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Hello reader! Robby Reed here. I am known as a member of the DC Universe -- but now it's time for me to confess that I also own many comic books published by DC's chief competitor, Marvel Comics! With the Avengers movie coming out soon, I thought I'd share with you my impressions of the very first Marvel comics I ever read. I jumped on the Marvel bandwagon a bit late. I was NOT there at the very beginning, but I was only a few months late. We'll start with my VERY FIRST Marvel comic EVER...

XAmazing Spider-Man #5
October 1963
Written by Stan Lee, drawn by Steve Ditko

My first Marvel comic ever, bought off the rack when I was six years old. This was the most totally shocking comic I had ever read! Why? As a DC Universe fan, I was shocked to see the heroes in this book constantly fighting with each other. It was so bad I wasn't even sure who the HEROES were supposed to be.

The book's star, Spidey, seemed to come off pretty badly almost all the time. He wasn't famous and respected, like Superman. And the people and heroes in this book didn't look anything like the people drawn by Curt Swan. They were all weird and ... Spidery! I didn't know why at the time, as a kid, but of course now we all know why: STEVE DITKO. Reading this book was like opening the door to another universe: the MARVEL Universe. I was hooked, and agreed with the title -- this "Spider-Man" character was indeed quite amazing.
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The Spidey comic ABOVE contained the ad BELOW, my first exposure to the Fantastic Four, and to Marvel's Strange Tales title. Both looked pretty good to me, and both had Spider-Man, who I liked, so I sought them out. Sadly, I couldn't find The X-Men anywhere (the cover blurb says, "Sure to be a sell-out," and it was). I did find the ST Annual, but it was a disappointment to me, because Spider-Man didn't look the same as he did in his own title. I later learned this was because this book was pencilled by Kirby, and only inked by Steve Ditko. However, much as I disliked the ST Annual, the FF Annual was another story entirely. Keep reading.
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XFantastic Four Annual #1
1963
Written by Stan Lee, drawn by Jack Kirby and Dick Ayers

One sentence review: They don't come any better than this! Lee and Kirby at their height, an unprecedented story length, the origin of the FF featuring Spidey, a seemingly endless selection of full page pin-ups with the FF and their rogues gallery, plus a two-page feature explaining the "science" behind the FF's amazing powers. For a new reader like myself, this comic book was pure gold.

This book absolutely overwhelmed me. The sheer length of it. The epic scope. The zillions of characters. And the humor! The fights between the team members! So unlike anything DC had to offer. Again, as a kid I wasn't yet an experienced comic art critic, but as with Ditko, we all now know one huge reason for this book's greatness... JACK KIRBY.

This is still one of my favorite comics EVER. Sadly, I lost my original copy of the book over time, so these scans are from a reprint edition (The one with the John Romita cover, if you must know.)
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BELOW: One of the many, many pin-ups that appeared in FF Annual #1. Since this was my first FF book, I had never seen most of these villains. I only knew Dr. Doom because he had fought Spider-Man in the only other Marvel comic I'd ever read, Spidey #5, as described previously.
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XThe Incredible Hulk #6
May 1962
Story by Stan Lee, Art by Steve Ditko

This was a very special book to me, and not for the obvious reasons. I didn't buy this story off the racks, I first read it more than a year after it came out, as a reprint in Marvel Collector's Item Classics,
October 1963. When I saw it on the stands, I thought I recognized it -- from television. And I was right. The art in this comic was cut up and "animated" for one of those super-cheesy Marvel "animated" cartoons. After Bigot the reprint, I used to wait for the cartoon to air, then watch it and read along with the comic, like the it was a Power Record.
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BELOW: This ad from Marvel Collector's Item Classics #11 was my first exposure to the "Merry Marvel Marching Society," Marvel's in-house fan club (as described in DBB #593). It cost just $1.00 to join, and for that buck you got stickers, a membership certificate and card, and even a record with Marvel creator's voices. This club was great fan fun -- and DC had no equivalent!
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XTales of Suspense #12
November 1963
Plot by Stan Lee, Art by Don Heck

My first Iron Man story! I liked the character, but I hated the way the art in this book looked. The art just didn't have the fantastic power of the FF, or even the amazing "spidery" look of Spider-Man. I later realized this was because it was drawn by Don Heck, who I never much liked, except for his excellent work on the white-pantsuit Wonder Woman.

I also found the Crimson Dynamo's uniform to be quite stupid looking. It looked like a man wearing weird pink slinky. But I loved the IDEA of Iron Man, and imagined that it was realistically possible to make a suit of armor just like it. I still feel that way, and after Shellhead's movie was a huge hit, I thought sure the US Army would do just that. But they didn't. Or DID they? Maybe it's just a secret.
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BELOW: Black and white Marvel house ads for an FF annual, a Spidey annual, and some Marvel T-Shirts.The FF annual seen here is, start to finish, 100 percent superb. The FF and Inhumans versus Psycho Man by Lee and Kirby at their height? Can't go wrong. The Spidey annual disappointed me, again because it was drawn by Ross Andru, who I have never been a huge fan of, although I did like his Flash.
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XXJourney Into Mystery #111
October 1963
Written by Stan Lee, illustrated by Jack Kirby

I bought this baby off the racks in 1963, at age seven. Why? There was an usual blurb on the "blurbless" cover that caught my eye (see blurb right). Other than that, I thought the Cobra was a cool villain. What about the star of the book, the Mighty Thor? Sorry Thor fans, but I never really liked the Mighty One, and I still don't. Of course, I loved King Kirby's art on the series, but I always thought Thor as a character was stupid. I hated his stilted, psuedo-Shakespearian manner of speaking. I still do. I didn't much like his movie, either.
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BELOW: I knew and loved the FF by this time, but the ad below was my first exposure to Marvel's Strange Tales title, which surprised me because I had no idea Johnny and Ben were appearing in another comic. This was the first time I had ever seen Quicksilver and Dr. Strange. Quicksilver struck me as a blatant copy of the Flash, but Dr. Strange had an intriguing costume.
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XCaptain America #110
February 1968
Written by Stan Lee, drawn by Jim Steranko

Captain America never really appealed to me as a kid, so I came WAY late to the Cap party. The first issue of Cap's book I ever bought (off the racks) was the first issue drawn by Jim Steranko, in 1968. My first Cap, my first Steranko! I still remember reading it for the first time. The brilliance of this book was stunning to me.

Steranko stood out a mile from every other artist I was familiar with, and by the ripe old age of eleven, I was familiar with quite a few. Each Steranko page shocked me. Stunned me. The look of them, the raw power, the strength of the figures, the total mastery of design. I didn't know comics could be like this! Steranko's Hulk was absolutely terrifying, and his Cap was magnificent. Every panel was a revelation. See what I mean...
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BELOW: Ad from Cap #110. The Spidey issue with the Kingpin held little interest for me, as I had dropped the book in horror and in protest when Steve Ditko left the title. I thought they fired him. I had no idea he quit, supposedly over a disagreement as the the Green Goblin's real identity.

The Dr. Strange cover (below right) looked interesting to me, but I thought I wouldn't like the art in the book, which is idiotic since I loved Gene Colan's Iron Man, but go figure. I was just a kid. And DC's in-house ads were so TOTALLY superior to Marvel's, they made ads for Marvel books look very dull by comparison. Almost every single one of hundreds of Marvel in-house ads said, "Two More Triumphs for Marvel!" It's like they weren't even trying.
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Going from comics to POSTERS, seen below is the MMMS Hulk poster that hung in my bedroom for several years -- and its source, a split Tales To Astonish cover by Jack Kirby!
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Finally, here's the opening of Marvel's "animated" Hulk cartoon!
Press PLAY below to see the 19-second video.
HULK! HULK! The Hulk close-up in the video was taken from the panel below, pictured next to the original artwork by Jack Kirby and Mickey Demo. Demo was never one of Kirby's best inkers, but the awful reproduction made his inks look even worse.

Look at the spread of those lines! The original art has no black in the background, but the printed version is solid black near the top. Hulk's hair loses all its shading, and the detail in Rick's hair is obliterated by the coloring. Because the creators expected these flaws, they attempted to compensate for them.

Ironically, this random panel became the face of the Hulk for millions of TV viewers.
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allfornow

Next Issue
AT LAST! IT'S TIME TO ASSEMBLE!
Robby reviews "The Avengers" #1, September 1963
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