Arcs & Runs #47 | Twins Part 1: The Avengers & The X-Men

We are finally back in the saddle here on Arcs & Runs and we will start the year with a look at some comic books that were connected from their first publishing date or “birth”. Twins if you will. In today’s post, the two titles both began in September 1963 and through a few fits and starts are still running today.

My inner efficiency coach told me I could start a new series but could also continue with “The First Six” series I began last year if I did this right. Let’s get to it.

Avengers #1
The Coming of the Avengers
September 1963

Rick Jones and the Teen Brigade have sent out an S.O.S. looking for help finding the Hulk. Thor, Iron Man, Ant-Man and the Wasp respond. None of them know Loki is using the Hulk as a pawn to trap Thor. It’s a pretty weak story. Thor defeats Loki like he does every second issue in Journey Into Mystery with a little help from the Wasp and Ant-Man. The important part though was bringing these guys all together for the first time. They see the benefits of having a powerful team like this and so do we. The Wasp comes up with the name “The Avengers” and the team is formed. I figure Stan or Jack had a crush on Honor Blackman and the British TV series of the same name, when they came up with this team name. Needless to say, a very hot comic book right now.

Avengers issue 1 page 21 by Jack Kirby and Dick Ayers. Source.

Avengers #2
The Avengers battle the Space Phantom
November 1963

The Space Phantom arrives on earth via a meteor and his plan is to destroy the Avengers so his people can take over the planet. His plan is to exchange identities with the Avengers and pit them against each other. He starts with the right guy The Hulk and moves on from there Avenger to Avenger creating mistrust and division amongst the team. It all ends when the Space Phantom tries to change places with Thor a non-human and he himself is sent to limbo. The damage is done though as the Hulk felt the hatred of team members when they were battling each other. He leaves the team, and so begins a constant theme within the Avengers – a changing roster.

The next two issues #3 and 4 are covered here in Undervalued Spotlight #209. I’d like to add Avengers #3 is still a terrific book. Another great place to read this book in reprint form is Marvel Super-Heroes #21 which sports a cool cover and additionally features a reprint of X-Men #2 also in this post.

Avengers #4 is still in my Top 10 Marvel keys. This book features the return and revival of the Captain America to Marvels Silver age. A fantastic cover. Plus, Captain America and the Avengers battle with a race of aliens and the Sub-Mariner. It sure beats a tilt with the Space Phantom.

Avengers issue 2 page 24 by Jack Kirby. Source.

Avengers #5
The Invasion of the Lava Man
May 1964

Tough act to follow on the last two issues but Avengers #5 is another solid issue. The menace this time is the Lava Men last seen in Journey Into Mystery #97. The gang is all here as well, the Hulk returning and the newly added Captain America. A one of kind team cover. The team saves the planet from an ecological disaster with the Hulk delivering the decisive blow….

Avengers issue 5 page 19 by Jack Kirby and Paul Reinman. Source.

Avengers #6
Meet the “Masters of Evil”
July 1964

The Avengers face a team of bad guys led by villain from Captain America’s past Baron Zemo. The man who (until recently) had killed his partner Bucky Barnes. Baron Zemo reads that Captain America is still alive. He blames Captain America for having his hooded mask sealed to his head with Adhesive X and craves revenge. He rounds up old foes of the Avengers team – The Black Knight, The Melter, and the Radio-Active Man, the “Masters of Evil”. They attack the city with Adhesive X knowing it will draw out the Avengers. The first battle goes to the bad guys with the Avengers getting caught in the adhesive and having to run for cover. They re-group and call one of my favourite named villains of all-time Paste-Pot-Pete for a dissolving agent to Adhesive X, which he agrees to provide for a shortened jail sentence.

Next the Teen Brigade swap adhesives with the bad guys (don’t ask). Finally, Captain America changes strategies with each hero attacking a new foe – Thor/Black Knight, Giant Man/Radioactive Man. Iron Man still has the Melter and of course the main event Captain America battles Zemo. The tactic works and the good guys get the upper hand and the Masters of Evil make a hasty retreat. The Wasp saves a prone Captain America from being shot as Zemo escapes. This is just round one in a battle that carries on for several issues culminating with Zemo’s death in Avengers #15 and 16.

As a kid, I could never “get” Baron Zemo and his mask. So many questions and no answers. How did he eat and drink? How did he brush his teeth? How did he cut his hair? I still chuckle at all the arguments it started on the school grounds.

The Avengers had a thirty year plus run in their first go around, and are still going today. The Avengers had a pretty open door policy in terms of membership and I think it served them well. It kept the line-up fresh. In addition to the team that started the Avengers, future members like the Vision, The Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye, The Beast, Black Panther, Black Widow, Wonder Man and many others, they have had a great run. They are as popular today as they have ever been. On to the X-Men…..

Avengers issue 6 page by Jack Kirby and Chic Stone. Source.

X-Men #1
September 1963

The first issue of the X-Men introduces us to the team of unusual “students” known as the X-Men. They are led by Professor X a wheelchair bound teacher. We meet all of the X-Men individually and their unique power. Cyclops (Scott Summers) with his powerful eye beams, The Angel (Warren Worthington III) and his extraordinary wings, The Beast (Hank McCoy) and his acrobatic skills, and the young Ice-Man (Bobby Drake) and his frosty talents. Jean Grey is the last to arrive at the school and she quickly demonstrates her telekinetic powers on Hank McCoy. She will be called Marvel Girl. It is on page 8 of the issue we first hear the word “mutant” applied to this team of youngsters. Professor X explains they are people born with an extra power hence the name X-Men. He himself is a mutant (possibly the first) with the power to read minds. A nice power to possess, however not one I would want used on me – especially by your teacher!!

The story switches to our first meeting with the evil mutant Magneto who plans to take over an army base. The next few pages are dedicated to his battle with the army/ base and we are witness to his fantastic powers. The X-Men are called to their first battle and the final seven pages of the book are an all-out donnybrook with Magneto. The X-Men prevail and the army base is saved. In this issue, unlike many in the future the X-Men are treated like heroes.

This is really a terrific 1st issue of a comic and unique in a couple of ways. First the characters (seven of them) – all new and are introduced in character ready to go. Many first issues spend so much time with the origin of the character in the story, there is little time for anything else. The X-Men’s origins were revealed much later in the series as back-up stories. Second and I think most importantly was the appearance of Magneto. Take a look back at the first appearances of your favourite comics Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, Iron Man etc. Who were the bad guys? Burglars, Gangsters, Monsters from Space, Communists? The only book I could think of with a genuine baddie of note was Captain America #1 and the first comic characterization of Adolf Hitler. He was a real flesh and blood human being (of sorts) so I have trouble counting him as a comic character. Magneto has been an important long-standing bad/good guy in the Marvel universe since this appearance and for me at least makes the book X-tra special. Love to hear of other super baddies making their first appearance in a number one issue I missed.

X-Men #2
No one can stop the Vanisher!
November 1963

In the second issue of the X-Men we get The Vanisher. This book should be listed in Overstreet as a prototype issue for the character Nightcrawler as the Vanisher is a mutant who has the ability to teleport himself pretty well wherever he wants. He is quite honestly one of the worst used characters ever devised in the early going of the X-Men. His appearance and hideous uniform did not help. His teleportation power does confound the young X-Men team though, and it takes a Professor X mind intervention to put his disappearing act on hold. I can only remember the Vanisher appearing in X-Men #38 after this book. I think the creators at Marvel hoped the audience would forget him as well and they did a much better job with the Nightcrawler character. Someone please tell me the Vanisher isn’t Nightcrawler’s father in present day Marvel…

X-Men issue 2 splash by Jack Kirby and Paul Reinman. Source.

X-Men #3
Beware the Blob!
January 1964

Once again, our story opens with the X-Men in the training room (three issues in a row) sharpening their skills. There is bit more spice in this early going on at school with Jean Grey at the heart of it. Warren Worthington and Scott Summers are clearly smitten by her, and Professor X professes to be in love with her as we read his mind. Professor X sends the team out to search for an unknown mutant he has detected. The gang in civvies tracks down the Blob working at a carnival. They do a poor job of asking the Blob to come to X-Men headquarters, until Jean Grey asks and the Blob is more than interested in coming home. Once there the Blob is tested by Professor X and the rest of the X-Men and he impresses them with his powers. However, the Blob is not in any way shape or form interested in leaving the carnival and joining the team. This was not anticipated by Professor X and he tries to prevent him from leaving with all of their secret identities and the location of the school. The X-Men try to get to the Blob but he has rounded up his gang from the carnival including the trained elephants, and they capture the X-Men. Once again Professor X takes down the Blob with the power of his mind, erasing the Blob’s experience with the X-Men. Issues #2 & 3 are both pretty ordinary comic books. The title gets a big boost in issues #4-6 with the return of Magneto. They are covered in a previous post on Arcs & Runs featuring X-Men #4-7 and can be read there. X-Men #4 remains my favourite book from the first sixty-six issue run of the X-Men.

The X-Men success, unlike the Avengers has seen more lows and highs throughout its run. The initial X-men were a team of young students very loyal and obedient to their teacher Professor X. This probably was an OK premise in 1963 but by the end of the sixties was definitely out as teenagers had become very anti-authority. The X-Men were also “different” which did not fit in with the “in crowd” mentality of the day. The X-Men lost there audience somewhere along the line or didn’t establish a large enough one and the title was suspended. When they returned four and half years later they had a different look. An older team, many new characters, they embraced being different and were an independent anti-authority (Wolverine) team. They played this off against straight arrow Cyclops/Professor X and it was extremely popular with fans of all stripes hitting its peak through the 80’s. The Jean Grey/Cyclops/Wolverine love triangle didn’t hurt either. Neither did two terrific movies.

The Avengers and X-Men have both had long, long, runs of books and are still being produced today.

The 46th Overstreet Price guide prices for the books reviewed today are listed below.

Title 6.0 8.0 9.0 9.2
Avengers 1 $3000 $8500 $21000 $36000
Avengers 2 $339 $904 $2027 $3150
Avengers 3 $264 $704 $1577 $2450
Avengers 4 $705 $1939 $4370 $6800
Avengers 5 $153 $398 $887 $1375
Avengers 6 $114 $281 $628 $975
X-Men 1 $4200 $11000 $25500 $46000
X-Men 2 $465 $1270 $2890 $4500
X-Men 3 $288 $768 $1734 $2700
X-Men 4 $516 $1419 $3210 $5000
X-Men 5 $198 $528 $1189 $1850
X-Men 6 $150 $400 $900 $1400

Imagine coming up with two winning titles like these in the same month!! Still wish I knew what Stan Lee was putting is his coffee a way back then…

Mike Huddleston
Mike Huddleston

Mike was born and raised in Cambridge, Ontario. He has read and collected comics for over 40 years. A Marvel Zombie specializing in the Silver, bronze and early copper age of comics.

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Steve V.
Steve V.
7 years ago

Great piece Mr. Mike Huddleston ! Your photos are well selected and, your story particulars very detailed.
However, if you want to compare and contrast the titles if X-Men and Avengers, you should focus on the similarities and differences.
In 1961 the head of Marvel, Mr.Goodman (Stan Lees uncle) was lamenting low sales of tales to astonish titles, like Oog and Groot and Org, in 5 page big foot monster stories. Marvel was near bankrupt releying on sales of smutty mens magazines to stay afloat. During a golf game with DC comics brass, Goodman learned of the success of Justice Leage of America #1. That book sold 300,000 copies making it #1 seller in 1960.. Stan Lee was given marching orders to create a timely resonse to JLA.
After initial success with hastily created Fantasic Four, the x-men and Avengers were launched using whatever other charactors could be found.
X-men used 5 mutants born with stupid unrelated powers, that seem anything but uncanny. Eye rays, mind power, strengeth and flying were all powers sold by advertisers for comic books at the time. The ad dept. at marvel sold ads for super strength weight training, x-ray glasses, mind control hypnotism books and ju jitsu. The super heroed mutants were designed to support advertisers. Kids would send away money to advertisers to gain powers like what superheros were show to do.
The Avengers were less original, recycling as many existing charactors as were not already being used in groups. This included the entire 1941 timely rooster. Spider-man had already auditioneed for the Fantastic Four or surely would have been conscripted.
The stories were likely one sentence by Stan Lee over the phone to Jack Kirby, who took it from there.
The inker Ayers was always my favorite. X-men 1-11 was more successful due to consistant Jack Kirby wonderful penciling. Avengers suffered from declining inks by Reinman on Avengers 2 and 3 and George Roussos after. Avengers declined further when Jack Kirby left the title at issue 8. With Avengers 9 to 16, Jack Kirby only did layouts with Ayers receiving penciling duties due to need to reduce the excessive workload on Jack Kirby. Ayers penciling and Reinman inks now are so nostalgic, they have grown on me.
My favorite issue is x-men #10 with Kazar. Values are low because marvel printed a huge run of warehouse copy issuss of this great book. Many were remaindered for 8 cents into aftermarket sales. X-men #1 and #4 are terribly overrated artwise IMO, but are the traditional first appearance keys.
My personal favorite Avengers are issues #3, 9 and 11. Avengers #3 is 24 pages being 2 stories in-one with Hulk, then the battle inside the Rock of Gibralter with old WW2 howitzer gun. Issue #9 is the Professor X origin with Lucifer at earths core. Issue #11 is the most underrated Spiderman book in existence and first full crossover. Its Ayers best work ever! Take another look if you have time!
Investment wise, X-men #1 is where the big money goes. The dark green corner box is the authentic first print, but the lighter creamy green corner box is to be avoided as a marvel undisclosed 2nd print. Maybe people will key into this soon. Too many high grades of Avengers #4 exist but i think Avengers #1 has good investment potential because spine-ticks on Loki are often retouched creating purple labels.

Stevie V.

Steve V.
Steve V.
7 years ago

Also remember Avengers #1 was intended to be and was always a monthly title. It was drawn a month earlier as job x-377.

X-men #1 was by bi-monthly from the start and created as an mutant afterthought as later job x-401.

Both titles hit newsstands together july 2 1963. This in part may explain why the art in x-men #1 therefore seems a little rushed to me.

Avengers were intended by Stan Lee to be the mightiest super hero group. Spider-man was not up to snuff. (Too scrawny.) X-men were afterthought oddball misfits but unfortunately not non-magnetic.

Avengers could beat the beejeebers out of X-men any day of the week!!

It is ironic that the weaker x-men guys and girl, always seem to win at the box office and newstands in sales. The turtle beats the hare. We root for the underdog! Even after x-men became a cancelled title after issue #93, it was not done!

Clearly investment in Giant Size #1, and x-men #1, will always be the best profit. Any grade will do. Returns have averaged 17% per annum on 9.2 and above!

But for pure reading fun take a look at Avengers#11 and x-men #10 as the 2 most fun to reread!

Do not overlook issue the awsome x-men #34 with Dan Adkins art with mole man verses tyranus story either!

Sometimes the rarest books have highest value because no one kept the lousy art. Mostly, the best books are the most plentiful! Thats is the great comics collecting paradox…investing or rereading!

Stevie V.

David Mackay
David Mackay
7 years ago

Hey Mike…all Stan Lee needed to add to his coffee was a little Jack Kirby…see that amazing artwork Oh my gosh….todays Marvel movies seem to capture the layouts that Jack so beautifully imagined greatly capturing his original flavor of all his characters. I see the recent Thor trailer and it takes back to the early 1965 Thor books and the JIM issue 112….
Both you and Steve had some great comments Mike.Thanks for the discussion.
After the X-men were cancelled, all I read in the letter pages of the day were requests to bring the merry mutants back. Avengers may have been more successful but the X-men seem to strike a more passionate note and memory with a very loyal but smaller following. As I lived through the Giant sized relaunch, though bi-monthly, read the letter pages of day and feel the passion and love for the X characters….Issue 100 became Iconic as it included the Old and new Gang. There was no turning back from that point.
as an aside….does anyone else find the Avengers Don Heck period after issue #25 almost unreadable

David Mackay
David Mackay
7 years ago

its True Mike…as we watch the new Thor trailer , we the viewer, are the kids in the square , sitting about the mighty Thor as he relates his tale of his fateful fight with the Hulk.
World meet King Jack Kirby 🙂

7 years ago

The end of the Thor:Ragnarok trailer also reminded me of JIM #112 but with a Planet Hulk twist. I also really like Avengers #3 as well. Its the only book I have mentioned above in my personal collection.

Steve V.
Steve V.
7 years ago

MIKE SAYS. It didn’t take me until Avengers #25 to dislike Don Heck’s work. I have never been a fan of his work.

Don Heck, as a penciller, was barely competant. His story telling was barely readable. His Avengers 9 to 42, Tales to Astonish 41 to 48 Antman, and Tales of Suspense 43 to 47, 50 to 69 Ironman rode the wave of Jack Kirby Covers and filled the void of comic interior with a minimal quality interior filler. At Tales of Suspense issue # 70 Colan saved the book! But looking back now, his work has a certain nostalgia in its classic awfulness. Avengers 9, 11 and 14 may be some of the better ones except for avengers 19, 20 and 21 with Wally Wood inks and of course Avengers 25 with Dr.Doom! Heck Antman, Tales to Astonish issue 47 with Traggo the pied piper was the best of the worst. Tales of Suspense Ironman actally became Don Hecks signature series with the origin of the Mandarin in TOS #62 my favorite. Heck will best be remembered for romance love books and his depiction of the Black Widow. Bob Overstreet lists over 100 artists but you will almost never see Overstreet credit Heck. Overstreet agrees with Mike.

NATHAN SAYS. The end of the Thor:Ragnarok trailer also reminded me of JIM #112 but with a Planet Hulk twist. I also really like Avengers #3 as well. Its the only book I have mentioned above in my personal collection.

Nathan should expand his collection more. If you only collect Avengers #3 (one 32 page comic book,) and you read it 30 x a month, it will quickly get dog eared.

DAVID SAYS. we the viewer, are the kids in the square , sitting about the mighty Thor as he relates his tale of his fateful fight with the Hulk.
World meet King Jack Kirby

But Amazing Spider-man is the elephant in any room. Steve Ditko Spider-man was what pulled me into this comic book cycle, hook-line-and-sinker. As good as Jack Kirby was, all of us would not be here talking but for Ditko’s incomperable Spider-man masterprices in issues 1 to 38! Amazing Spiderman Issues 6, 7, 18 and 27 are my favorites!

Stevie V.

7 years ago

Hey Stevie. My copy of Avengers #3 is slabbed CGC 4.0. So I won’t be reading it. I was just saying that I have that one out of the books showcased in this article. Most of these books are very expensive and out of my price range. I did forget that I also have a raw VG+ copy of Avengers 5 too. Avengers #3 and X-Men #4 are the earliest issues I have from both titles. I also really love the Silver Age Amazing Spider-Man comics. I actually have more of those books in my collection than Avengers and X-Men.