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Marvel comics story. 3: 1956

Mysterious tales and journeys into strangeness.

In 1955, comic book publishers anticipated the more and more close threat of a legal censure, by creating the autocensure comitee: the Comic Code Authority. Of course, there is no question of making an apologia of censure wich is not only dictatorial but anticultural and retrogressive. Nevertheless, the result was widely positive. Firstly, readers finding no more vampires nore werewolves went to other kinds. That's how since 1956, DC could start to resuscitate super heroes. Martin Goodman who managed Atlas (that's to say Marvel) didn't follow. But, that's the second positive result, he's been obliged to look for something else to take the place of his horror stories. Then Atlas converted all their horror comics into oddity. Reluctantly, draging their feet, with often sweetened horror stories rather than true odd tales. The content of Strange Tales or Journey into Mystery cut a sorry figure compared with little masterpieces that producted since long ago at DC's writers came from science fiction litterature and artists like Kane, Infantino, Toth, Anderson and lately Kirby. But in 1956 the coming of two men would pull up the level.

One was STEVE DITKO. Ditko begined three years before , beside Kirby, in Captain 3d, a super hero comic to read with stereoscopic glasses. He came to Charlton the next year. From 1956 to 1961, he gave to Charlton and Marvel simultaneously numberless odd tales among the best ones of the kind. He'll stay the man of warlocks and wizards established in our modern cities, not to mention his batrachian extra terrestrials and other stairs going up through the clouds.





The other incoming man was not exactly some unknown one since it was Jack Kirby himself. It's Kirby, and Kirby alone, who would make the giant Marvel number one of comics industry out of the little company Atlas. With Kirby and Ditko there was no more need to fear the comparison with DC masters. At least for art. As for scripts, Stan Lee was still a bit under Broome, Kanigher or Fox of the other side. All the more since you have to take into acompt Martin Goodman's whims. He imposed a recurrent theme, repeated at almost every issue so that it nearly became a kind in itself: big monsters. Big monsters, Gorkill, Googam, Krogarr... were gigantic zooid creatures who came, one after the other, to threaten human kind. The army was powerless, but the hero, a child or some puny scientist found some trick "My general, Kragoom doesn't mind atom bombs but he'll melt he we throw him a glass of water." No-one in the world could have drawn those creatures better than Kirby. Each one taken alone, the stories were good, but if you read one of them, then you have read them all. Some big monsters survived those times to come back as villains in nowaday Marvel comics, for instance Xemnu the Titan or Fing Fang Foom.




Birth of Marvel.

Little by little, unobviously, Atlas experienced a profound mutation. From all the jumble of miscellaneous magazines enumerated in former page, in 1960 only remained 6 of the comics for girls of Patsy and Millie and 4 last westerns... but 4 odd tales comics. Atlas found an identity. Atlas was becoming Marvel. Yet the essential still missed. No super heroes. Stan Lee had the mind overflowing with great projects and Jack Kirby dreamt but to resuscitate super heroes. But Martin Goodman stood both feet on the brake. Thereby, the Marvel five years late in front of DC. Seeing DC super heroes' success and that it was JLA, a team, wich worked the most, Lee was convinced that the time had come and that it was a team wich should be created. More important, he convinced Goodman of it in the end. He would make Goodman's fortune in spit of him by creating...



Kirby put himself much into this creation, as shown by the analogy of composition between the new team and the Challengers that he just imaginated for DC: a foursome including a scientist, a strong guy and a young hot head. Besides, Fantastic four 1 was a new version of Challengers of the Unknown 3, where Rocky got super powers in the course of a travel in rocket.

But Stan Lee intended to experiment his ideas and one was the creation of more human heroes, liable to suffer, to dubt, even to betray. The Thing, the stone monster, was the first Stan Lee's guinea pig. He would relegate to the second rank the new Human Torch, yet suposed to be the star. Add the charming Invisible Girl and Mister Fantastic, the elastic genius. In august 1961, the Fantastic Four were born. And Marvel too.

The Fantastic Four and Dr Doom. Detail from
an unpublished pencilled picture by Kirby.


1962 Thor, Hulk, Spider-Man.




All pictures on this page are © Marvel characters inc. All characters mentioned are ® Marvel characters inc. All rights reserved. ( Challengers of the unknown and JLA are® DC All rights reserved.) The page itself and the text inside it are © Gerard Courtial 2000, All rights reserved