was going to
do the same for Marvel, but one better!
In September 1961, the Fantastic Four debuted in their own
title (cover dated November), and they were not just a hit, they were an
absolute smash!! Marvel followed this with the introduction of a most unlikely
superhero with the Incredible Hulk #1 (cover dated May 1962), followed by most
likely the second most famous comic book superhero of all time with Spider-Man
in Amazing Fantasy #15 (cover dated August 1962).
A nerdish teenager with real teenage troubles had been
bitten by a radioactive spider, transforming him into a freak able to climb
walls by sticking his fingers to it and with the strength of fifty men.
Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko had helped jump start Marvel. The
company which had almost gone the way of the Studebaker was on the verge of
becoming one of the most profitable, influential and popular comic companies
ever in just a few short months, and Kirby was just getting warmed up
In the next two years Jack Kirby and Stan Lee would
introduce scores of heroes from the Giant Man and the Mighty Thor to taking a
note from DC and reintroducing the Sub-Mariner and the legendary Captain
But what really propelled Marvel was an entirely new
When Superman donned his cape, he never intimated that he
didn't want to be a superhero. As a matter of fact he was intended to be a
superhero was your impression of him. Batman only didn't want to be a superhero
because he only became a hero after his parents were murdered. These heroes
weren't beset by the troubles real people had in general. I always looked at
superheroes as being entertainers.
But the Marvel heroes were different. they were beset by
all nature of human malady. The thing didn't want to be an ugly monster, Bruce
Banner didn't want to change into the Hulk and poor Peter Parker was always
looking out for his Aunt May's health. Spider-Man may be the most obvious
example of the soap operatic comic continuity. He was at first in high school,
then college over the years and grew from a bespectacled teenager to a mature
man (shades of Gasoline Alley), which is in itself unlike any superhero before
This new style of comic story resulted in a revolution in
comics. Today's comic heroes are so bogged down by the human condition that to
many, the entertaining factor that made fans read comics thirty years ago is
mostly gone, having given way to the X-Generation's (in Marvel's case
particularly) popular comic interests.
illo: Amazing Fantasy #15
with the origin & first appearance of Spider-Man
Next to come...Generation