If you’ve been a part of the My Marvelous Year reading club since Jan 1. 2016, you know full well that we have now covered an entire decade of Marvel Comics, plowing through the 1960s in eight weeks.
If this is the first you’re hearing of My Marvelous Year, we’re reading 10 Marvel stories published during one calendar year each week. So the first week of 2016 we read Marvel Comics published during 1962 (plus Fantastic Four #1 in November 1961), the second week of 2016 we read Marvel Comics published during 1963, and so on. We just finished the 1960s and will start the 1970s on 3/4/16! You can sign up here!
The reading club is currently voting on the hero, villain, and series of the decade, and you can check out our winners for each individual year here.
In the meantime, I’ve put together 1960’s Marvel Comics power rankings!
1960’s Marvel Series Power Rankings
It’s simultaneously cool and extremely daunting to realize just how essential so many 1960’s Marvel Comics feel. After all, nothing in Marvel’s history rivals the unbridled that first decade’s burst of creativity in which comic after comic delivered the origins or first appearances of worldwide icons.
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So for all intents and purposes, just about every comic we read as part of the My Marvelous Year comics are essential. (Yes, those Mike Murdock v. Stilt Man issues are an exception, and no, I will never apologize!)
Nonetheless, we can still – with great difficulty – sort these comics into certain tiers of greatness. While similarly influential, there’s a clear gap in quality and consistency between the likes of Amazing Spider-Man and the Uncanny X-Men.
The below should help newer readers gauge how to invest your reading time in comics from the 60’s. I’ve broken the titles into 4 tiers, in order of greatness.
So with that understanding in our back pocket, I give you the 1960’s Marvel Comics power rankings. Here are the best of the best:
1) Best of the Best
Marvel’s first shared universe comic from the Marvel Age is also consistently one of its absolute best. There’s an endless cycle of wheel-spinning regarding how posterity should view the creators involved in Fantastic Four, but I think the takeaway is pretty clear: God bless Artie Simek.
Well, that, and Jack Kirby and Stan Lee were at their absolute best collaborating on Marvel’s first family. Not only that, but both Kirby and Lee got demonstrably better at telling Fantastic Four stories as they went, reaching a pinnacle in 1966 with Fantastic Four #48 to Fantastic Four #60. That year-plus long stretch (which spills over into 1967) saw Kirby and Lee introduce the Inhumans, Galactus, Silver Surfer, Black Panther, and Klaw to the Marvel Universe, all while telling some of Marvel’s first multi-issue epics (“The Coming of Galactus” and Doctor Doom stealing the Silver Surfer’s power cosmic and riding around on his surfboard just because).
Of all the My Marvelous Year 1960s reading we did over the past eight weeks, no comic impressed me more than Fantastic Four. Kirby’s imagination is simply boundless, and Lee’s dialogue creates genuine laughs among tense familial dynamics.
Here’s the long and short of it: If you consider yourself a fan of Marvel Comics, and you haven’t read the first eight years of Fantastic Four, you’re doing yourself a disservice!
Where To Find Fantastic Four Comics From the 1960s:
Fantastic Four Omnibus Volume 1
– Collects FF #1 to #30, plus FF Annual #1
Fantastic Four Omnibus Volume 2 – Collects FF #31 to #60, plus FF Annual #2 to #4
Marvel Masterworks Fantastic Four Volume 1 – Collects Fantastic Four #1 to #10
Marvel Masterworks Fantastic Four Vol. 9 – Collects Fantastic Four #82 to #93, FF Annual #7
Marvel Unlimited 1960s Fantastic Four Reading Order:
Fantastic Four #1 to #15
Fantastic Four Annual #1
Fantastic Four #16 to #29
Fantastic Four Annual #2
Fantastic Four #30 to #42
Fantastic Four Annual #3
Fantastic Four #43 to #55
Fantastic Four Annual #4
Fantastic Four #56 to #67
Fantastic Four Annual #5
Fantastic Four #68 to #79
Fantastic Four Annual #6
Fantastic Four #80 to #93
While my relative lack of familiarity led me to consider Fantastic Four the most impressive early Marvel series, Amazing Spider-Man will always be my favorite. I’ve waxed obsessed for weeks now, so I’ll simply say that the above note about needing these Fantastic Four issues in your life as a Marvel fan applies just as much to Amazing Spider-Man. There are other comics I like, of course, but if you can only read two series from the 1960s, it should be Amazing Spider-Man and Fantastic Four
Where to Find Amazing Spider-Man Comics From the 1960s
Amazing Spider-Man Omnibus Volume 1 – Collects Amazing Fantasy #15, AMS #1 to #38, AMS Annual #1 to #2
Amazing Spider-Man Omnibus Volume 2 – Collects AMS #39 to #67, AMS Annual #3 to #5, Spectacular Spider-Man Magazine #1 to #2
Marvel Masterworks: The Amazing Spider-Man Volume 1
Marvel Masterworks: The Amazing Spider-Man Volume 8
Marvel Unlimited 1960s Amazing Spider-Man Reading Order:
Amazing Fantasy #15
Amazing Spider-Man #1 to #16
Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1
Amazing Spider-Man #17 to #28
Amazing Spider-Man Annual #2
Amazing Spider-Man #29 to #41
Amazing Spider-Man Annual #3
Amazing Spider-Man #42 to #53
Amazing Spider-Man #4
Amazing Spider-Man #54 to #61
Spectacular Spider-Man Magazine #1
Amazing Spider-Man #62 to #65
Spectacular Spider-Man Magazine #2
Amazing Spider-Man Annual #5
Amazing Spider-Man #66 to #79
2) Really, Really, Really Good
Strange Tales / Doctor Strange
I came extremely close to slotting Doctor Strange’s 60’s stories in the above tier, and honestly, there’s a strong case to be made. Doctor Strange enters Strange Tales as a B-side backup to solo Human Torch, and almost immediately becomes the mag’s main attraction. Steve Ditko’s mystical kalleidoscope pages have defined decades of supernatural and cosmic comics, and Strange’s “Search for Eternity” (Strange Tales #130 to #141) is a mid-60’s highlight.
Even with all that in his favor, Doctor Strange is never quite on the same level as Spidey or the Fantastic Four, and with Ditko’s departure after 1966, the good doctor doesn’t keep accelerating to finish the decade.
Where to Find Doctor Strange Comics From the 1960s
Marvel Masterworks: Doctor Strange Volume 1
Marvel Masterworks: Doctor Strange Volume 2
Marvel Unlimited 1960s Doctor Strange Reading Order:
Strange Tales #110 to #121
Fantastic Four #27
Strange Tales #122 to #168
Doctor Strange #169 to #178
Journey Into Mystery / Thor
Thor is remarkably consistent throughout the 1960s, and although Fantastic Four gets most of the Stan & Jack accolades, the duo was notably well suited for these Tales of Asgard. For Kirby, Thor was an opportunity to explore his endless fascination with gods in space, and for Lee, it was the glove-like fit of boisteroius and winking faux-Shakespeare dialogue.
Thor actually improves as he ages, advancing from the “I better reach my cane in 60 seconds!” tropes to having a heart-to-heart conversation with Galactus by the end of the decade.
Where to Find Thor Comics From the 1960s
The Mighty Thor Omnibus, Vol. 1
The Mighty Thor Omnibus, Vol. 2
Marvel Masterworks, The Mighty Thor Vol. 1
Marvel Masterworks, The Mighty Thor Vol. 8
Marvel Unlimited 1960s Thor Reading Order:
Journey Into Mystery #83 to #95
Avengers #1 – Thor remains a regular Avenger through issue #16
Journey Into Mystery #96 to #120
Journey Into Mystery Annual #1
Journey Into Mystery #121 to #125
Thor #126 to #132
Thor Annual #2
Thor #133 to #155
Avengers Annual #2
Thor #156 to #171
Silver Surfer does more with 18 issues than some characters do in a lifetime (looking at you Hank Pym). Worth noting that actually only the first 11 issues of Silver Surfer take place in the 60s (the rest carry over into the 1970s). Nonetheless, his Fantastic Four appearances carry the Surfer into the 2nd highest tier of the series power rankings.
Where to Find Silver Surfer Comics From the 1960s
Silver Surfer Epic Collection: When Calls Galactus
Marvel Masterworks Silver Surfer Vol. 1
Marvel Masterworks Silver Surfer Vol. 2
Marvel Unlimited 1960s Silver Surfer Reading Order:
Fantastic Four #48 to #50
Fantastic Four #55, #57 to #60
Tales to Astonish #92 to #93
Fantastic Four Annual #5
Fantastic Four #74 to #77
Silver Surfer #1 to #11
3) Hit or Miss
Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos #1 to #23 / Strange Tales #135 to #168 / Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD #1 to #11
Frequently a hoot, and the three issues of Jim Steranko art and story on Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD nearly bump the whole suite up a tier.
Tales of Suspense #13 to #99 / Iron Man #1 to #20 / Captain America #100 to #120
Plenty to like, from Iron Man’s fighting the Crimson Dynamo with Happy’s life on the line (some of the comics that got me into comics) to a variety of great Cap vs. Red Skull cosmic cube comics.
Avengers #1 to #71
A few lulls between the Stan Lee and Roy Thomas team transition, but the by the end of the 60’s Thomas had found his groove and was unleashing the likes of Ultron on the Marvel Universe.
Captain Marvel #1 to #19
Not the must-read it would become, but an interesting beginning for Marvel’s Kree-born hero.
Uncanny X-Men #1 to #63
Strong start and finish, and a very passable middle. Nonetheless, the Lee & Kirby debut of the X-men, Magneto, and the Juggernaut is excellent, as are the latter issues featuring Neal Adam’s gorgeous art.
Tales to Astonish #15 to #101 / Incredible Hulk #1 to #6, #102 to #122 / Sub-Mariner #1 to #14
The early days of Ant-Man, Wasp, and Incredible Hulk are all worth a look, but the ongoings become tedious throughout the 60s. Likewise, Sub-Mariner never lives up to the potential he displays in his ffrequent Fantastic Four appearances.
Daredevil #1 to #53
DD has an interesting first eleven or so issues, and then really falls into a deep lull. As the My Marvelous Year faithful have let me hear, you really don’t need much 1960s Daredevil.
Paul rickards says
Daredevil was brilliant
Gene colan art superb
In the midst of life
Brother take my hand
Hey there! regarding spiderman, would you consider “Untold Tales of Spiderman” essential? I’ve seen that series highlighted on other comic book reading orders, and I was wondering whether or not it’s important to the story \ any good?
Richard Fahey says
The Hulk was never one of Marvel’s best characters or comics.The plight of Bruce Banner and his alter ego,was a sad,relentles saga that,unlike situations in the company’s other comics,couldn’t be resolved in any way.The Hulk was a boring comic and character,with too much emphasis placed apon his strength,rather than the dual character of the Hulk and Banner.There was no structure.Only later as one of the Defenders,was any resolution reached.As a team super hero,he was more significant,but not at ten let alone twenty pages.
The art wasn’t very good either.Marie Severian was a talented artist,whose pencilling on “Dr. Strange” and “Not Brand Echh” was very good,but her style wasn’t strong enough to handle a comic like “The Hulk”.Herb Trimpe’s later,grotesque art,was among the worst ever known at the company.He never really had his own style,and never captured the magic of Kirby and Steranko,whom he imitated.
I don’t agree with you about “Daredevil”.It was among the most innovative comics and characters created at the company during the decade.The concept of a blind super hero,would have seemed unworkable and was daring at the time,and I think the freshness of the idea continued throughout the decade.Wally Wood did some excellent art on it earlier,while John Romita also contributed more than reasonable artistry.Gene Colan’s realistic style was powerful and sharp,while Stan Lee’s scripting was excellent,as was Roy Thomas’s near the end of the decade.
For Spiderman you put Amazing spider man #4 instead of Amazing Spiderman annual #4
So for Fantastic Four, should I read them in this order or the order on your separate reading order link for FF?
Great job here. When I catch up on these, I might sign up on My Marvelous year. But I was wondering, aren’t there any major events taking place in several comics at a time in the 60s? If that happens in further decades, will they be mentioned?
Not many major crossover events until the ’80s. I was wondering how Dave was going to handle those myself. The early ones, like the Avengers-Defenders should be easy to do…but later larger ones like the 1977-79 “Corporation” will become awfully unwieldy. Then “Secret Wars II” or “Fall of the Mutants” are huge. I guess we’ll see when we get there.
I must concur with your take on Spider-Man. Of all the ’60s stuff his was most consistent, even with a major change on penciler. Though I find my opinion of the FF has changed. I used to love all the first issues, but now, with the umpeenth re-reading, the gloss has come off. Specifically in the early issues I note many times where Kirby was just all over the place and Lee had to go overboard on the dialogue to make the story fit. But they do come into a nice groove about issue 40 or so, then from 60 to 80ish seem to be spinning their wheels, then have a last hurrah starting around 90.
I also agree with your estimation of Thor. Of all the books we went through, this was the revelation for me. I was familiar with the X-men, Iron Man and Cap, even most of the Avengers, bit Thor had always eluded me. The later issues really were some of Stan n Jacks finest.
That’s interesting about the Fantastic Four, I was head over heels for these issues. That said, I actually hadn’t read a lot of the less frequently discussed issues. I agree though Stan and Jack lose some steam heading towards the end of the 60’s. I started feeling like I’d had enough FF, whereas I’m perpetually ready for more Amazing Spider-Man.