First launching in 2021, the Mighty Marvel Masterworks range is a series of trade paperbacks collecting issues from Marvel’s Silver Age in the 1960s, which saw them introduce many of their most iconic properties. . Michael Cho’s standard covers lovingly recreate the superheroes as they were in their original ’60s costumes, while comic store-exclusive DM variants feature dazzling classic covers. This ever-expanding line of affordable manga-format books offers a new release every month, allowing new readers and comic book fans to immerse themselves in the rich history of their favorite Marvel characters.
Writer Stan Lee alongside artists Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko are among the powerful talents whose designs are featured in the Mighty Marvel Masterworks line. Their work includes the very first stories of beloved superhero teams and characters, with books such as The Fantastic Four, x-menand The Amazing Spider-Man. Readers are certainly spoiled for choice and given a lot of freedom to decide which parts of the sprawling Marvel Universe they want to explore.
Since these Mighty Marvel masterpieces feature so many key moments, the historical significance of these stories can be felt while reading them. These volumes carefully set up the origins of beloved characters, following them as they adapt to their new powers at the start of their superhero careers. The debuts of several recurring villains can also be found within the pages of these Mighty Marvel Masterworks volumes, be it Doctor Doom in The Fantastic Four volume 1, or Kang the Conqueror in The Avengers volume 1. Interestingly, many concepts from those early issues inspired later editions.
For example, during The Incredible Hulk Volume 1 (by Stan Lee, Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby), Hulk is imprisoned underground, dressed as a gladiator, and put in an arena for the amusement of the ruthless Tyrannus, bearing many striking parallels to Greg Pak’s premise” Planet Hulk.” Parts of those comics even made it to the big screen, with the first tome of The Avengers (by Stan Lee, Don Heck and Jack Kirby) including a moment when the Wasp sneaks into Iron Man’s armor, which is then wonderfully referenced in the movie Captain America: Civil War. The influence of these classic stories shows how they lay the groundwork for the entire Marvel Universe, introducing ideas that have been revisited, expanded upon, and deconstructed by creators for decades.
Another point of interest that emerges from reading these early series is their episodic nature, which the creators take full advantage of by treating each issue as its own epic blockbuster. Compared to current Marvel comics where an unpacked story arc typically spans 5 or 6 issues, there’s something incredibly satisfying about reading a single old issue that offers an instant win. Taking the Avengers as an example, their films are rare and the characters will inevitably have limited screen time. However, The Avengers Volume 1 offers an exhilarating reading experience, with the ten issues it collects like ten Avengers movies in a row.
A big part of the appeal of ’60s comics is that they’re just plain fun. There is a problem in The The Fantastic Four volume 1 where Stan Lee and Jack Kirby themselves make an appearance. It perfectly exemplifies the gentle humor and warm charm of Stan Lee’s stories that make readers want to revisit this world and these characters again and again. It’s also worth mentioning that the Silver Age Marvel Universe is filled with endless possibilities, encompassing so many different genres. Whether it’s the psychedelic fantasy of strange doctorthe sci-fi pulp of The Incredible Hulk, or the action thriller Captain AmericaThere is something for every taste.
Any discussion of ’60s Marvel would be wrong, not to mention the likes of Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko. Their vibrant, saturated colors bring exciting energy to every page. Superheroes are always drawn with dynamic action poses, and the use of motion lines helps give fight scenes a kinetic feel. Yet Kirby and Ditko are also able to bring the characters’ most emotional moments to life by drawing different facial expressions and types of body language, making it easy for readers to connect with these characters. The art of each of Mighty Marvel’s masterpieces is a joy to behold, equal parts action spectacle and soap opera in the best possible way.
The soap opera aspect of Marvel superheroes is arguably why they’ve remained so popular to this day, with Lee, Kirby and Ditko quickly establishing the flawed nature of their characters. In these early tales, thought bubbles often allow the central characters quiet moments of self-reflection, revealing their deepest hopes and anxieties. Lee and Kirby do a fantastic job portraying Captain America’s troubled psyche in tales of suspense #75 featured in the first Captain America Powerful masterpieces from Marvel. At the start of the issue, Captain America considers that he’s been so taken up with his superhero duties that he couldn’t make room in his life for Steve Rogers, the man behind the mask. This psychologically fascinating inner monologue captures the timeless man in his most human form, struggling to have a sense of normalcy,
Another part of what makes the Mighty Marvel Masterworks so special is that these series embrace what makes their superheroes different. The cover of daredevil #1 draws the reader in with the question, “Can you guess why Daredevil is different from all other crime fighters…?”. Along with marketing, Marvel’s celebration of diversity is a big theme in the stories themselves. While reading The Incredible Hulk can be incredibly cathartic, with the Green Goliath remaining true to who they are, despite being continually misunderstood by society. Marvel’s superheroes are arguably all strangers, each unique in their own way, and that’s what makes them so compelling to follow.
All things considered, Mighty Marvel Masterworks is the perfect format to read seminal Silver Age stories chronicling the early days of some of the most popular superheroes. The first volumes of Black Panther and Namor: submariner are coming out soon, they should be released in October and November respectively to coincide with the release of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. The recent launch of this range means now is the perfect time to start collecting them.