An avid comic collector and fan for nearly 20 years, Vic started collecting comics around eight years old. Comic investing since the 2000s.
What Are The Top Marvel First Appearances Ever?
When it comes to Marvel first appearances, there are quite a lot that are important within the Marvel Universe. This article will showcase the absolute top, the creme of the creme, and will also feature which key issue comic you will find the character's first appearances listed here.
Several factors will be involved including but not limited to popularity of the character, value of the key issue, historical importance to Marvel Comics, demand of the key comic, and much more. I'll discuss exactly why a certain first appearance and comic issue made this list. You may not agree with my list and that's fine. We all have our opinions, but I will back my decisions on certain facts that lead to my conclusions.
So enough talking and let's get on with the show! Here we go!
Marvel Comics #1 - 1st Android Human Torch & Namor The Submariner!
Before Marvel was Marvel Comics, it was known as Timely Comics. The first superhero ever published by Timely (Marvel) was the Android Human Torch, and the character, known as (Jim Hammond), created by Carlo Burgos, first appeared in Marvel Comics #1 in 1939. This key issue also saw the very first appearance of the anti-hero and Marvel's first mutant, Namor the Submariner, who was created by Bill Everett.
Marvel Comics #1 was also Timely Comic's first ever published comic, so you can see the significance with this golden age key issue and character in Marvel's history. This significance can be also seen in the value and demand of this book.
Scarcity of this golden age key is pretty high and even copies in low grade are extremely valuable. The highest sale on record for Marvel Comics #1 and the first appearance of the Android Human Torch is $367,000. The condition of the book is unverified or unknown. It is not Marvel Comics most valuable comic book, but it's still a holy grail among collectors.
Although the character of the Android Human Torch isn't really all that popular with Marvel Comics fans of today, Namor is still widely known and used often in the Marvel Universe today. Those collectors knowledgeable about comic investing are aware of the significance and value of this first appearance key issue.
Captain America Comics #1 - 1st Appearance of Captain America!
Like this extremely popular and iconic superhero needs any introduction. Captain America was part of Timely/Marvel Comics big three during the golden age of comics, along with Namor the Submariner and the Android Human Torch.
Created by comic book legends Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, Simon admitted that Steve Rogers a.k.a Captain America was consciously a political creation, and both creators were repulsed by the actions of Nazi Germany. Not surprisingly, Captain America became Timely's most popular comic during this era just before and during World War II.
Captain America Comics #1 not only saw the first appearance of the titular character, but also holds the first appearance of Bucky, his famed sidekick, as well as Cap's most infamous and popular arch nemesis The Red Skull. Quite an important key issue I must say.
A CGC 9.2 copy of Captain America Comics #1 sold for a whopping $343,000 in 2011, breaking the sales record for this golden age comic.
Unlike his other golden age colleagues, Captain America is still one of the most popular comic characters within the Marvel Universe and the world of comics. With all the new comic book movies, including his very own Captain America: The First Avenger back in 2011 as well as a sequel Captain America The Winter Soldier, it doesn't look like Cap's popularity will wain anytime soon.
Captain America Comics #1 is the holy grail of Captain America comic books to own without a doubt. It is the investment comic for the character.
Fantastic Four #1 - 1st Appearance of Fantastic Four
Post World War II, superhero comics fell out of fashion for a time. Timely became Atlas Comics for a bit. However, after DC Comics made a successful resurgence by revamping many of their characters such as The Flash and Green Lantern and launched a successful superhero team title The Justice League of America, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby were ordered to answer the call with their own superhero team.
The result was The Fantastic Four #1 and was the first superhero comic published under the Marvel Comics brand. This comic became successful and relaunched Marvel's attempt back into the superhero genre of comics. No doubt that this is an important silver age key issue.
Not only does this comic introduce the first appearances of Reed Richards as Mr. Fanstastic, we also see Marvel's first successful and popular female superhero Sue Storm as The Invisible Woman. Her brother, Johnny Storm, based off the Android Human Torch, was also introduced as the 2nd Human Torch, and everyone's favorite rock monster, The Thing a.k.a Ben Grimm also saw his first appearance in Fantastic Four #1.
This comic is highly sought after and in-demand. It is the holy grail of Fantastic Four comics, and the top holy grail silver age key issue comics of all time. A CGC 9.6 copy was sold in 2008 for a huge $450,000, and Metropolis Comics sold a CGC 9.4 for $300,000 in 2011. Previously, the same CGC 9.4 copy was sold by Pedigree Comics for $210,000 bucks, a $90,000 dollar profit.
It was this comic that set the mold for all the other Marvel Comics characters to come after, and it's been regarded as one of the most important comic books in history ever since.
The Incredible Hulk #1 - 1st Appearance of The Hulk!
Hulk smash! I don't know about you, but this character was my favorite while growing up, purely because of the T.V. show that starred Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno. When I got into comics, I still had a soft spot for the Hulk and collected a few issues, mostly the Todd McFarlane run in the titled series.
No doubt that this character is a play on Frankenstein's monster as well as Jeckll and Hyde. However, most know the character with green skin, but his first appearance had the Hulk grey. Stan Lee would later say the choice for grey was not to have the Hulk's skin color be associated with any ethnic group, but after seeing how terrible the first issue looked, Stan "The Man" Lee told the artists to change it to green. Good choice, I say!
As for this first appearance key issue, what can I say? It's a monster one, extremely hard to find, and will cost you a lot of bank to acquire. The Hulk has been an extremely popular character in the Marvel Universe, and is considered one of the most powerful. He is an original member of the Avengers, but the brute's membership didn't last long.
This issue also has the first appearance of Bruce Banner, among others including General Thunderbolt Ross, his love interest Betty Ross, and the Hulk's sidekick Rick Jones. Like I said, it's a monster of a key issue. Like Spider-Man, the Hulk is truly an iconic character within the Marvel Universe.
Amazing Fantasy #15 - 1st Appearance of Spider-Man
It would be a crime not to have everyone's friendly neighborhood Spider-Man on this list of the top Marvel First Appearances. Spider-Man is one of Marvel Comics' most popular and well-known characters in the Marvel Universe.
Created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, Spider-Man's first appearance in Amazing Fantasy #15 wasn't expected to take off with readers so quickly, but teenage readers during the silver age of comics immediately identified and related to the character of Peter Parker and his superhero identity as Spider-Man.
Along the way, many great villains were created for the character like Venom and the Green Goblin as well as some of the most classic stories in comics ever.
Journey Into Mystery #83
Thou hast not blitherithe! Okay, there Thor! Known as Goldie locks in the Marvel Universe and the Norse God of Thunder everywhere else, Thor has become a mainstay titular character in the world of Marvel Comics. The on-going debate about who is more powerful - Hulk or Thor - has been ongoing since the character first appeared in Journey Into Mystery #83!
When asked who he thought was stronger, Stan Lee said that he indeed wanted Thor to be stronger than the Hulk.
Of course, Stan Lee or Marvel did not invent the character of Thor. He was already one of Norse legend, but they did retcon him to fit in to the world of superheroes Marvel created. Earth bound by the human Dr. Donald Blake, Thor went onto make alliances with the Hulk, the Wasp, and Ant-Man to form the original Avengers team.
Once again, this is a huge key issue and investment comic that is no longer cheap. With the Thor movies and the Avengers movie, this silver age key issue has blown up in demand and value. High grades? Forget about it! One of those may cost you an arm, leg, and a kidney combined.
Tales of Suspense #39
Who can deny that the character of Iron Man has hit mainstream appeal with the success of the Iron Man movie franchise? Not many, and this is one of the coveted Marvel first appearance key issues.
Tales of Suspense #39, the first appearance of Iron Man and Tony Stark, has been high demand for the last few years, and many copies have gotten out of reach in terms of price for most average collectors. Since Iron Man is a popular character for Marvel's most popular superhero team, The Avengers, and with the enormous success of the Avengers movie franchise, it seems that his very first Marvel appearance just may stay that way.
This issue also tells the origin of Iron Man as well, adding even more key issue value to this silver age investment comic. Any grade will do, even ones in lower grade, and any lucky collector has this issue in their comic collection.
X-Men #1 - First Appearance of the Original X-Men & Magneto
If this silver age key issue doesn't have a blockbuster of Marvel first appearances, I don't know what does. In this issue we see the first appearances of the original X-Men, including Cyclops, Beast, Iceman, Angel, Jean Grey a.k.a Marvel Girl, and the X-Men's well-known leader, Professor Xavier!
But that's not all. We also get the first Marvel first appearance of Magneto, a villain who has become one of the most popular Marvel villains of all time. Speaking of popularity, this mutant team of superheroes has definitely become one of comics most beloved superhero teams in comics today, and probably one of the most popular.
Unlike other superheroes who gained their powers due to unfortunate events, the X-Men were born with them, the products of ever evolving genetics and evolution. Throughout the years, this titled series has produced some of the most memorable and eclectic characters that have held membership to either the X-Men or their rogue gallery of villains.
Stan Lee has had no problems admitting that the X-Men characters and concept was modeled off the civil rights turmoil of the 60s and 70s. He has also stated that Mr. Luther King and Malcom X were the basis of the characters Professor X and Magneto, with their opposing views of where mutant kind should fit in the world.
Like Captain America was purely invented as a political vehicle during the time, the X-Men were deeply rooted in social issues of the time. This X-Men #1 issue has taken drastic leaps in value over the years, partly due to the successful X-Men movie franchise. Demand for this key comic issue is still going strong and higher grade NM copies still rise in value steadily.
Fantastic Four #52
I have heard that "other" characters are more historically important than the first appearance of Black Panther, but I highly disagree. There's a reason why being the first black mainstream comic book superhero is important.
Black representation in comics prior did exist. It wasn't much and some weren't flattering. There was All-Negro Comics, and it was drawn and written by African American writers and artists.
However, it doesn't take a rocket science to know that discrimination against blacks existed prior to the 1966 debut of T'Challa as the Black Panther. In 1956, the Comics Code Authority tried to censor a science fiction story entitled "Judgement Day" in Incredible Science Fiction #33.
What was the big deal about this story? Well, a character in that story was depicted as being in a position of authority, and he happened to be black.
Yes, you read that right. Apparently a Judge Charles Murphy, administrator for the Code, demanded that the black astronaut for the story had to be removed. This was a time when the CCA was really going after Bill Gaines' EC Comics.
In the book Tales of Terror: The EC Companion, Al Feldstein recalled,
The story would be reprinted unaltered from the original story printed in Weird Magazine #13 (cover dated April, 1953). So, there were black characters in comics, but there weren't a whole lot.
There were black characters before Black Panther who broke down barriers, so don't get me wrong there. Lobo was a Dell Comic's character who was the first African-American character to star in his own comic series. It only lasted two issues.
Then there was the predecessor to Marvel Comics, Atlas, who published the first known black character to star in a comic book feature titled, Watu, Prince of Bantu. Jackie Johnson joined Sgt. Rock's Easy Company in DC's war comics, and Sgt. Nick Fury added Marvel's first African American supporting character when Gabe Jones joined the Howling Commandos in issue #1 back in 1963.
Now, if Judge Murphy had a problem with a black astronaut, I wonder what he though when Marvel debuted the Black Panther, a king of Wakanda and a superhero with powers an all? No known black character was ever a superhero nor had super powers in mainstream comics prior.
A big deal. Yes, I think so, and I'm not African American or black. Not only was T'Challa a king of the fictional world of Wakanda, but the nation of Wakanda went against the stereo type of African nations being "primitive".
Yes, in the very debut of Wakanda in Fantastic Four #52, the issue depicted Wakandans having tech that even Reed Richards marveled at. This notion of an African nation having technological advances even challenged much of the Fantastic Four's preconceptions and prejudices in the next issue of #53.
So, yes, important first appearance in comics.
Incredible Hulk #181
Is there even a doubt that Wolverine has become the most popular character to come out of the bronze age of comics? Don't think so? Well, considering that they completely screwed up the X-Men timeline in the movies just so they could have this feisty, mutie runt in it speaks volumes.
Even with the new X-Men Days of Future Past movie coming out next year, they completely warped the story line to the comics the movie was based on just so they could once again center it around Wolverine. Don't know what to think about that, but it is what it is.
But let's talk about demand for the first appearance of Wolverine in Incredible Hulk #181. This bronze age key issue comic is one of the most valuable of that time era, and it continues to rise steadily in high grade NM ranges.
In recent years, this issue has become the first full appearance, with Incredible Hulk #180 known as the first brief appearance of Wolverine. Even though #180 has seen a huge boost in demand and value in recent years, issue #181 is still preferred by most comic collectors and comic investors.
The Amazing Spider-Man #129 - 1st Appearance of the Punisher
When it comes to the more violent and controversial characters of the Bronze Age in mainstream super-hero comics, the debut of Frank Castle as the hard-nosed and single-minded vigilante who has no qualms about taking his brand of justice to the extreme is definitely one to note. Originally created to be a one-off villain, the Punisher got an immediate fan reaction that even Gerry Conway was surprised.
Therefore, the Punisher recurred in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man and would eventually branch off into other titles like Daredevil and eventually starred in his own comic series during the 80s. The character's popularity among comic fans has grown since and 3 live action movies were spawned as a result.
Frank Castle's most recent live action adventures will be spun-off in his own Netflix series, in which he debuted in Daredevil season two. He is currently played by Jon Bernthal.
With no problems of exterminating baddies of all types, the Punisher has been a controversial comic character even in the Marvel world of comics. He is considered a threat to both bad guys and law enforcement, and many other heroes often question his methods of crime fighting.
The fine line that the Punisher walks has made him an intriguing anti-hero to comic fans and helped to usher in a darker age of comics and push the boundaries of acceptable content in comics regulated by the Comics Code Authority.
Amazing Spider-Man #129 is one of the more valuable Bronze Age Marvel 1st appearances in high grades and commands a hefty price in owning currently, and is without a question one of the top Marvel 1st appearances of all time.
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© 2013 Vic
Vic (author) on February 28, 2014:
Heya superherojames, can't go wrong with vintage Fantastic Four. Thanks for reading and commenting and glad you like my blog. I got some pretty good key issue lists on there.
James Horsham from Manchester, UK on February 25, 2014:
I need to get myself some vintage Fantastic Four comics. They look ace! Nice blog by the way.
Vic (author) on November 21, 2013:
Heya mts1098, I agree. A lot of the early Spider-Man comics were great reads and still are. Thanks for commenting and good to hear from you again.
Vic (author) on November 20, 2013:
Thanks Geekdom, great hear from you and glad you enjoyed the hub. Tales of Suspense #39 is crazy popular now.
mts1098 on November 19, 2013:
I remember reading some of these growing up and I bet the original 12cents Spider-Man is still a good read. Cheers
Geekdom on November 19, 2013:
Great Characters to focus on. I always forget that Tales of Suspense was Iron Man's first appearance. Nice Hub.