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The Strange Evolution of Strange Tales

This is a "Gonna Make a Change," which takes a look at the odd evolution that comic book series used to make. You see, nowadays, when a comic book series wants to re-tool, comic book companies simply cancel the book and start a brand-new series (heck, change a creative team and books will often reboot). In the old days, however, comic book companies felt that they had too much capital invested in the higher numbers and wanted to avoid starting over with a new #1. So we got to see some weird changes over the years.

Today, based on a suggestion from reader Todd C., we take a look at the evolution of Strange Tales!

Something that I am sure is painfully obvious by now is that comic book companies, in general, are thrilled to copy whatever is working for its rival comic book companies. Well, at the start of the 1950s, something that was definitely working was the horror stories put out by EC Comics in their various comic book series. So, in 1951, Marvel got into the horror game with Strange Tales #1...

The book was filled with basically low rent versions of the EC Comics classics. Not bad comics, per se, but certainly not as original or as clever as the EC stuff.

Here's one example, drawn by George Tuska. I don't know for sure who wrote for this series when it started. I am sure Stan Lee did SOME writing, I just don't know how much....

Over the the next four years, the book slowly but surely began to lean towards more science fiction stories than straight horror. That direction was solidified when the Comics Code went into effect, thereby making most horror stories a much harder seller than they had been in the previous years.

The first Comics Code issue was Strange Tales #35...

The stories really weren't TOO different, they just lacked the same edge that the series had in the Pre-Code days. Here's a story from #35, drawn by Joe Sinnott...

The next change occurred right around the same time that Jack Kirby was forced to go work for Atlas/Marvel because of a falling out that Kirby had with his editor at National Comics/DC Comics.

Monster comics became the highlight of the series and Kirby was the best of the best when it came to coming up with fascinating new monsters each issue...

(Why would Taboo's SECOND issue be the collector's item issue?)

The combination of Kirby on the lead story and Steve Ditko doing back-ups and various other Marvel artists sprinkling stories in here and there in the series made Strange Tales one of Marvel's most popular titles.

Of course, though, the superhero boom was coming and with it, Strange Tales would have to change once more...

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