Comics : Marvel Tales #1

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This story is part of a Lookback Series: From The Beginning

This review was first published on: 2003.

Background...

I'm not going to make a habit of reviewing Marvel Tales in "From the Beginning" but the first one is worth a look.

The first Marvel Tales was a twenty-five cent 72 page Annual appearing on the newsstands at the same time as Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1. (In fact, that Annual adds a "Note: Don't miss Spidey's origin in the great new Marvel Tales Annual, now on sale!" at the bottom of the last page of the forty-one page Sinister Six saga.) It is the first Spider-Man reprint and, as noted, presents the original Spider-Man story from Amazing Fantasy #15 (September 1962) for those 1964 readers who missed it.

In Detail...

Marvel Tales #1
Year 1964 : SM Reprint
Reprints: Amazing Fantasy #15
Reprints: Incredible Hulk (Vol. 1) #1
Reprints: Tales To Astonish (Vol. 1) #35
Reprints: Tales To Astonish (Vol. 1) #49
Reprints: Journey Into Mystery #83
Reprints: Tales Of Suspense #39
Reprints: SGT. Fury (& His Howling Commandos) #1
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Review

If you bought this Annual for the Spider-Man reprint, you don't have to look farther than the first page. The issue leads off with that story, simply called Spider-Man. An additional caption promises that the story is "exactly as it appeared in Amazing Fantasy #15". So, is it? Well... yes, except that the pages are slightly reduced in size and the art reproduction seems a little muddy so that Aunt May and Uncle Ben start to look like "Invasion of the Body Snatcher" pod-people, for example, though that may just be my particular copy. And since I've gotten that picky, I might as well go all the way and note that the original final caption of "Be sure to see the next issue of Amazing Fantasy for the further amazing exploits of America's most different new teen-age idol, Spiderman!" has been changed to "Little did we suspect that Spidey would become the most sensational super-hero hit of the decade!" But even I'm not so picky that I'm going to expound on the differences between the use of the word "End". (Oh, okay, I am. In the original "The End" is written below the final aforementioned caption. In the reprint, the word "End" is slipped into the final caption of the story, above the "hit of the decade" stuff.)

Spidey's origin is followed by the six-page first chapter of the Hulk's origin story from The Incredible Hulk #1 (May 1962). That is followed by the thirteen page "Return of the Ant-Man" from Tales to Astonish #35 (September 1962) which is Ant-Man's second appearance but the first time Hank Pym wears a super-hero costume. Two pages from Tales to Astonish #49 (November 1963) are shoved in at the end to show how Ant-Man became Giant-Man. Six pages of Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos #1 (May 1963) are next, followed by two pages of photos of "the Gang in the Merry Marvel Bullpen". Smilin' Stan is there, wearing a fedora and holding a cigar but, in a sign of things to come, there is no photo of Steve Ditko. The thirteen page, Vietnam-based origin of Iron Man from Tales of Suspense #39 (March 1963) is next, then a four page blip from Tales of Suspense #48 (December 1963) showing "How Iron Man Created his New Thinner Uniform!" The whole thing is wrapped up with the thirteen page origin of Thor from Journey into Mystery #83 (August 1962) (though the text is dyslexic and informs the reader that the story came from "Journey into Mystery #38"... you've got to wonder how many suckers combed through back issues in the days following this typo looking for the wrong issue of JIM). Yea, verily, tis a veritable cornucopia of early Marvel classics!

In General...

For anyone in 1964 who stumbled on Marvel Comics just a year or so late, this issue was like manna from Heaven. Origin stories of Spider-Man, of the Hulk, of Thor and Iron Man. Who could ask for more? Nowadays, of course, these are probably the most reprinted stories of each of these characters. It's a lot harder to find a copy of something like the Spidey-Torch story in Strange Tales Annual #2 (1963) than it is to read the story from AF #15. Still, this is top-of-the-line stuff combined into a great 72-page package. It's too bad that even this reprint book has gotten quite pricey in the back-issue comic guides (Three hundred and sixty dollars, near-mint, in Overstreet.) but you can't fault the comic for that.

Overall Rating...

Five webs all the way.