After superheroes came along the title remained an anthology book. First with the Human Torch getting the feature story, followed by weird tales by Jack and Steve that were still in inventory and needed to be moved out (since Goodman had already paid to have them written and illustrated).
At some point, though, it was decided that the Torch (created by Carl Burgos, stolen by Marvel Comics) just couldn't support his own title and he was replaced by Nick Fury and Doctor Strange. Fury was created by Jack Kirby and Doctor Strange was created by Steve Ditko.
Of the two characters, I've never heard if anyone proved one way or the other who was the more popular. However, from what I have read in various journalist sources, Dr. Strange was the hit on college campuses where Marvel's comic sales were being pumped up. Those kids were digging the surrealistic imagery being imagined by the strait-laced Steve Ditko. They assumed he must be doing some heavy drugs. Of course nothing could have been further from the truth.
And one thing I have wondered about constantly over the years was why Doctor Strange never got full-cover billing on the title, especially if he was the most popular character in the book. It bore his freaking name, for Pete's sake! And yet, all he could manage was a cover blurb or a secondary illustration from time to time. Never the main cover. And the only time Strange got a full-cover treatment by Ditko was on issue #147 which was Ditko's last, and which was cobbled together by the production staff from interior Ditko illustrations. It was not really a Ditko cover. Not in the truest sense.
I've always figured the fact that Doctor Strange was never given full space on the cover because of malice from Stan Lee ("editor") and Martin Goodman (publisher). I've never checked, but it could be that Ditko had pushed the plotting credits issue first on the Doctor Strange series and then on Spider-Man. I first noted Ditko's credits there as plotting the stories before I noticed it on Spider-Man. Either way, I feel keeping Ditko's baby off the cover of the book was a way of making him pay for the affront of asking for credit for work he was doing. How dare he?!
People ask why Kirby continued to work at Marvel after Ditko walked away. Well, Kirby had bills to pay and a family to support. Ditko did, too, I reckon, but he was made of sterner stuff. Also, Kirby was given the run of the shop, so to speak. His covers were everywhere, dominating the company. Covers paid well. They paid the mortgage. Paid for groceries. For health care. Kept clothes on the backs of the wife and kids.
Ditko didn't give a shit. Ditko did his work. He just didn't get the covers for Doctor Strange.
|My copy of STRANGE TALES #135.|