One of the hallmarks of the Marvel Age of Comics, which started with Fantastic Four #1 in late 1961, was superhero team-ups. Since Stan Lee both wrote and edited most of the titles, he would have characters “randomly” show up in other titles, which helped cross-promote all the Marvel comicbooks. Of course, there was The Avengers, one could say the ultimate team-up, starting with issue #1 in 1963, but this was a little different than the monthly team-ups of DC Comics’ lead heroes in the Justice League of America or Batman teaming with various heroes one on one in The Brave and the Bold. These were regularly scheduled team-ups of featured heroes, but Stan preferred a more organic and unpredictable approach. Here are five of the best of those early Marvel team-ups scripted by Stan Lee and drawn by some of the greatest artists in comicbook history.
5. Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four in The Amazing Spider-Man #1 (1963)
With art by Steve Ditko, Stan introduced Spider-Man to the Fantastic Four in the web-slinger’s very first issue! Spidey was looking for a job and thought he could apply to the Fantastic Four to become a member. Of course, being a reckless teenager, he thought the best way to demonstrate his powers was by breaking into the FF’s headquarters. Obviously, the interview goes a bit awry, but he certainly leaves an impression on the superhero quartet, although he doesn’t get the job. Still, in retrospect, had Spidey then joined the group, the Fantastic Five doesn’t sound so bad, does it?
4. Spider-Man and Daredevil in The Amazing Spider-Man #16 (1964)
By this time, Spider-Man was no longer the new kid on the Marvel superhero block. That title went to Daredevil, who, still garbed in his yellow and black suit, teamed up with Spidey to take on the Ringmaster and his Circus of Crime in this book, written by Stan with art by Steve Ditko. It took DD’s unique abilities to help Spidey overcome the Ringmaster’s mental control and win the day.
3. Daredevil and Spider-Man in Daredevil #16-17 (1966)
A couple years later, Spidey returned the favor by guest-starring with the now red-suited Daredevil. Again written by Stan, this issue is notable as one of the earliest depictions of Spider-Man by the great artist John Romita, who went on to draw many adventures of Spidey to come.
With so many Spider-Man appearances on this list so far, it is little wonder that Marvel later dedicated an entire series to team-ups featuring primarily Spidey and another Marvel hero in the Marvel Team-Up title, which ran from 1972 to 1985, an impressive run by today’s standards.
2. The Mighty Thor vs. the Incredible Hulk in Journey Into Mystery #112 (1965)
This epic battle of titans was scripted by Stan and drawn by the great Jack “King” Kirby and featured a mano a mano battle between the Thunder God and the Green Goliath. This was the first of many battles to come and the eternal question of who would win between Thor and the Hulk still remains unsettled.
1. Daredevil vs. the Sub-Mariner in Daredevil #7 (1965)
In another script from Stan, with art by the legendary Wally Wood, Prince Namor the Sub-Mariner comes to the surface world, namely New York City, and in his impatience, threatens the property and welfare of New York’s citizens. But the FF is out of town, as are the Avengers and evidently Spidey as well, leaving our blind hero, with only his enhanced senses and well-trained but still humanly vulnerable body to stop Namor. It’s an epic team-up which leaves DD defeated but greatly admired by the mighty Namor, who returns to his native sea rather than carry on the fight.
All of these stories can be revisited today in Marvel Masterworks, Marvel Essential and Epic Collection trade paperback collections, and are available as well in digital format at comiXology.com and marvel.com.