Can you believe two of the most influential comicbook teams of all time debuted on the same day? That’s right! Sixty years ago today, July 2, 1963, Marvel first introduced The X-Men and The Avengers to fans, both co-created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.
Stan and Jack’s successful 1961 team, Fantastic Four, was Marvel’s answer to DC’s Justice League of America. That team became a huge hit, and a year later, Spider-Man did, too. Stan’s boss, Martin Goodman, wanted more— specifically, of what was selling the best. So, Martin asked Stan for two new titles, one featuring a team and one starring a solo hero, to closely mirror two of Marvel’s most popular comics. But that’s not exactly what he got.
Stan got to thinking about the group. Instead of having the members gain superpowers through external means, why not say they were born that way? And with that, The X-Men were born. Stan originally planned to title the comic The Mutants, but Martin turned that down, citing the fact that some readers may not know what the word meant. Stan gave it some more thought and kept coming back to the fact that the heroes had extra powers above and beyond those that humans possessed. “The word extra was the key… And, if we think of the word ‘extra’ in phonetic terms, we might think of that phrase as ‘people with something x-tra.’ And a man with something x-tra could conceivably be called an x-man! Therefore… why not call the book The X-Men?” Ironically, he himself had doubts that fans would understand the made-up term ‘x-men,’ but Martin approved, and the name was set.
The introduction of the five mutant main characters—Cyclops, Iceman, Marvel Girl, Angel and Beast—along with their leader Professor X wasn’t an instant success. But it was certainly timely. The X-Men’s battles against villains and other mutants, like Magneto, weren’t as clear cut as good vs. evil; in fact, one of the most unique things about the team was that they found themselves hated by those deemed normal. That was an idea Stan latched onto and loved. ”It not only made them different, but it was a good metaphor for what was happening with the Civil Rights Movement in the country at that time,” Stan said in a 2000 interview. Indeed, the team’s struggles against discrimination have proved relatable to fans in many different ways over the past 60 years.
How Daredevil Plays Into This
Remember a few sentences up when we wrote that Martin Goodman wanted Stan to craft a title similar to Spider-Man? Well, Daredevil was that character. Actually, he was based on an old hero, and Stan’s task was to revive him. Bill Everett, who co-created Sub-Mariner, signed on as the artist, but there was a problem: Bill had two jobs, which meant he wouldn’t be able to finish Daredevil in time for a summer 1963 debut. (The character eventually hit newsstands in February 1964.)
Enter The Avengers
With the deadline for that second title looming, Stan pivoted. He went back to another team idea, this time much more like Justice League of America. He would create a team from already-established heroes! Stan left out big names like Spider-Man and Doctor Strange, who seemed to work better alone. Instead, he brought together Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk, Ant-Man, and the Wasp to form the initial group. Though Jack had his hands full with other assignments like The X-Men, Stan asked him to work on the comic. Jack had considerable knowledge of the characters involved; in fact, he co-created four of the heroes! While the team and stories would evolve, especially considering how quickly the first issue was put together, the foundation for another celebrated team was set! The rest, as they say, is history.