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The introduction of Marvel comic's first superhero team, The Fantastic Four #1, cover-dated November 1961, began establishing the company's reputation. From then until the end of 1969, Marvel published a total of 831 comic books the majority of them written by editor-in-chief Stan Lee.


Editor-writer Lee and freelance artist Jack Kirby's Fantastic Four, reminiscent of the non-superpowered adventuring quartet, the Challengers of the Unknown, that Kirby had created for DC in 1957, originated in a Cold War culture that led their creators to revise the superhero conventions of previous eras to better reflect the psychological spirit of their age. Abandoning such comic book devices as secret identities and even costumes at first, having a monster as one of the heroes, and having its characters bicker and complain in what was later called a "superheroes in the real world" approach, the series represented a change that proved to be a great success. Marvel began publishing further superhero titles featuring such heroes and antiheroes as the Hulk, Spider-man, Thor, Ant man, Iron Man, the X-men, and Daredevil and such memorable antagonists as Doctor Doom, Magneto, Galactus, the Green Goblin, and Doctor Octopus.


Marvel's comics had a reputation for focusing on characterization to a greater extent than most superhero comics before them. This applied to The Amazing Spider-Man in particular. Its young hero suffered from self-doubt and mundane problems like any other teenager. Marvel often presents flawed superheroes, freaks, and misfits — unlike the perfect, handsome, athletic heroes found in previous traditional comic books. Some Marvel heroes looked like villains and monsters. In time, this non-traditional approach would revolutionize comic books. Writer Geoff Boucher in 2009 reflected that, "Superman and DC Comics instantly seemed like boring old Pat Boone; Marvel felt like The Beatles and the British Invasion. It was Kirby's artwork with its tension and psychedella that made it perfect for the times — or was it Lee's bravado and melodrama, which was somehow insecure and brash at the same time?"


Lee, with his charming personality and relentless salesmanship of the company, became one of the best-known names in comics. His sense of humor and generally lighthearted manner became the "voice" that permeated the stories, the letters and news-pages, and the hyperbolic house ads of that era's Marvel Comics. He fostered a clubby fan-following with Lee's exaggerated depiction of the Bullpen (Lee's name for the staff) as one big, happy family. This included printed kudos to the artists, who eventually co-plotted the stories based on the busy Lee's rough synopses or even simple spoken concepts, in what became known as the Marvel Method and contributed greatly to Marvel's product and success. Kirby in particular is generally credited for many of the cosmic ideas and characters of Fantastic Four and The Mighty Thor, such as the Watcher, the Silver Surfer, and Ego the Living Planet, while Steve Ditko is recognized as the driving artistic force behind the moody atmosphere and street-level naturalism of The Amazing Spiderman and the surreal atmosphere of the Strange Tales mystical feature, "Doctor Strange".


In 2015, over fifty years after Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s first collaboration, The Fantastic Four, there have been tens of thousands of comics with millions of memorabilia items produced, such as; action figures, puzzles, thermoses, clothing, bicycles, lunchboxes, posters, games, costumes. Throughout the years the iconic characters created by this team have been featured in numerous movies, TV shows and video games. Since 2000 there have been many Hollywood blockbuster movies; X-men, X2, X-Men The Last Stand, Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2, Spider-Man 3, Amazing Spider-Man, Daredevil, Hulk, Fantastic Four, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Iron Man 3, Captain America, Thor, Thor 2 and the #1 movie of all time, The Avengers which have grossed billions of dollars.  With The Avengers 2 and Captain America 2 releasing this year, there is no end in sight for these iconic characters that were created 40-50 years ago. Since their intoduction to the world, generation after generation have seen these characters in many forms and media as a major influence in pop culture.


“The First Panels” series of paintings created by Matt Haghighi depict the first comic panel that introduced the 60’s super-heroes and villians created by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko. They have been painstakingly reproduced in a large format using Oil and Acrylic on Canvas. Matt has been a huge fan of these characters for his entire life and felt inspired to recreate the first image that introduced these iconic character to the world. Who would have thought that those characters in those “first panels” would be at the forefront of popular culture 50 years later? These paintings have been created out of respect and to pay homage to the genius of Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko.

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