In the 55 years since their creation Marvel superheroes have appeared in every form of media and on a dizzying variety of products and merchandising. Apart from comics, they have appeared in books, cartoons, movies, board games, posters, trading cards as well as cereal packets, drinks cartoons, sweet wrappers, clothing, shoes — anything with a printed image really. But in 2007 ten of Marvel’s most popular characters made the move to true mainstream acceptance when they appeared on 20 official US Postal Service stamps.
Marvel Comics Super Heroes stamps were issued on 26th July 2007, and were priced at 41 cents. The stamps were split into two groups of ten and featured portraits of classic Marvel superheroes on one set – Spider-Man, Captain America, The Hulk, Spider-Woman, The Sub-Mariner, The Thing, The Silver Surfer, Iron Man and Elektra – while the other ten stamps featured notable comic book covers starring the same characters. (For those keen-eyed readers who noticed that the first issue of X-Men was published 11 years before Wolverine’ first appearance, give yourself a No-Prize). The stamps also featured artwork by some of the industry’s biggest stars, including Jack Kirby, John Buscema, John Byrne, Steve Ditko, Frank Miller, Gil Kane and Gene Colan.
The stamps were designed by Carl Hermann, one of USPS’ art directors, who spent over two years negotiating with Marvel and the Postal Services Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee before the final designs were approved (by all accounts Elekra’s cleavage caused some heated discussions). The set of 20 stamps were officially launched at a ceremony at that year’s San Diego Comic-Con, taking the coveted first panel slot no less. Along with the basic stamp set USPS also released first day covers (that sported a rather nifty Spider-Man franking stamp) as well as limited edition 22 karat gold stamps not available to the general public. Over 250 million sheets of stamps were printed.
The stamps look great, and it’s a genuine pleasure to see some of my favourite Marvel characters immortalised in this fashion. True, some of the comic book covers had to be squashed into the more-square shape of the stamps — Iron Man for instance looks a bit squished — and the cover to Daredevil #176 had to be altered to add Elektra’s name, but they still work very well. And how cool would it have been to use an Incredible Hulk stamp when paying a utility bill?
Here are all 20 Marvel Comics Super Heroes stamps, with artist credits…