Publication Dates: June 1951 – May 1968
Number of Issues Published: 168 (#1 – #168)
Dimensions: Standard Golden Age and Silver Age US
Paper Stock: Newsprint
Publishing Format: Was Ongoing Series
Publication Type: magazine
Accompanied from 1962–1963 by Strange Tales Annual (Marvel, 1962 series).
Launched as an SF/Horror anthology along with Mystic (Marvel, 1951 series), increasing Atlas’s SF line from four to six books. This book, along with World of Fantasy (Marvel, 1956 series), was one of only two SF anthologies to resume publication immediately following the publication hiatus caused by the collapse of Atlas’s distributor and the subsequent restructuring known as the “Atlas Implosion”. Strange Tales included a Human Torch/Human Torch & Thing feature in issues #101–134, a Doctor Strange feature from issue #110 (July 1963), and a Nick Fury feature from issue #135 (August 1965). Strange Tales introduced Doctor Strange and SHIELD.
Scripts were generally not credited before the superhero days. However, it is well known that Stan Lee (sometimes assisted by Larry Lieber, or Lieber on his own) wrote the overwhelming majority of these stories from 1959 to 1963. Where there is no positive confirmation, credits may be listed as “Stan Lee ?; Larry Lieber ?”, or either person individually, or simply “?”, according to the indexer’s best information.
Numbering continues with Doctor Strange (Marvel, 1968 series) #169
Information thanks to the Grand Comic Database
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.
The Marvel Comics series ran 168 issues, cover-dated June 1951 to May 1968. 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, 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.
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), the extraterrestrial dragon Fin Fang Foom, who first appeared in #89 (Oct. 1961), and the extraterrestrial would-be world conquerors Gorgolla, introduced in #74 (April 1960), and Orrgo, introduced in #90 (Nov. 1961).
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.
Prototypes of the Spider-Man supporting characters Aunt May and Uncle Ben appeared in a short story in Strange Tales #97 (June 1962).
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). 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.
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), 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. 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) and Dormammu in issue #126 (Nov. 1964). Clea, who would become a longtime love interest for Doctor Strange, was also introduced in issue #126.
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).