Introducing… The first appearances of some of Marvel’s Mightiest Superheroes
Debuting a new superhero was always an event for publishers – some took off instantly, some proved to be a bit of a slow burn. Superheroes today are known around the world – as globally recognisable as the likes of Madonna and McDonalds.
As hard as it may seem to believe, there was a time when the world didn’t know who Spider-Man was. There was a world without Wolverine, without the Hulk, without Captain America.
Before Spider-Man became so famous he could spawn three different movie franchises, where did he come from? Here we take a step back in time to remember when these characters got their hero welcome…
First appearance of Spider-Man
Peter Parker. The Web Slinger. Spidey. He goes by many titles now, but before he was the Amazing Spiderman, he was just a late addition to an anthology series. Spider-Man first appeared in Amazing Fantasy #15 – which, as of 2020, is the third most valuable comic book ever sold.
Published in June 1962 during the Silver Age of Comic Books, Spider-Man was the brainchild of writer-editor Stan Lee and writer-artist Steve Ditko. The teenage superhero was a deviation from the norm – and a revelation. A younger readership saw themselves on the page for the first time as they too dealt with high school problems, like Peter Parker.
This was a bit of a gamble – and was the swan song for the Amazing Fantasy series which was slated for cancellation. Spidey’s first appearance wasn’t enough to save the anthology series – this turned out to be the final issue, but sales were so strong and reaction so positive that Spider-Man returned just months later, with the first edition of The Amazing Spider-Man published in March 1963.
And that friendly neighbourhood Spiderman has had us caught in his web ever since.
First appearance of Captain America
Captain America, one of Marvel’s most iconic figures, actually predates Marvel. He first appeared in Captain America Comics #1, published in March 1941. Captain America Comics was published by Timely Comics and the character was first created as a patriotic super-soldier to inspire the nation during the Second World War.
In his first outing he would often fight the Axis powers, and he was the publisher’s most popular character during the war years. However, popularity waned in the years after leading the Captain to be put on ice (not literally this time) in 1950.
He returned to his rightful place in print after being formally reintroduced by the publishers, Marvel Comics, in The Avengers #4, printed in March 1964.
It was explained that in the final days of World War II, he had fallen into the North Atlantic Ocean and spent decades frozen in a block of ice in a state of suspended animation. The hero found a new generation of readers as leader of The Avengers.
First appearance of Iron Man
In a 2019 poll for Rotten Tomatoes, Iron Man and Captain America were tied as the most popular Avengers characters.
A massive leap for a character who made his first appearance in Tales of Suspense #39, in March 1963. Iron Man would go on to get his own solo title five years later, with the first edition of Iron Man #1 in May 1968.
Created by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Don Heck and Jack Kirby, Iron Man was conceptualised as something a bit different for Marvel.
In an excerpt from Excelsior! The Amazing Life of Stan Lee he says:
‘I think I gave myself a dare. It was the height of the Cold War. The readers, the young readers, if there was one thing they hated, it was war, it was the military … So I got a hero who represented that to the hundredth degree. He was a weapons manufacturer, he was providing weapons for the Army, he was rich, he was an industrialist … I thought it would be fun to take the kind of character that nobody would like, none of our readers would like, and shove him down their throats and make them like him … And he became very popular.’
The original X Men and their first appearance
The X Men’s line-up changes more than a football team, but where did ‘The Strangest Super-Heroes of All’ start out?
Uncanny X-Men #1 was published in September 1963 and included the first appearances of many X Men who would stick around for decades to come. The original line-up who featured in this issue were Angel-Archangel, Beast, Cyclops, Iceman and Jean Grey (as Marvel Girl). We also got introduced to Professor X and Magneto in this issue.
The X Men didn’t catch on with the public straight away. Sales lagged, and eventually new X Men stories were shelved in 1970. It wasn’t until a revival in 1975, with the publication of The Giant-Size X Men, that the X Men became more of what we know it to be today.
The issue was the first original X Men story in five years and switched up the dynamic of the team, introducing new characters with a diverse set of backgrounds and issues. These included Colossus, Nightcrawler, Storm, and Thunderbird, as well as bringing back three previously introduced characters: Banshee, Sunfire and Wolverine.
First appearance of Black Panther
The Black Panther first roared onto the scene in Fantastic Four #52, published in July 1966.
His appearance reflected – and was inspired by – the tumultuous times of America in the 60s. Race riots, disillusionment with the government over the Vietnam War and other culture clashes dominated the zeitgeist, and the creators of Marvel’s superheroes wanted to capture this energy.
Originally conceptualised as the ‘Coal Tiger,’ Black Panther came to be after writer Sean Howe was inspired by an interview in the New York Times discussing the formation of the Lowndes Country Freedom Organization (the LCFO) – who would later become known as the Black Panther party.
Wanting to introduce diversity and representation, the character was born. The character’s alter ego, King T’Challa, was the ruler of a fictional African kingdom called Wakanda. He was the first black superhero to debut in American comic books.
Do you have any of these issues? Want to find out where more of your heroes came from? Comment below!