Stan Lee always wanted comic books to be more than just “kiddie” books. He strived to make them more acceptable to teens and adults. Over the years he (and others who worked in the genre) succeeded.
But back in the late 1970s, Marvel had only made its way into the magazine market.
In the mid-to-late 1970s Marvel published books reprinting the origins of various Marvel heroes and villains – Origins of Marvel Comics, Son of Origins, Bring on the Bad Guys, and The Superhero Women – with Lee providing the prose introduction to the featured superheroes.
Marvel also launched a successful series of reprint books in paperback through Pocket Books. Each book contained about six issues (more if the stories were from the various anthologies) of the original run of Fantastic Four, Spider-Man (three volumes), Conan (six volumes) and books devoted to the early tales of the Hulk, Dr. Strange, Captain America and Spider-Woman.
Finally, starting in 1978, Pocket Books released prose novels starring various Marvel heroes.
Bantam Books published two novels in the late 1960s based on Marvel characters: The Avengers Battle the Earth Wrecker by Otto Binder (1967) and Captain America: The Great Gold Steal by Ted White (1968).
Eleven years later, Marvel once again hoped to bring comics into the genre of “true” literature. The books were aimed at the Young Adult audience so craved in today’s market. The first two of the eleven books were not numbered; perhaps they were the only ones planned until they proved successful. They were printed by Simon & Schuster’s under their Pocket Books imprint:
#1: The Amazing Spider-Man: Mayhem in Manhattan by Len Wein and Marv Wolfman
#2: The Incredible Hulk: Stalker from the Stars by Len Wein with Marv Wolfman and Joseph Silva
#3: The Incredible Hulk: Cry of the Beast by Richard S. Meyers
#4: Captain America: Holocaust for Hire by Joseph Silva
#5: The Fantastic Four: Doomsday by Marv Wolfman
#6: The Invincible Iron Man: And Call My Killer…Modok! by William Rotsler
#7: Dr. Strange, Master of the Mystic Arts: Nightmare by William Rotsler
#8: The Amazing Spider-Man: Crime Campaign by Paul Kupperberg
#9: Stan Lee Presents: the Marvel Superheroes edited by Len Wein and Marv Wolfman
#10: The Avengers: The Man Who Stole Tomorrow by David Michelinie
#11: The Hulk and Spider-Man: Murdermoon by Paul Kupperberg
The first two books were not hyped by Marvel and only appeared in a full-page ad along with other comic book-related wares by an independent mail-order business. The rest of the series (when it became a series with #3), were mentioned as an item in Marvel’s Bullpen Bulletins. Had Marvel pushed the books with their house ads, the series may have been more successful and more books published.
I will spend the next few blogs reviewing the books. They are over-all well-done and, although aimed at the pre-teen to early-teen audience, are exciting and hold the attention of adults; particularly Bronze Age comic book fans like me!
I hope you enjoy it! If you have read these almost-40-year old books, I hope it brings back good memories. If it piques your interest, the books pop up frequently on ebay and, if you are not too picky about the condition, cost about the same as a current paperback.
Original Material Copyright 2016 Michael Curry
Characters mentioned are copyright their respective holders. Thanks to Marvel Comics and Pocket Books for the use of their images. Cover image was photographed by the author.
I also thank the original creators of all characters mentioned, whether or not they have been properly compensated or credited.