I'm continuing my project to read the Marvel comics of the Silver Age in the order they were published and I'm still discovering "new" things. For instance, when I started reading them in the mid-1960s, continued stories were the norm and part of their appeal. Early Marvel Age stories were all done-in-one, which made them perfect for the casual reader who often couldn't find the rest of the story.
So, what was Marvel's first continued story?
Unless I missed something earlier, it is the Giant-Man story in Tales to Astonish #50 and #51. Each chapter is 13 pages, as was standard in the anthology books. Apparently Stan, who had just taken over as full writer on the series the previous issue, decided that the introduction of arch-foe The Human Top was worthy of the extra pages. Despite the turnip-shaped helmet,Top was a good villain for Giant-Man. Hank had just taken on the identity and found it difficult to adjust from fighting at ant-size to tackling foes in a giant form. Top was fast and continually taunted his large, slow, clumsy opponent. This forced Hank to train to become a better fighter and was an important progression of his character.
Anyway, I just thought it was interesting that my favorite SA Marvel character gets the distinction of setting the trend for continued stories at Marvel.
My experience was just like Hoy's. I couldn't stand the stuff 35 years ago. But my tastes -- especially my appreciation of Kirby's .. um ... unique storytelling sensibilities -- have changed over time, and now I find that material loads of fun. (I also think Dave's recommendation to read these in Essentials format is a good one, not least for the cost savings.)
Kirby's dialogue was an easy target, but I think what readers couldn't forgive at the time was that Kirby refused to link up to the Uni-Mind of Marvel continuity. I like comics that can be read independently from the rest of the company's output, so that didn't bother me at all. On the other hand, it was easy to take 'more Kirby' for granted at the time, because he produced just so much of it. After his death, when the output of Kirby was a closed set, it was easier to re-examine that 70's Marvel output and appreciate it for what it was.
As for the Kirby verbiage, I've always maintained that Kirby's dialogue is to the English language as his figures are to actual human anatomy. Once you buy into it, you can love it and see it as a feature, not a flaw. Also, I've noticed that when you run into a chunk of Kirby dialogue that's particularly difficult to swallow, imagine the line being delivered by Bruce Willis, and somehow it makes perfect sense.
As I was just starting out in comics shortly after Jack Kirby took on Captain America in the '70s, I read most of those tales second-hand, and after the fact. Jack Kirby's art doesn't appeal to me much; I appreciate his work, because of his reputation and accomplishments, but I really just don't like it. (As for his writing, he's a great plotter, I suppose, but he totally has a tin ear for dialogue.)
So the only Captain America tale from that era that really grabbed me was the tabloid Marvel Treasury Special, Captain America's Bicentennial Battles. It's just too powerful to dislike.
There were several quasi-continued stories early on, of which FF #'s 3 & 4 would be the first as it did end on a cliffhanger of Johnny quitting and resolved that story line in the next issue. I've read about some continued stories of the Golden Age, most famously one in the original Captain Marvel comics. As a kid, the first continued in next issue comic I recall reading was an issue of Tales of Suspense -- the Captain America story didn't stick with me, but a near helpless Iron Man captured by the Maggia and about to face Whiplash did. I would have been 5 years old when I read that, and maybe due to Gene Colan's moody art, Whiplash looked rather scary! It wasn't until several years later that I got the next episode, in the Marvel Feature reprints. I really didn't mind continued stories, even if I hated when I couldn't find the next issue, mainly because the stories tended to be better, IMO, than most of the done-in-ones. Maybe because a series of done-in-ones in superhero mags tend to become too formulaic and ultimately boring to me.
Hoy Murphy said:
I don't think so, but others may disagree. I saw these as the FF fighting Dr. Doom in two consecutive issues, rather than the first part ending on a cliff-hanger and being resolved in the next. Sort of like Superman defeating Luthor in one issue, and in the next Lex escapes prison by turning a wrist watch into a time machine and starts a different scheme.