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Strange Tales

For other uses, see Strange Tales (disambiguation).

Strange Tales is a Marvel Comics anthology series title that appeared and was revived in different forms on multiple occasions throughout the company's history. The title introduced the features "Doctor Strange" and "Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.", and was a showcase for the science fiction/suspense stories of artists Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, and for the groundbreaking work of writer-artist Jim Steranko. Two previous, unrelated magazines also bore that title.

Monsters and magician

Strange Tales
Publication information
Publisher Marvel Comics
Schedule Bimonthly, June 1951 – June 1952; monthly, July 1952 – Oct. 1953; bimonthly, Nov. 1953 – Feb. 1954; monthly, March 1954 – Aug. 1954; bimonthly Oct. 1954 – April 1955; monthly, June 1955 – June 1957; bimonthly Dec. 1957 – Oct. 1960; monthly, Nov. 1960 – May 1968
Publication date (vol. 1) June 1951 – May 1968
(vol. 1 revival) Sept. 1973 – Nov. 1976
(vol. 2) April 1987 – Oct. 1988
Number of issues (vol. 1) 168
(vol. 1 revival) 20 (#169–188)
(vol. 2) 19

The Marvel Comics series ran 168 issues, cover-dated June 1951 to May 1968.[1] It began as a horror anthology from the company's 1950s precursor, Atlas Comics. Initially modeled after the gory morality tales of the popular and groundbreaking EC line of comics,[2] Strange Tales became less outré with the 1954 imposition of the Comics Code, which prohibited graphic horror, as well as vampires, zombies and other classical monsters.

The comic changed again with the return of industry stalwart Jack Kirby, the artist who had co-created Captain America for the company then worked elsewhere for 17 years. Starting with #68 (April 1959), Strange Tales was revamped to reflect the then-current trend of science fiction drive-in movie monsters. Virtually every issue would open with a Kirby monster story (generally inked by Christopher Rule initially, then later Dick Ayers), followed by one or two twist-ending thrillers or sci-fi tales drawn by Don Heck, Paul Reinman, or Joe Sinnott, all capped by an often-surreal, sometimes self-reflexive Stan Lee-Steve Ditko short.

File:Strange Tales 28.jpg
The pre-Comics Code Strange Tales #28 (May 1954). Cover art by Harry Anderson.

Some characters introduced here in standalone, anthological stories were later retconned into Marvel Universe continuity. These include Ulysses Bloodstone in the story "Grottu, King of the Insects!" in issue #73 (Feb. 1960),[3][4] the extraterrestrial dragon Fin Fang Foom, who first appeared in #89 (Oct. 1961),[5] and the extraterrestrial would-be world conquerors Gorgolla, introduced in #74 (April 1960), and Orrgo, introduced in #90 (Nov. 1961).[6]

In Strange Tales #75 (June 1960), a huge robot called "the Hulk" appeared. It was actually armor worn by the character Albert Poole. In modern-day reprints the character's name is changed to Grutan.[7]

Prototypes of the Spider-Man supporting characters Aunt May and Uncle Ben appeared in a short story in Strange Tales #97 (June 1962).[8]

The anthology switched to superheroes during the Silver Age of Comic Books, retaining the sci-fi, suspense and monsters as backup features for a time. Strange Tales' first superhero, in 12- to 14-page stories, was the Fantastic Four's Human Torch, Johnny Storm, beginning in #101 (Oct. 1962).[9] Here, Johnny still lived with his elder sister, Susan Storm, in fictional Glenview, Long Island, New York, where he continued to attend high school and, with youthful naivete, attempted to maintain his "secret identity" (later retconned to reveal that his friends and neighbors knew of his dual identity from Fantastic Four news reports, but simply played along). Supporting characters included Johnny's girlfriend, Doris Evans, usually seen only in consternation as Johnny cheerfully flew off to battle bad guys. Ayers took over the penciling after 10 issues, later followed by original Golden Age Human Torch creator Carl Burgos and others, with Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel scripting issues #112–113 (Sept.–Oct. 1963) under the pseudonym "Joe Carter". The Fantastic Four made occasional cameo appearances, and the Thing became a co-star with #123 (Aug. 1964). Strange Tales Annual #2 (1963) featured the first team-up of Spider-Man and the Human Torch.[10]

Strange Tales #79 (Dec. 1960), a colloquially called "pre-superhero Marvel" comic. Cover art by Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko.

The title became a "split book" with the introduction of sorcerer Doctor Strange, by Lee and artist Steve Ditko. This 9- to 10-page feature debuted in #110 (July 1963),[11] and after an additional story and then skipping two issues returned permanently with #114. Ditko's surrealistic mystical landscapes and increasingly head-trippy visuals helped make the feature a favorite of college students, according to Lee himself.[12] Eventually, as co-plotter and later sole plotter, in the "Marvel Method", Ditko would take Strange into ever-more-abstract realms, which yet remained well-grounded thanks to Lee's reliably humanistic, adventure/soap opera dialog. Adversaries for the new hero included Baron Mordo introduced in issue #111 (Aug. 1963)[13] and Dormammu in issue #126 (Nov. 1964). Clea, who would become a longtime love interest for Doctor Strange, was also introduced in issue #126.[14]

Though Lee and Ditko themselves interacted less and less as each went their separate creative ways, the storyline culminated with what fans and historians consider one of modern comics' milestones: the introduction, in issue #138 (Oct. 1965), of Ditko's enduring conception of Eternity, the personification of the universe. Depicted as a majestic silhouette whose outlines are filled with the cosmos, Eternity soon becoming a cornerstone of the Marvel mythos. It was a groundbreaking creation long before such cosmic conceits were commonplace. Issue #146 (July 1966) marked Ditko's final bow on the series. Bill Everett succeeded him through #152 (January 1967), followed by Marie Severin (self-inked for four issues before being inked by future Hulk signature artist Herb Trimpe in some of his earliest Marvel work), and Dan Adkins taking over from #161 (Oct. 1967) to the final issue, #168 (May 1968).

Steranko and spies

Strange Tales #135 (Aug. 1965). Cover art by Jack Kirby and Frank Giacoia.

The Human Torch and Thing had already been replaced in #135 (Aug. 1965) by Nick Fury, a superspy in keeping with the concurrent James Bond/The Man from U.N.C.L.E. craze. The 12-page feature was initially by Lee and Kirby, with the latter supplying such inventive and enduring gadgets and hardware as the Helicarrier – an airborne aircraft carrier – as well as human-replicant LMDs (Life Model Decoys), and even automobile airbags.[15] Marvel's all-purpose terrorist organization HYDRA was introduced here as well.[16]

The feature "Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D." soon became the province of writer-penciler-colorist Jim Steranko,[17] under whom it became one of the creative zeniths of the Silver Age.[18] Steranko introduced or popularized in comics such art movements of the day as psychedelia and op art, built on Kirby's longstanding work in photomontage, and created comics' first four-page spread – again inspired by Kirby, who in the Golden Age had pioneered the first full-page and double-page spreads. All the while, he spun plots of intense intrigue, barely hidden sensuality, and hi-fi hipness – and supplying his own version of Bond girls, essentially, in skintight leather, pushing what was allowable under the Comics Code at the time.[19]

"Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D." became the first Strange Tales feature to receive its own cover logo below the main title, beginning with #135; it skipped an issue before returning permanently with #137. "Doctor Strange" received its own cover logo, designed by Sol Brodsky,[20] with Strange Tales #150 (Nov. 1966).

Warlock and Brother Voodoo

Strange Tales temporarily ended with #168 (May 1968). The following month, Doctor Strange's adventures continued in the full-length Doctor Strange #169,[21] with Nick Fury moving to the newly launched Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D..

Doctor Strange was canceled with #183 (Nov. 1969). Four years later, Strange Tales resumed at its old numbering with #169 (Sept. 1973),[22] which introduced the supernatural feature Brother Voodoo by writer Len Wein and artist Gene Colan. This lasted only to issue #173 (April 1974), with Brother Voodoo continuing briefly in the black-and-white Marvel horror-comics magazine Tales of the Zombie. This was followed by two different creative teams producing three stories of The Golem in four issues (#174–177), the second of these a fill-in monster-reprint issue.

The next feature was writer-artist-colorist Jim Starlin's take on Adam Warlock, picking up the character from the 1972–73 series Warlock (a.k.a. The Power of Warlock) and reviving him in Strange Tales #178 (Feb. 1975).[23] Another creative high-water mark, this feverishly imaginative feature from Starlin, who had similarly reinvigorated Captain Marvel, introduced the Marvel characters Gamora, Pip the Troll and The Magus, and helped establish the mythos Starlin would mine in his many "Infinity" sagas of the 1990s. After issue #181 (Aug. 1975), the story would continue in Warlock #9 (Oct. 1975), picking up from the old series' numbering. Strange Tales soldiered on with Doctor Strange reprints through issue #188 (Nov. 1976).[22]

File:StrangeTales 1 (1987).jpg
Strange Tales vol. 2, #1 (April 1987). Art by "Carlbret" (Carl Potts and Bret Blevins).

Cloak and Dagger

After Doctor Strange's second series was canceled in the 1980s, Strange Tales was relaunched as vol. 2, #1 (April 1987).[24] A split book once again, it featured 10-page Doctor Strange and Cloak and Dagger stories, the latter continuing from Cloak and Dagger #11. This ended with issue #19 (Oct. 1988), after which new Doctor Strange and Cloak and Dagger series were launched.

Volumes 3 and 4

A one-shot Human Torch, Thing, and Doctor Strange story, by writer Kurt Busiek, with painted art by Ricardo Villagran, was released in squarebound bookshelf format in 1994.[25] Another one-shot, the 52-page Strange Tales: Dark Corners in 1998 was an anthology featuring Morbius the Living Vampire, the Gargoyle, Cloak and Dagger, and Spider-Man.[26] A Strange Tales miniseries featuring Man-Thing and Werewolf by Night was published in 1998 to tie up plotlines after their individual series had been canceled. Although four issues were solicited, only two issues of this volume saw print, and the conclusions of those storylines were never released.

Strange Tales MAX

In 2009 Marvel published a three issue miniseries under the MAX imprint. It featured non-mainstream comics writers and artists, such as Stan Sakai, Jason, and Michael Kupperman, and later was collected as a trade paperback. A second volume, Strange Tales II was published in 2010 and included work by Harvey Pekar, Dash Shaw, and Jhonen Vasquez.

Circulation figures

From annual required Statement of Circulation. "Average circulation" refers to total print run. "Total paid circulation" refers to number of copies actually sold, which is the above number minus returns, lost/damaged copies, and free/promotional copies.

Strange Tales vol. 1

Statement date / published in Average circulation, preceding year Average circulation, issue nearest filing date Total paid circulation, preceding year Total paid circulation, issue nearest filing date
October 1, 1965 / #143 (April 1966) 390,992 455,625 230,285 299,425
October 1, 1966 / #155 (April 1967) 420,036 474,529 261,069 276,225

Circulation figures from annual statements, charted as per-issue average paid circulation by Miller, John Jackson, et al., The Standard Catalog of Comic Books, Krause Publications 2002, pp. 1007–1009

Issue range Average paid circulation Comics with annual circulation statement
# 92–103 (Jan.-Dec. 1962) 136,637 n.a.
# 104–115 (Jan.-Dec. 1963) 189,305 # 121 (June 1964)
# 116–127 (Jan.-Dec. 1964) 215,090 # 131 (April 1965)
# 128–139 (Jan.-Dec. 1965) 230,285 # 143 (April 1966)
# 140–151 (Jan.-Dec. 1966) 261,069 # 155 (April 1967)
# 152–163 (Jan.-Dec. 1967) 241,561 # 167 (April 1968)
# 164–168 (Jan.-May 1968) 266,422 n.a.

Circulation figures from Capital City Distribution orders, charted as per-issue paid circulation by Miller, John Jackson, et al., The Standard Catalog of Comic Books, Krause Publications 2002, p. 1009

Issue / Issue range Capital City order range (variously, not in chronological order) Notes
Vol. 2, # 1 (April 1987) 25,100
Vol. 2, # 2 (May 1987) 18,000
Vol. 2, # 3–8 (June–Nov. 1987) 17,100 – 18,000
Vol. 2, # 9–12 (Dec. 1987 – March 1988) 16,100 – 16,400
Vol. 2, # 9–11 (Dec. 1987 – Feb. 1988) 16,100 – 16,400
Vol. 2, # 12 (March 1988) 18,300 Black Cat appearance
Vol. 2, # 13 (April 1988) 19,100 Punisher appearance
Vol. 2, # 14 (May 1988) 17,600 Punisher appearance
Vol. 2, # 15–18 (June–Sept. 1988) 14,700 – 15,000
Vol. 2, # 19 (Oct. 1988) 13,900 Final issue

Collected editions

  • Marvel Masterworks: Atlas Era Strange Tales:
  • Marvel Visionaries: Jack Kirby:
  • Marvel Masterworks: Human Torch:
    • Volume 1 collects Human Torch solo stories from Strange Tales #101–117 and Strange Tales Annual #2, 272 pages, September 2006, ISBN 978-0785120704
    • Volume 2 collects Human Torch solo stories from Strange Tales #118–134, 256 pages, April 2009, ISBN 978-0785135050
  • Essential Human Torch collects Human Torch solo stories from Strange Tales #101–134 and Strange Tales Annual #2, 504 pages, August 2003, ISBN 978-0785113096
  • Origins of Marvel Comics includes Doctor Strange stories from Strange Tales #110, 115, and 155, 254 pages, September 1974, Simon & Schuster, ISBN 978-0671218638
  • Marvel Masterworks Doctor Strange:
    • Volume 1 collects Doctor Strange stories from Strange Tales #110–111, 114–141, 272 pages, December 1992, ISBN 978-0785111801
    • Volume 2 collects Doctor Strange stories from Strange Tales #142–168, 304 pages, September 2005, ISBN 978-0785117377
  • Essential Doctor Strange collects Doctor Strange stories from Strange Tales #110–111 and 114–168, 608 pages, July 2008, ISBN 978-0785133070
  • Doctor Strange: Master of the Mystic Arts collects Doctor Strange stories from Strange Tales #111, 116, 119–120, 123, 131–133, 132 pages, October 1979, Simon & Schuster, ISBN 9780671248147
  • Spider-Man Omnibus Volume 1 includes Strange Tales Annual #2, 1,088 pages, November 2007, ISBN 978-0785125099
  • Bring on the Bad Guys includes Doctor Strange stories from Strange Tales #126–127, 253 pages, October 1976, Simon & Schuster, ISBN 978-0671223557
  • Son of Origins of Marvel Comics includes Nick Fury story from Strange Tales #135, 249 pages, October 1975, Simon & Schuster, ISBN 978-0671221669
  • Marvel Masterworks: Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.:
    • Volume 1 collects Nick Fury stories from Strange Tales #135–153, 288 pages, September 2007, ISBN 978-0785126867
    • Volume 2 collects Nick Fury stories from Strange Tales #154–168, 272 pages, December 2009, ISBN 978-0785135036
  • Marvel's Greatest Superhero Battles includes Doctor Strange stories from Strange Tales #139–141, 253 pages, November 1978, Simon & Schuster, ISBN 978-0671243913
  • Essential Marvel Horror, Volume 2 includes Strange Tales #169–174, and 176–177, 616 pages, November 2008, ISBN 978-0785130673
  • Marvel Masterworks: Warlock, Volume 2 collects Strange Tales #178–181, 336 pages, July 2009, ISBN 978-0785135111
  • Doctor Strange: Strange Tales collects the Dr. Strange stories from Strange Tales vol. 2 #1–19 and the Cloak & Dagger story from Strange Tales #7, ISBN 0-7851-5549-X, October 2011, softcover
  • Strange Tales collects Strange Tales MAX, 160 pages, hardcover, March 2010, ISBN 0-7851-4626-1, softcover, September 2010, ISBN 0-7851-2802-6
  • Strange Tales II collects Strange Tales MAX II, 152 pages, hardcover, October 2011, ISBN 0-7851-4823-X

See also


  1. ^ 'Strange Tales' at the Grand Comics Database
  2. ^ Brevoort, Tom; Gilbert, Laura, ed. (2008). "1950s". Marvel Chronicle A Year by Year History. Dorling Kindersley. p. 49. ISBN 978-0756641238. In response to the horror bandwagon, Timely launched...Strange Tales #1, which would become the longest-running series to enter the Marvel Age. 
  3. ^ Strange Tales #73 at the Grand Comics Database
  4. ^ Christiansen, Jeff (January 18, 2012). "Ulysses Bloodstone". The Appendix to the Handbook of the Marvel Universe. Archived from the original on January 23, 2013. Retrieved January 21, 2013. 
  5. ^ DeFalco, Tom "1960s" in Gilbert (2008), p. 80: "Fin Fang Foom was a dragon who referenced monsters like Rodan and Godzilla of Japanese movie fame."
  6. ^ Christiansen, Jeff (April 8, 2006). "Orrgo". The Appendix to the Handbook of the Marvel Universe. Archived from the original on January 23, 2013. Retrieved January 21, 2013. 
  7. ^ Christiansen, Jeff (September 11, 2010). "The Hulk (Albert Poole)". The Appendix to the Handbook of the Marvel Universe. Archived from the original on January 23, 2013. Retrieved February 12, 2011. 
  8. ^ Manning, Matthew K.; Gilbert, Laura, ed. (2012). "1960s". Spider-Man Chronicle Celebrating 50 Years of Web-Slinging. Dorling Kindersley. p. 14. ISBN 978-0756692360. While the finished version of this duo wouldn't debut for another few months, their prototypes took center stage in a short story in the Strange Tales anthology called 'Goodbye to Linda Brown'...This particular May and Ben lived by the sea and were the caretakers of their young wheelchair-bound niece named Linda Brown. 
  9. ^ DeFalco "1960s" in Gilbert (2008), p. 89: "The most popular member of the FF, the Human Torch, began a series of solo adventures in Strange Tales #101, written by Larry Lieber and drawn by Jack Kirby."
  10. ^ Manning "1960s" in Gilbert (2012), p. 19: "The theme of conflict continued when Spidey first teamed up with the Human Torch in the 18-page lead in this massive annual."
  11. ^ DeFalco "1960s" in Gilbert (2008), p. 93: "When Dr. Strange first appeared in Strange Tales #110, it was only clear that he dabbled in black magic and had the ability to project his consciousness into an astral form that could leave his physical body."
  12. ^ Lee, Stan (1974). Origins of Marvel Comics. Simon & Schuster. pp. 225–6. ISBN 978-0671218638. 
  13. ^ DeFalco "1960s" in Gilbert (2008), p. 93
  14. ^ DeFalco "1960s" in Gilbert (2008), p. 103
  15. ^ DeFalco "1960s" in Gilbert (2008), p. 109: "With Jack Kirby providing the artwork and more than a few wild ideas, Fury was made the director of the Supreme Headquarters, International Espionage, Law-Enforcement Division (SHIELD)."
  16. ^ DeFalco "1960s" in Gilbert (2008), p. 109: "This issue [#135] was also the first time readers met SHIELD's evil counterpart HYDRA, a subversive organization dedicated to world domination."
  17. ^ DeFalco "1960s" in Gilbert (2008), p. 130: "Writer/artist Jim Steranko had begun to draw the 'Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD' [feature] in Strange Tales #151 and started writing it four issues later."
  18. ^ Daniels, Les (1991). Marvel: Five Fabulous Decades of the World's Greatest Comics. Harry N. Abrams. p. 144. ISBN 9780810938212. Perhaps the most innovative new talent to emerge at Marvel during the late 1960s was Jim Steranko, whose bold innovations in graphics, layout, and design startled the readers...Steranko transformed the look of the comic book page. 
  19. ^ Ross, Jonathan (July 20, 2010). "Jonathan Ross meets Jim Steranko, his comic-book hero". The Guardian. Archived from the original on February 21, 2013. Retrieved February 21, 2013. His work on his first hit book, Nick Fury: Agent of SHIELD, took the wildly popular Bond secret-agent schtick and gave it a jazzy makeover, with outlandish plots, eye-popping visuals and even 'adult themes' that had the Comics Code Authority demanding several panels in one landmark issue be redrawn. 
  20. ^ Marvel Bullpen Bulletins: "Sensational Secrets and Incredible Inside Information Guilelessly Guaranteed to Avail You Naught!", in Tales of Suspense #83 (Nov. 1966) and other Marvel comics that month
  21. ^ DeFalco "1960s" in Gilbert (2008), p. 128: "Hailing 1968 as the beginning of the 'Second Age of Marvel Comics,' and with more titles to play with, editor Stan Lee discarded his split books and gave more characters their own titles...Strange Tales #168 [was followed] by Dr. Strange #169."
  22. ^ a b 'Strange Tales (revival) at the Grand Comics Database
  23. ^ Sanderson, Peter "1970s" in Gilbert (2008), p. 168: "Recently resurrected in The Incredible Hulk, artificial human Adam Warlock returned in a new series, taking over Strange Tales for four issues."
  24. ^ 'Strange Tales vol. 2 at the Grand Comics Database
  25. ^ 'Strange Tales one-shot at the Grand Comics Database
  26. ^ 'Strange Tales: Dark Corners' at the Grand Comics Database

External links