My most coveted books as a kid were the Marvel Fireside Books, a series of full-color hardcovers and paperbacks featuring Marvel Comics stories and characters co-published by Marvel and the Simon & Schuster division Fireside Books from 1974 to 1979. The first book, 1974’s Origins of Marvel Comics, was very successful, and inspired a series of annual sequels.
During the 70’s there was a big push to get these books into libraries and school book sales to promote literacy.
These books enabled fans of the old comic books to have access to the stories without having to pay exorbitant prices for the original back issues.
It introduced new readers to the work of Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, and other Marvel creators, and packaged the material in a traditional book format that carried more cachet than the flimsy pamphlet style of a typical comic book.
Many of the books featured painted covers illustrated by such artists as Bob Larkin and John Romita. The Fireside series predates the now common practice of packaging classic comic stories into archival editions and trade paperback collections.
Marvel Publisher Stan Lee came up with the idea of compiling the origins of some of their most popular characters in a book format similar to Jules Feiffer’s 1965 book The Great Comic Book Heroes.
Teaming up with Fireside, the paperback imprint of Simon & Schuster, Marvel initially produced Origins of Marvel Comics in 1974, featuring the origins of the Fantastic Four, the Hulk, Spider-Man, Thor, and Doctor Strange. Like the books to follow, Origins featured a foreword by Lee, and short introductions to each section, which followed the format of presenting the character’s origin followed by a contemporary story by current Marvel contributors.
Origins of Marvel Comics was followed in 1975 with Son of Origins of Marvel Comics, featuring the origins of the X-Men, Iron Man, the Avengers, Daredevil, Nick Fury, the Watcher, and the Silver Surfer.
The two Origins books were followed by Bring on the Bad Guys, origins of a selection of Marvel villains; and The Superhero Women, featuring some of Marvel’s most popular female superheroes.
Eventually, the series moved away from origin stories and published collections of classic stories with individual characters such as Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, the Hulk, Captain America, and Doctor Strange.
One of the Marvel Fireside Books superhero story editions was not a reprint but an original story. The Silver Surfer (1978) by Stan Lee, with art by Kirby and Joe Sinnott, was a new take on the late 1960s icon; and is considered by many to be one of the first true “graphic novels”.
In conjunction with their reprint collections, Marvel and Fireside also produced a number of activity and game books, how-to books, and even a cookbook all featuring Marvel characters.
The most well-known and popular book of this kind was 1978’s How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way, which is still in print.
Within a 5 year span, Marvel/Fireside published 24 different books in both hardcover and paperback. These books are highly sought after by collectors today and are difficult to find in good condition. Some hardcovers are worth hundreds of dollars.
Origins of Marvel Comics (1974) collects Fantastic Four #1 and #55, The Incredible Hulk #1 and #118, Amazing Fantasy #15, The Amazing Spider-Man #72, Journey into Mystery #83, Thor #143, and Strange Tales #110, #115, and #155.
Son of Origins of Marvel Comics (1975) collects X-Men #1, Tales of Suspense #39 and #97, The Avengers #1, Daredevil #1 and #47, Strange Tales #135, and The Silver Surfer #1.
Bring on the Bad Guys: Origins of the Marvel Comics Villains (1976) collects Fantastic Four #5, Fantastic Four Annual #2, Strange Tales #126–127, Journey into Mystery #112–113, and 115, Tales of Suspense #66–68, The Amazing Spider-Man #40, Tales to Astonish #90–91, and The Silver Surfer #3.
The Superhero Women: Featuring the Fabulous Females of Marvel Comics (1977) collects The Amazing Spider-Man #62 and #86, Marvel Feature vol. 2 #4, Fantastic Four #22, Ms. Marvel #1, Thor #189–190, The Cat #1, Tales to Astonish #44, Savage Tales #1, and Shanna the She-Devil #2.
The Best of Spidey Super Stories (1978) collects Spidey Super Stories #2, 4, 9–10, 16, 18–19, and 22.
The Incredible Hulk (1978) collects The Incredible Hulk #3, Fantastic Four #12, The Avengers #3, Tales to Astonish #60–74 and #88.
Marvel’s Greatest Superhero Battles (1978) collects Fantastic Four #25–26, Daredevil #7, X-Men #3, The Silver Surfer #4, Tales of Suspense#79–80, Tales to Astonish #82, Strange Tales #139–141, and The Amazing Spider-Man #69.
The Amazing Spider-Man (1979) collects The Amazing Spider-Man #42–43, 82, and 96–98.
The Fantastic Four (1979) collects Fantastic Four #4, 48–50, and 87.
Doctor Strange: Master of the Mystic Arts (1979) collects Strange Tales #111, 116, 119–120, 123, 131–133, The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #2, and Marvel Premiere #3.
Captain America: Sentinel of Liberty (1979) collects Captain America Comics #3, Tales of Suspense #59, 63, 79–81, The Avengers #4, and Captain America #110 and 122.
Original Graphic Novels:
The Silver Surfer: The Ultimate Cosmic Experience (1978)
Activity And How-To Titles
The Mighty Marvel Superheroes Fun Book (1976)
The Mighty Marvel Comics Strength and Fitness Book (1976)
The Mighty Marvel Superheroes Fun Book #2 (1977)
The Mighty Marvel Superheroes Cookbook (1977)
How To Draw Comics The Marvel Way (1977)
The Mighty Marvel Fun Book #3 (1978)
Marvel Mazes to Drive You Mad October (1978)
The Mighty Marvel Pin-Up Book (1978)
The Mighty Marvel Fun Book #4 (1979)
The Mighty Marvel Fun Book #5 (1979)
Marvel Word Games August (1979)
The Mighty Marvel Jumbo Fun Book (1979)