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Knowledge Waits: The History of Marvel’s No-Prize

by  in Comic News Comment
Knowledge Waits: The History of Marvel’s No-Prize

This is the latest in a feature where I just share some bit of comic book history that interests me. Here is a collection of all of the installments in the feature so far.

Today, we look at the history of Marvel’s No-Prize.

While there had been some attempts of fostering fandom by Stan Lee earlier than the 1960s, it was really the surprise success of the Fantastic Four that led him to first believe that he really had something here. The earliest letters to the Fantastic Four typically ran along the lines of congratulations to Marvel for having a hit book out of nowhere – even the response by Lee tended to run a bit along the lines of, “Wow, this is cool.”

But with more readers, you’re also bound to draw more nit-pickers, and the letter pages for the fourth issue of Fantastic Four had a fan write in to critique this sequence in Fantastic Four #2…

And Stan Lee’s response was quite interesting…

Yes, the first prize of the Marvel Age of Comics was, well, an actual prize!

The winner was announced in Fantastic Four #6…

Over the next year or so, the letter page for the Fantastic Four became the place where Lee would interact with the entire Marvel fandom, which continued to grow as Marvel added more and more new characters like Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, Spider-Man, etc. Only Spider-Man got his own letter column initially.

Anyhow, Lee would do polls and stuff like that (Should Invisible Girl get kicked off the team? Should Reed not be in charge of the FF?) but it was not until Fantastic Four #22 that we got the very first mention of no prize, on a contest involving which fan has the largest comics collection, and the “no prize” was simply Lee saying that no prizes would be awarded for the winner of the contest…

The winner was announced in Fantastic Four #25, and here is where the prize was first dubbed a “No-Prize”…

The next issue, Lee announces the next contest, but rather than offering up a “No-Prize,” he once again reiterates that there will be no prizes awarded…

The winners are announced in Fantastic Four #31…

That same column, they reference some other contest that I honestly don’t know where it appeared, but anyhow, I only mention it now because Lee references running out of no-prizes. He’s obviously joking, but as we later see, it was not so obvious to Marvel fans out there…

On the next page, discover when Lee first gave out a No-Prize for someone who explained away a Marvel error and, well, “marvel” at the fan who inspired the idea!

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