Marvel Reprints

Last week I mentioned that the new Teen Age Mutant Ninja Turtles book did so well they announced a second printing. Second printings have been the way to go for publishers the last couple of decades, if a book hits big with the public they announce a second printing to satisfy the unmet demand. Remember how crazy the Spider-Man Obama issues were? I think that book ended up getting five printings in total.

I was going through some books to put up on eBay and found this old pile of Marvel reprint issues from the mid-1960s and found myself reflecting on how things have changed since the beginning of the Silver Age.

The distribution model was quite different in the early 1960s, there was no direct market and there was a lot longer lead time needed for sales data, immediately getting a reprint out to the drug store comic racks just wasn’t a thing.

The first Silver Age Annual was Superman Annual #1 from 1960, it reprinted popular stories like the first Supergirl Appearance in Action Comics #252 and Lois Lane #1. Marvel jumped into the game when it published Millie The Model Annual #1 and Strange Tales Annual #1 in October of 1962. The Strange Tales Annual #1 reprinted some Atlas Monster stuff.

Modern-day Marvel as we all know it was born in November of 1961 with the publication of Fantastic Four #1, fresh winners soon followed in 1962 with Hulk, Ant-Man, Thor and Spider-Man and then 1963 gave us X-Men, Doc Strange, Iron Man, Wasp, The Avengers and many more. The Marvel Revolution was underway. New readers were jumping on in droves. I looked at the 1962 sales figures for comics and not one Marvel Hero book cracked the top 50 or 100,000 copies. By 1966 though Marvel titles like Amazing Spider-Man, Fantastic Four and Thor had sales over 300,000 copies per month.

We’ve all grown to know and love the way Marvel tells their stories, they all seem interconnected and have endless references to past cross overs and character meetings. Marvel found themselves needing to fill in the back story for all the new readers even though these back story issues were only two or three years old. The 1st important publication to help solve this problem for Marvel was Marvel Tales #1, it was actually a Marvel Annual but they did choose wisely and filled it with reprints of Amazing Fantasy #15, Hulk #1, Tales of Suspense #39 and Journey into Mystery #83, Marvel did this again in 1965 with the publication of Marvel Tales Annual #2, both were greatly needed issues but neither were enough to satisfy the demand for the growing number of True Believers. By 1965 Marvel introduced Marvel Collectors Item Classics as a recurring title devoted to just reprinting the early stories and in 1966 Marvel turned Marvel Tales #3 into a bi-monthly devoted to just reprints, no longer an annual, this was now an ongoing reprint title.

These titles were unique in comics, you did not see DC Comics nor Dell Comics nor any of the other published have the necessity to create ongoing reprint titles, these other publishers had mature and stable levels of readership for their long-running titles that did not necessitate a title like Marvel Tales.

I think these Marvel reprint titles proved pivotal in securing success for the Marvel revolution. Getting these early stories into the hands of eager readers only a couple of years removed from their release dates would not have felt like some sort of nostalgia trip, it was not like you and me picking up a Marvel Masterworks, these would have read as current and relevant stories that filled in holes and answered questions.

Marvel continued with these reprint titles and even added new ones into the late 60s and early 1970s but by then most of the important work had been done. I’m trying to think of another comic era that had anything like this and I can’t but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t, if you have anything to compare these to please comment below.

I know a couple of readers of this column were actively reading comics during the mid-1960s, I’m hoping you folks can share some insights into these important comic publications.

Walter Durajlija
Walter Durajlija

Walter Durajlija is an Overstreet Advisor and Shuster Award winner. He owns Big B Comics in Hamilton Ontario.

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  1. I was a bit young for those first Marvels that came out! My first FF issues I remember were Annual #2 and #39…and with Spidey # 40. So when I started picking up Marvel Tales and Collector’s Item Classics then it was great… all those stories for a quarter!! Oh and over at DC… I remember being in the hospital having ny tonsils out and reading the Batman annual that had the reprint of “Robin Dies at Dawn”
    While they weren’t ‘classic’ material… I know Marvel did reprint Subby and Dr. Strange well into the 70’s but at that point I had no interest in them as I had the originals! Lets not forget the reprinting of the X-Men in their own book as Marvel was not ready to cancel them yet!

  2. I think these comics were great and today are undervalued. As you mentioned, some were released just a few years after the original and are an economical way to get early appearances without re-mortgaging the house

  3. I started reading Marvels regularly in Spring 1964, with the May issues, i.e. Spidey #13, FF #31. The FF Annual 1 was one of my favorite comics, collecting one of the best ever Doctor Doom stories, and I think it reprinted FF #1, a super thrill. #2 was outstanding also. #3 did the new Wedding of Reed and Sue, and it was obvious Marvel thought putiing at least one new story in an annual would drive sales. I think The Thor Annual had this formula, noew and old.

    The Strange Tales Annual #1 came out before I bgan buying everthing Marvel was. Doing…but I found one easily. But that #1 was never around too much, it may be the scarcest of all their annuals. It was a great collection pf pre-hero stories by Ditko, Lee and Kirby.

    ST Annual #2 was fabulous too, with Spidey on the cover, in a new story if I recall…

    The Marvel Collector Items Classic were very welcome, and Fantasy Masterpieces, and those were the first time any Golden Age Captain America stories was reprinted. We ate these reprints up.

    Little known is the Marvel offices sold back issues for a very short time. I don’t seem to still have it, damn it, but I got a one page sheet from them with a handful of recent titles, including an annual or two. I think they were cover price or maybe slightly more. I believe that is where my Strange Tales Annual #1 may have come from, or at least one of my early annuals. This would be 1964-65. I had several letters published (Daredevil #16, Rawhide Kid), and my MMMS name listing was in FF #40, so I was writing regularly to them. Maybe I asked about back issues.

    Man I would love to see that list again! It was very short, maybe a dozen or couple dozen titles. Anyone seen one of these?

    I still have a postcard or two that Flo Steinberg might have sent. They’d send you one if you had a letter coming up in an issue. If you won a no-prize, for something in the letters oages, I think they’d send you an empty envelope. Meeting Flo at the NYCons was a thrill, I can’t have been the only fan to immediately have a crush on her. She had a high voice like Betty Boop.

  4. Hello

    Bud, loved your recollection of things. My favorite was Fantasy Masterpieces 1-11, as it printed golden age Captain America. I believe it was a regular size comic?

    But lets go back to the 1930’s. National/DC started in Feb 1935. Their first reprint was in 1936 called Big Book of Fun Comics. Then in 1937 & 1938 (before Superman came onto the scene) they had 2 more reprint books called New Book of Comics. DC only had 2 titles going at the time with new material (New Fun Comics/More Fun Comics & New Comics/New Adventure Comics) to use as reprint material.

    Another company that reprinted quite a bit was Centaur (starting in 1938 through the early 1940s. It seemed that when they started a new book, it was mostly reprints at first and then gradually added new material. The material they pulled from was from “Comics Magazine Company. The titles they pulled from was Funny Pages, Funny Picture Stories and Detective Picture Stories. It was a cheap way to produce a comic book without paying an artist and writer for a new story. That is what Marvel Comics did to Doug Wildey in the 1960s when they reprinted the Outlaw Kid. They didn’t pay him when they reprinted his stories. Wildey did those great stories in the 1950s and his art was heads above most of the other Marvel westerns.

    Okay, carry on now.

    Jeff Kepley

  5. Bud, kind of right with FF Annual #1. It didn’t include a Doom, story but reprinted part of FF #1, part of ASM #1 from a different perspective and the highlight was the killer 36 page original FF v. Sub Mariner story.

    Over the years I’ve been eating the reprints up and agree with whoever said they’re undervalued.
    It’s interesting watching the GA reprints in Fantasy Masterpieces starting to catch some steam, as well as books like Where Monsters Dwell and Fantasy Masterpieces, which both have high profile Fin Fang Foom and Groot reprints included.

    Unfortunately, I think a lot of collectors missed the boat *kind of* at getting these at bargain prices. About 10 years ago I grabbed a number of these as well as decent grades on DC Annuals and 80-page-giants regularly for around $10-20 in higher grade conditions, and even a decent amount from a LCS for like $1 apiece, coverless (as well as good run of Lee/Kirby FF!)…

    I love the current focus on the Facsimile Editions and $1 reprints. The DC Millennium reprints were pretty awesome, as well. Wish we’d see more like those. Tpbs and hardcovers are great, but sometimes reading those comics as a comic just adds a ton of enjoyment.

  6. Tim, you are right, I was thinking of Fantastic Four Annnual #2. It features the new story, “The Final Victory of Doctor Doom” in a massive 25-page thrilller and a new 2-page origin of Doom. And it also reprinted the book-length Doom story from FF #5, “Prisoners of Doctor Doom.” The time travel sequence in this is great…Doom sends the FF into the past to find a treasure, and The Thing finds himself to be the actual pirate Blackbeard. He likes it so much, and is accepted by the pirate crew, he doesn’t want to come back to present day where he is still a monster.

    Walter gave the DC 80-page Giants short shrift…but as a reader in those days, I must say I found the Marvel Annuals FAR superior. New stories, pin-up pages, etc. Whereas DC’s Giants were less personable, less dynamic. As a kid, before Marvel hooked me, I bought one of the first Batman annuals and enjoyed the stories, but I think DC was targeting a far younger audience (I was 9 or 10) with these. Once I was a Marvel fan, now 11, 12, 13 years old, the DC annuals held little interest. Flash was ok, as I started reading the Infantino work in 1965, but Batman and Superman Giants were ignored. The stories just didn’t hold up. Secret Origins was the best of them all, but still not as exciting as what we were seeing from Marvel.

    Also, Tim, I agree with you on today’s facsimile editions…there’s nothing like the complete original comic, with ads and letters pages. Although my business does not handle contemporary comics, I do make a point to bring in most of the facsimile or replica reprints. I have to make them into sets to make it worthwhile to handle them through the website and catalog. Both DC and Marvel have done some great ones, like Green Lantern #1, Flash #123, etc.

  7. Bud… I agree that Strange Tales annual #1 is great… I picked mine up at Salivation Army for 5 cents and still have it! It gies up when I do a Marvel monster display! I also seem to remember Marvel selling back issues from an early letters page but shortly after Stan said ( in a Soapbox?) said they could no longer do it.

  8. Good point on the 80 Page Giants Bud, did those serve the same purpose as the Marvel reprint titles though? DC also sprinkled in reprint issues in the guise of 80 Page Giants within their flagship runs, Bat 176 and Action 334 quickly come to mind.

    Quick aside, I went to a con maybe back in 1985 and thought stole this nice copy of Superman Annual #1, the thing looked looked a VF/NM, it was only when I got home that I realized it was 80 Page Giant #1 – gah!

  9. Hi Gerald and Bud,Walt everyone. I recall that ad too. If memory serves it was in a real early FF title.
    As per Reprints and DC annuals, most were published twice a year from 1960 to 1964. Of Interest,Batman annual 3 as per the Comic vine notes That Batman annual 3 is a “reprint of the origin of Paul Sloane, the second Two-Face! , due to censorship, the cause of his scarring was changed. Instead of having acid smuggled in the prop acid bottle by a jealous cameraman due to a love triangle, Sloane’s face was destroyed in a freak accident by an exploding klieg light. ”
    DC then created the Eighty page giants that featured reprints of DC Greatest heroes issues # 1 to 15 from 1964 to 1966.
    This was so successful, that the eighty page Giant then became a staple of various titles ,continuing for 56 issues at 84 pages and then reducing page count to 64 pages until ending in 1971 with the 89th issue. (JLA #93).
    And lets not forget the DC 100 page spectaculars from 1971 to 1973…!! Then the DC treasury’s started , as well as Marvel Treasury’s. And many more examples. DC certainly highlighted their books, and did it well and often, and before Marvel. Stan knew a good idea when he saw one.

  10. Walter, I think your observation is good about the difference between Marvel Annuals and 80-page Giants. I think you are right, I hadn’t seen that before. Early on, Marvel used them to add to and refresh the continuity of the ongoing series. Again, adding new material to them is another big difference.

    The 80-page Giants could be fun, and a great value, but I don’t think reading them added a lot to contemporary DC titles. Batman immediately comes to mind…once Julius Schwartz took over and revamped the title, those old Bob Kane issues must have been pretty alien (pun intended) to a reader seeing the new Barbara Gordon, the superior art by Infantino, the updated stories…

    Today I quite enjoy reading the pre-1965 Superman family stories, most for the first time, but I think after that they become unreadable. Just the opposite for Batman, they were awful post 1955. The Schwartz team saved Batman. It just got better and better after Detective #327, the first New Look issue. Flash and Green Lantern were consistantly superior from their Silver Age beginnings, 1956 forward, until when Schwartz, Gil Kane and Infantino moved to other titles. I liked The Flash Annuals…more continuity there.

    Hey, so glad two of you remember those Marvel back issue mentions. Sometimes I think I imagined them! I looked in my journals, which I kept from 1965 to 1971, and could not find anything definitive. But I did buy recent from mail order dealers starting in mid-1965, before I had even found The Rocket’s Blast, which became the bible for early fans. Found my first order to Buddy Saunders, who is now My Comic Shop…$1.10!

  11. My order to Buddy, in December 1965, was for Fantastic Four #11 and 19, and Tales to Astonish #57, all for $1.10 including postage. I bought my “scarce” Strange Tales Annual #1 as well as #2 from a mail order dealer (or kid) named Wayne Woods, who turned up a lot of pre-May 1964 Marvels I had missed. Most comics that recent were in the .20 to $1 range.

    But at my local Flea Market, anything was five cents. Made some great finds there, including a Tales From the Crypt #37 and a couple Golden Age Batmans. But mostly Marvels and the occasional Atlas, from 1959-1964. Today we’d see that stuff, just 2-3 years old, in quarter bins, or maybe dollar bins these days, but to a novice Marvel fan, this was gold.

    Turns out, now that I read my journal, I sent a LOT of letters to Marvel…now I wonder if I was annoying. Probably. I do remember Flo Steinberg said she thought she remembered my name when we first met in 1970. I had another letter in Tales to Astonish #74 and a Rawhide Kid the same month in ‘65. I even made up a stamp with Marvel’s address on it for the envelopes. Whoa nelly, what a crazed little kid.

  12. Some collectors may not realize what a monumental comic book Superman Annual #1 was in 1960. Although Superman #100 and Batman #100 gave a minimal acknowledgement to DC history in the mid-1950s, it was Superman Annual #1 that really was the first time any comic book company acknowledged its history. This appeared in the year before the first true comic book fanzine — Alter-Ego #1 from Jerry Bails.
    Superman Annual #1 reprinted only post-Comics Code stories from the previous five years. It was a few years before DC could feel comfortable reprinting the grim likes of Two-Face in the Batman annuals, which began in 1961.
    Just imagine — Superman Annual #1 is now 60 years old — and when it was published, Superman himself was 22 years old and comic books in their modern form were so new — about 25 years old — that many parents (like mine) grew up without comic books, although they did enjoy the comic strips in newspapers, especially what my grandparents and parents always called the “Sunday Funnies.”

  13. I always figured, since the same few artists were doing the majority of the work at DC, that the 80 psge giants bought them some time to catch up.

    Walt, 80 page giant #1 had the words ‘Suoerman Annual’ on the cover, as it was advertised in the comics as Superman Annual #9, so you made an honest mistake. It was DC’s error, even if inadvertantly.

  14. Although anthologies… E.C. had annuals prior to Superman. While not an annual… M.E. used Best of the West to showcase their line of individual hero’s. This is not to diminish the importance of the Superman annual however which set in motion a new way to showcase a hero’s past for the next generation!

  15. Gerald, i really enjoy those EC Annuals, with the new covers by Feldstein, and Jack Davis on the war books, etc. But I would consider them an entirely separate thing, since it was just repackaging of left over comics. No attempt at a “best of” or to inform readers on continuity (of course, EC really had no continuity at all since 98% of the stories were stand alone.

    Fox did the same thing, and St. John, just remainder copies, often with little rhyme or reason, mixed up humor and adventure for indtance. Now I really like the Fawcett “annuals,” specifically the Xmas and Gift Comics titles. As the guide carefully spells out, these were specifically overprinted “guts” that were bound together into books as long as 300+ pages, Still, its just repackaging for a different market (Christmas stocking stuffers, in this case). Like EC, it was not even vintage material.

    Now the Archie, Jughead, and Betty & Veronica Annuals, beginning in the very early 1950s, these were ALL NEW material. And actually called Annuals. That might be origins of Marvel’s insertion of new, original material. Those Archie books are pretty darned cool, more pages for your money, and lovely Dan DeCarlo material too. I have started picking them up for the DeCarlo.

    Comic Cavalcade and World’s Finest, in the Golden Age, were also bonus sized books, .15 cover price, but they came out regularly all year and with all new material, so they aren’t part of this discussion either. But I love ‘em. Still trying to score an affordable copy of World’s Best #1 and Comic Cavalcade #1. Which brings up World’s Fair 1939 and 1940. Again, all new material, higher cover price, and aimed at a different market. I wonder if circulation on these was primarily at the fair itself and around NYC? They are certainly not very common, but are really great books, with The Sandman, Suoerman, and all the crew. I have also yet to ever own the 1939 edition.

    Walter, you certainly started a lively discussion here. And I bet I am overlooking more interesting spin-offs. Like all those Dell Giants in the fifties…like the Archie Annuals, all new material and bargains for the price. , Even today they remain inexpensive, since they were so well circulated and saved.

  16. Yes, your so right about the Archie annuals! I should have remembered those since I have a few of the earlier ones! Nice knowing about those earlier compilations as well like the Fawcetts. All great stuff!

  17. Bud, never having come across the 1939 and 1940 Wotld’s Fair issues,,I settled on buying the DynaPubs reprints. They were great.

  18. Bud, Walt, everybody…thanks for the inspirational Annual/Giant Size/Reprint talk…made staying in on a Friday a lot easier with a stack of giants to roll through…

  19. I remember in the 80’s/early 90’s they reprinted entire series for a time. I’m thinking of things like Tales of GI Joe, Essential Sandman, maybe Classic X-men…

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