The first two issues were referred to as Marvel Tales Annual, collecting superhero origin stories from the previous two years, as well as a war comics story. Marvel Tales Annual #1 (1964) contained:
- Spider-Man: first appearance from Amazing Fantasy #15 (Aug. 1962)
- the Hulk's first appearance from The Incredible Hulk #1 (May 1962)
- Ant-Man's first appearance from Tales to Astonish #27 (Sept. 1962)
- Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos #1 (May 1963)
- "Meet the Gang in the Merry Marvel Bullpen", a two-page photo gallery of many of the staff and freelancers, including Ayers, Goodman, Lee, Don Heck, Jack Kirby, Joe Orlando, Paul Reinman, Sam Rosen, Artie Simek, Flo Steinberg, Chic Stone, Vince Colletta, Nancy Murphy of the subscription department, and college "campus representative" Debby Ackerman
- Iron Man's first appearance from Tales of Suspense #39 (March 1963)
- Thor's first appearance from Journey into Mystery #83 (Aug. 1962)
Marvel Tales Annual #2 (1965) contained:
- X-Men #1 (Sept. 1963)
- the Hulk in "The Ringmaster", The Incredible Hulk #3 (July 1962)
- Doctor Strange's origin from Strange Tales #115
- the science-fiction story "A Monster Among Us" from Amazing Adult Fantasy #8
- The Avengers #1 (Sept. 1963)
Beginning with issue #3 (July 1966), the title became a bi-monthly, continuing in the 25¢-giant format through #33 though the page-count grew progressively smaller. Through issue #12, Marvel Tales reprinted some of the earliest issues of The Amazing Spider-Man, as well as some of the earliest stories of Thor, Ant-Man, and Fantastic Four member the Human Torch (from his solo feature in Strange Tales).
The Ant-Man stories were replaced after a few issues by anthological science-fiction stories framed as "Tales of the Wasp", introduced by Ant-Man's female partner. These in turn were replaced by 1950s Atlas Comics reprints of the superhero Marvel Boy in issues #13-16. That feature was dropped, along with the page-count, with #17.
The series was revamped to feature two Spider-Man reprints and one Dr. Strange from #28-31 — with the exception of #30, where the Dr. Strange backup was replaced by an original story featuring the X-Men member the Angel, written by Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel in one of his very rare Marvel outings. An Iron Man story served as backup in #32.
Starting with issue #34, Marvel Tales became a regular-size title reprinting a single Spider-Man story each issue, very occasionally with a new or reprinted backup story. The covers were usually slightly modified versions of the original issues, from which that book's story was taken; sometimes an entirely new cover was commissioned (especially in the early days of the title). Marvel Tales was an important title to kids of the 1970's for the reason that it allowed them to purchase classic Spider-Man stories from the previous decade, as they came out onto the newsstands month after month.