Wednesday, December 16, 2009

In The Beginning...

If you've been reading comics for any amount of time, you know that continuity can be a funny thing. In the wrong hands it can be off-putting, with story developments and shock revelations dependent on events which came years - sometimes decades - before those of the present. But when done right, the shared world concept can make the stories we're reading feel more real; events build on each other, and add to each other, to form a real sense of history and flow.

My first exposure to the shared world of Marvel Comics was in 1983. As I gradually started to experience this world, and come across references to the past - that first comic was a sequel of sorts to 1962's Fantastic Four #2, for Pete's sake! - I found myself enthralled. Here was an entire universe I'd never known, with countless stories I'd never heard of. Far from being driven away, I found such an idea exciting!

Here's the thing though: At the time, that history seemed as if it stretched backwards forever, rich and deep and vast. But at the time, the Marvel Universe was only 22 years old. Which means I've now been reading Marvel Comics for longer than the MU had existed before I encountered it. And while today scores upon scores of new Marvel comics come out each and every month, for the first 10-15 years they were still constrained by limits which precluded them having more than a handful of titles on the stand at any given time.

Yes, the Marvel Universe has a rich history. But it didn't start out that way.

Back in the Golden Age of comics, and going right through to the '50s, most comic books - like their pulp magazine cousins - were mainly anthology books, featuring collections of short stories that were almost always one-offs; the more popular mags might have leading characters who were the star of every issue, but continuing stories of any sort were the exception rather than the rule. When did this begin to change? What made Stan Lee start to bend those rules? What were the first burgeoning steps after Fantastic Four #1 towards the shared world concept that would prove such a hit? Who was the first guest star from another comic? What was the first crossover?

For years, these are questions that I've wondered about without really having any idea of the answer - not with any sort of appropriate scope, at least. To do that, one would have to start reading those early Marvels one at a time, in the order of publication, to get a sense of what readers at the time might have experienced - though with the added knowledge of what we know is to come.

So that's what I'll be doing here. For the first time I'll be watching the Marvel Universe grow from its humble beginnings - one step at a time - and making some notes here and there as I do. It will be fascinating, I think, to watch it slowly coalesce, piece by piece by piece.

I hope you'll join me on my journey. It's sure to be an enjoyable ride!

A few points:
  • Updates will hopefully be Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. For a brief time I thought about a daily schedule, but that went beyond "ambitious" and into "stupid".

  • An invaluable resource here has proved to be The Marvel Database Project, and the (best guesses as to) dates of publication come from the Marvel Comics Group 1939-1980 website. Also worth noting is The Unofficial Handbook of Marvel Comics Creators. And a nice handy glimpse at the early Marvel issues, by month, can be found here, hosted at the fantastic Marvel Masterworks Resource Page. Check them out!

  • And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention G-Mart Comics, which has been selling comics online since 1995. We may not have much in the way of early Silver Age comics - most of our stock is from the 1970s on up - but we've got a lot of everything else. And with 35% off of all new Marvel Comics - including the Marvel Masterworks and Essentials that reprint all these stories - it's a deal that's hard to beat! If you've got any questions, just drop me a line at

  • You can use a newsreader, browser or other devices to automatically import the feed for this site via the RSS feed, and the livejournal feed is marvelgenesis.

  • Finally, I'm interested in hearing what people think as this goes along, so please feel free to introduce yourself in the comments section! I'd love to hear from you.


Blue Bag Horse said...

Good luck! I am looking forward to see what you've got for us!

Anonymous said...

Hi there, your blog is just what I was looking for as I'm a new subscriber to Marvel Comics Online Digital Unlimited Comics or whatever its name is!
I'm gonna be able to sort what I read according to a coherent timeline.
Thank you very much!

Jonathan. said...

Very Cool

Mike said...

Just started doing something similar recently, and stumbled upon your blog while searching to see if anyone else has tried something as ambitious as this. What a great blog!

Don Alsafi said...


Ronaldo said...

Hi Don... I just found your blog because I was looking for a rational way to read the classic comics. I just think you could have started with the creation of Captain America, that happened in Captain America Comics in 1941. I think this comic starts everything. Reading the first 3 issues is interesting. The rest is not so important and can be connected to the first Fantastic Four...
Great job and keep on going!!!

From Brazil...

Anonymous said...

I just saw this book at my local library last night and was wondering if you'd seen it.

Don Alsafi said...

I own a copy myself! :) It's not a perfect volume, and is more a selective survey than the comprehensive approach taken here, but it's still a wonderful read. To any who enjoy this blog, I heartily recommend it!

Anonymous said...

I love this website i love all the great fantastic comics on this website

Matt Celis said...

Glad to find your site--I have all the Masterworks up to around '70 and always thought it would be neat to read the comics in order of publication but could never be sure of the right sequence. I just wish they had letters pages in those Masterworks!

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