The D23 Marvel Comics panelwas in full swing tonight headed up by Marvel EIC C.B. Cebulski – and a crowd of people all being given exclusive advance copies of Marvel Comics #1000. Will they read it? Will they flip copies on eBay for $500? Who can say?
But C.B. Cebulski and Tom Brevoort took to the stage to talk through the history of Marvel Comics, looking at the launch of Marvel Comics, 85 years ago this coming Saturday.
And they talked about how the original Marvel Comics #1 from 1939 featured the Human Torch, Sub Mariner, the Angel, Ka-Zar the Savage and The Masked Raider. Bleeding Cool readers know about where the Masked Raider will be going. He talked about how the first print run of 80,000 copies was terrible, but sold out anyway so he reprinted it again the month after to the tune of 800,000 and Timely Comics became a thing. And now there are only a hundred copies known to survive.
So which comic featured the first Marvel Team-Up? Marvel Mystery Comics #9 has the Human Torch and The Sub Mariner together, the first comic book character crossover for 22 pages and the first inklings of the idea of the Marvel Universe.
They moved onto Captain America #1, with Brevoort noting how provocative this was in December 1940 at a time when US policy was an isolationist one, not getting part of World War II. Brevoort saying “This is the equivalent of Captain America now punching the head of state of another nation.” And when the US did enter the war, Captain America was an icon to rally around, and other publishers launched their own patriotic comic book characters.
And then as superheroes failed the publisher moved onto many other characters, many of which are being revived today, from Patsy Walker to Groot to the Black Knight. “We use the whole buffalo,” says Tom.
And there were the creators too… highlighting Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Sal Buscema and John Romita and how they gave character to the characters in superhero comic books. We looked at Fantastic Four, reflecting Martin Goodman’s desire to follow trends, and ripping off Justice League, and the familiar story Stan Lee’s decision to try something different that, with Jack Kirby, really connected with an audience.
CB Cebulski asked who tied up Reed Richards? They still want to tell that story. So, with the Fantastic Four a hit, the command was to make more. “This guy who we are legally prevented from mentioning, Spider-Man…”
“Spider-Man is the flagship of the entire Marvel line.” And regarding the fact that the Hulk was originally grey rather than green… the usual story is that the green Hulk was a printing error. Tom Brevoort refuted that, saying it wasn’t a printing error but a choice, And then they made another choice.
They talked about the collaborative nature of the Marvel Method and how the artists got greater storytelling responsibilities than in other publishers and it ‘really worked out well for those creators’. In every way but financial, of course. And, of course, Marvel Method is rarely used at Marvel these days…
We also got a story on the original Black Panther designs, how the full face mask was added for the cover of Fantastic Four to protect the sensibilities of racists.
And then into the seventies of Spider-Man that went all druggy, after the US government asked Marvel to tell anti-drug stories, but had to be published against the Comics Code guidelines of the day.
And what Marvel call their equivalent of modern social media, making the readers part of the story, giving them an investment, reflecting the feedback and publishing their own Marvel fan magazines, that created a sense of being ‘part of the club’. social media using the tools of the sixties. And making the readers feel they were part of a circle of friends.
Including the Marvel No-Prize as continuity began to grow and expand, for readers who could solve the very problems that they spotted.
“And now people just go on Twitter and call us useless idiots“ – CB. “We’ve cut out the middle man“ -Tom. And pulling up the Fantastic Four letters page… including that George R R Martin’s first published work a letter in the Fantastic Four, and the nod that Martin was the very first ticket buyer for the first New York comic convention. And you can look for CB Cebulski’s letter in GI Joe #19. We’ll do that later…
Not every title was a hit, however. Tom – ‘even failures get to be successes if you wait long enough’. Hmmm. And how after plenty of failures… including Ant-Man that no one could get to work…
The X-Men were brought back in order to publish a team with characters from different countries to help Marvel sell comics abroad – but ended up not using any countries that Marvel was selling into after a break down in communication.
Wolverine was not allowed by the Comics Code to have arm hair when in costume. But when his costume came off, he got hairy. And also how Colossus would lose his trousers when he transformed into armour…
Tom also spoke about how the Clone Saga was originally created by Gerry Conway to save Stan Lee from getting abuse from fans in person. Moving on to Luke Cage, CB Cebulski talked about how costumes do not date well…
And also how Marvel first went multi-media…
Including Japanese shows. Tom got to talk about this one… good call, CB. And how this all tied into the TV origins of Power Rangers in the USA.
And then the classic Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars, as a comic book that was to tie in with Mattel’s Marvel toy line. But the comic book changed the comics industry and we have been living in its shadow ever since.
And how it led to the black Spider-Man costume, only for the duration of Secret Wars because licensors wanted the original Spider-Man costume. But the popularity in Secret Wars led to licensors request the black costume and for marketing to realise they could sell two Spider-Men…
… and leading into Venom.
And there were lots of licenses to play with. With Star Wars saving Marvel Comics before the film even came out, being Marvel’s best-selling title.
And how Todd McFarlane’s Spider-Man led to X-Men #1 and X-Force #1 as a way by Tom DeFalco to try and match Spider-Man together, and each did better than Spider-Man., and then lines were created to try and add that success across the line, such as the 2099 books.
How Carnage was not an initially successful character.
How the X-Men Adventures cartoon was the gateway for many people into Marvel and how editor Jordan White plays the theme tune in the office on a ukelele.
How Blade was the first big Marvel movie that didn’t bomb and brought Marvel back to the big screen… working with other partners… even Spider-Man. ‘We cannot deny our history’ – CB.
And Marvel wanted to make the money themselves, Dave Maisel, Avi Arad, Kevin Feige… 23 movies to date, the first and only successful cross continuity line of movies.
And how all the different parts of Marvel, the TV, the films, the comics, the games, feed into each other, taking characters, finding something new to say with them, and then feeding them back into Marvel, with Runaways being an example of how the promo image for the comic…
Became the look of the TV show.
With a recent nod to Infinity Gauntlet to Avengers Endgame
How Ultimate Spider-Man became Into The Spider-Verse
And Contest Of Champions from the eighties, into the games
And then foreign comic books, going out into other countries and then coming back into Marvel US. And this is the first of much more to come as Marvel grows internationally.
As Marvel grows, the world outside your window, the window increases in size with a greater diversity of characters.
And now Marvel Comics #1000. Everyone at the panel is getting that copy selling on eBay for over $500 right now. With Mickey Mouse on the cover of the variant for the D23 show. And days before its out in the stores.
They talked about asking people not to spoil anything. Sorry Tom. CB, been there, done that. I mean, only a little bit, there’s much more…
Fans of America, Kamala Khan, She-Hulk, Black Knight will all find stories in there, and CB says that you’re going to want to read it twice…
And a podcast has been created using music from each of the 80 years to accompany the comic book out on Wednesday. or in the panel…
And one last announcement, which we broke out into its own spot over here. Incoming. That’s what it’s called, for December 2019. A big book for the holiday season… whatever it is.
Hulking uniting the Skrull and the Kree? Just a thought….