The Penguin Classics Marvel Collection presents the origin stories, seminal tales, and characters of the Marvel Universe to explore Marvel’s transformative and timeless influence on an entire genre of fantasy
Collects The Avengers #1-4, 9, 16, 26, 28, 44, 57, 58, 71, 74, and 83. It is impossible to imagine American popular culture without Marvel Comics. For decades, Marvel has published groundbreaking visual narratives that sustain attention on multiple levels: as metaphors for the experience of difference and otherness; as meditations on the fluid nature of identity; and as high-water marks in the artistic tradition of American cartooning, to name a few.
Starting in 1961, Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and their collaborators transformed the Super Hero genre with a series of new creations, including the Incredible Hulk, the Mighty Thor, and the Invincible Iron Man. In 1963, Lee and Kirby brought these characters together for the first time in a new magazine called The Avengers—adding a resurrected Captain America shortly after. Over time the Avengers’ roster would frequently change, mirroring transformations in the Marvel Universe and the society that it reflected. This unique collection gathers key issues from the first few years of the series.
A foreword by Leigh Bardugo, a scholarly introduction and apparatus by José Alaniz, and a general series introduction by Ben Saunders offer further insight into the enduring significance of The Avengers and classic Marvel comics.
About the Author
Writer-editor Stan Lee (1922– 2018) and artist Jack Kirby made comic book history in 1961 with The Fantastic Four #1. The success of its new style inspired Lee and his many collaborators to develop a number of Super HeroSuper Heroes, including, with Jack Kirby, the Incredible Hulk and the X‑Men; with Steve Ditko, the Amazing Spider- Man and Doctor Strange; and with Bill Everett, Daredevil. Lee oversaw the adventures of these creations for more than a decade before handing over the editorial reins at Marvel to others and focusing on developing Marvel’s properties in other media. For the remainder of his long life, he continued to serve as a creative figurehead at Marvel and as an ambassador for the comics medium as a whole. In his final years, Lee’s signature cameo appearances in Marvel’s films established him as one of the world’s most famous faces.
Born Jacob Kurtzberg in 1917 to Jewish-Austrian parents on New York’s Lower East Side, Jack Kirby came of age at the birth of the American comic book industry. Horrified by the rise of Nazism, Kirby co‑created the patriotic hero Captain America with Joe Simon in 1940. Cap’s exploits on the comic book page entertained millions of American readers at home and inspired US troops fighting the enemy abroad. Kirby’s partnership with Simon continued throughout the 1940s and early ’50s; together, they produced comics in every popular genre, from Western to romance. In 1958, Kirby began his equally fruitful collaboration with writer-editor Stan Lee, and in 1961 the two men co‑created the foundational text of the modern Marvel Universe: The Fantastic Four. Over the next decade, Kirby and Lee would introduce a mind-boggling array of new characters— including the Avengers, the Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, the Silver Surfer, and the X‑Men. Kirby’s groundbreaking work with Lee formed the foundation of the Marvel Universe. In the early 1970s, Kirby moved to DC Comics, where he created his interconnected Fourth World series, as well as freestanding titles such as The Demon. He returned to Marvel in 1975, writing and illustrating The Black Panther and Captain America, and introducing series such as Devil Dinosaur, and The Eternals. Kirby died in 1994. Today, he is generally regarded as one of the most important and influential creators in the history of American comics. His work has inspired multiple generations of writers, artists, designers, and filmmakers, who continue to explore his vast universe of concepts and characters. He was an inaugural inductee into the Eisner Hall of Fame in 1987.
Roy Thomas joined the Marvel Bullpen as a writer and editor under Stan Lee, scripting key runs of nearly every title of the time: Amazing Spider-Man, Avengers, Daredevil, Doctor Strange, Sub-Mariner, Thor, X-Men and more. He wrote the first 10 years of Marvel’s Conan the Barbarian and Savage Sword of Conan; and launched such series as Defenders, Iron Fist, Invaders and Warlock. At DC, he developed All-Star Squadron, Infinity Inc. and related titles, proving instrumental in reviving the Golden Age Justice Society of America. Thomas later became editor of Alter Ego, a magazine devoted to comic-book history, and co-scripted the sword-and-sorcery films Fire and Ice and Conan the Destroyer.
Don Heck (1929-1995) worked for Harvey, Quality, Hillman and other publishers before arriving at Atlas Comics, later Marvel, where he penciled and inked stories for virtually every genre: crime, horror, jungle, romance, war, Western and more. With Stan Lee and others, he launched Iron Man, his supporting cast and his early rogues’ gallery — including the Black Widow, Hawkeye and the Mandarin. He also succeeded Jack Kirby on Avengers. At DC, his artwork appeared in Justice League of America, Flash, Wonder Woman and other titles. John Buscema (1927-2002) literally wrote the book on being a Marvel artist — namely, How To Draw Comics the Marvel Way — and few were better qualified. His career dated back to the Timely/Atlas era of the late ’40s and early ’50s. Soon after beginning the Marvel Age of Comics, Stan Lee recruited Buscema from the advertising field to the Marvel Bullpen. Buscema followed a long run on Avengers with the long-anticipated first Silver Surfer series. He subsequently succeeded Jack Kirby on Fantastic Four, Thor and other titles. By the time of his retirement in 1996, Buscema had penciled nearly every Marvel title — including his personal favorite, Conan the Barbarian.
After a start as inker to his older brother John, Sal Buscema penciled Captain America, Defenders, Incredible Hulk and more. Famed for his ability to meet tight deadlines, he spread his talents across multiple genres. His 1970s work ranged from Ms. Marvel and Nova to Sub-Mariner and Spider-Woman’s first appearance in Marvel Spotlight. He was the uninterrupted artist on Spectacular Spider-Man for more than 100 issues and penciled the web-slinger’s adventures in Marvel Team-Up, in which he and writer Bill Mantlo introduced Captain Jean DeWolff. After handling more team-ups in the Thing’s Marvel Two-in-One, he reunited with brother John on Steve Englehart’s Fantastic Four. He later provided inks for Tom DeFalco’s Spider-Girl titles and Thunderstrike miniseries.
Ben Saunders is a professor of English at the University of Oregon. He is the author of Desiring Donne: Poetry, Sexuality, Interpretation and Do the Gods Wear Capes?: Spirituality, Fantasy, and Superheroes, as well as numerous critical essays on subjects ranging from the writings of Shakespeare to the recordings of Little Richard. He has also curated several museum exhibitions of comics art, including the record- breaking, multimedia touring show Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes— a retrospective exploring the artistic and cultural impact of Marvel Comics from 1939 to the present.
José Alaniz, professor in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures and the Department of Cinema and Media Studies (adjunct) at the University of Washington, Seattle, has published three monographs, Komiks: Comic Art in Russia (University Press of Mississippi, 2010); Death, Disability and the Superhero: The Silver Age and Beyond (UPM, 2014); and Resurrection: Comics in Post-Soviet Russia (OSU Press, 2022). He has also co-edited two essay collections, Comics of the New Europe: Reflections and Intersections (with Martha Kuhlman, Leuven University Press, 2020) and Uncanny Bodies: Disability and Superhero Comics (with Scott T. Smith, Penn State University Press, 2019). He formerly chaired the Executive Committee of the International Comic Arts Forum (ICAF) and was a founding board member of the Comics Studies Society. In 2020 he published his first comics collection, The Phantom Zone and Other Stories (Amatl Comix). His current book projects include Comics of the Anthropocene: Graphic Narrative at the End of Nature.
Leigh Bardugo is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Ninth House and the creator of the Grishaverse (now a Netflix original series) which spans the Shadow and Bone trilogy, the Six of Crows duology, the King of Scars duology—and much more. Her short fiction has appeared in multiple anthologies including The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy. She lives in Los Angeles and is an associate fellow of Pauli Murray College at Yale University.
“A groundbreaking example of comics representation in literature.” —Publishers Weekly
“Penguin provides introductory essays; superb analyses by the series editor, Ben Saunders; and extensive bibliographies.” —Michael Dirda, The Washington Post
“Stories become classics when generations of readers sort through them, talk about them, imitate them, and recommend them. In this case, baby boomers read them when they débuted, Gen X-ers grew up with their sequels, and millennials encountered them through Marvel movies. Each generation of fans—initially fanboys, increasingly fangirls, and these days nonbinary fans, too—found new ways not just to read the comics but to use them. That’s how canons form. Amateurs and professionals, over decades, come to something like consensus about which books matter and why—or else they love to argue about it, and we get to follow the arguments. Canons rise and fall, gain works and lose others, when one generation of people with the power to publish, teach, and edit diverges from the one before ... A top-flight comic by Kirby—or his successor on “Captain America,” Jim Steranko—barely needed words. You could follow the story just by watching the characters act and react. Thankfully, Penguin volumes do justice to these images. They reproduce sixties comics in bright, flat, colorful inks on thick white paper—unlike the dot-based process used on old newsprint, but perhaps truer to their bold, thrill-chasing spirit.” —Stephanie Burt, The New Yorker
“As before, all three of these volumes re-present Professor Ben Saunders’ learned general series intro which does an excellent job of succinctly explaining the rise of Marvel Comics and the Marvel Method.” —Forces of Geek