Marvel-ous! Issue #5 - Brief History of Marvel Comics
Marvel Comics is a superpower in the comic book industry, often listed alongside DC Comics as the two authorities in comics. Sporting household names like Spider-Man, the Avengers, and the X-Men, Marvel has become successful enough to spread to films, televison, and video games. However, it has been 75 years of hardship to get to this point. This issue of Marvel-ous! will look at the history of the company, and provide a brief summary of this journey!
Marvel Comics was originally "Timely Publications," and was founded by Martin Goodman in 1939. Timely published their first comic (ironically titled "Marvel Comics #1) in October of the same year, and introduced the original Human Torch, who at this point was an android, NOT the Jonny Storm we know from the Fantastic Four, as well as Namor, aka The Sub-Mariner.
In March of 1941, Joe Simon, then editor-in-chief of Timely, teamed up with argueably the most influential comic book artist of all time, Jack Kirby. The product of this partnership was Captain America #1, which holds had the iconic cover art of Cap punching Adolf Hitler in the face.
This issue would prove to be a major hit, reaching sales of nearly one million copies, numbers unheard of in comics at the time. This would cement Captain America alongside the Human Torch and Namor as the most successful characters that Timely Publications would ever produce.
In late 1941, Simon decided to leave Timely Comics. As Timely was now without an editor-in-chief, Goodman promoted his wife's cousin, who was then just an assistant, to the position of interm editor-in-chief, with the intention of replacing the boy when someone better came along. This young man, named Stanley Leiber, would remain editor-in-chief for decades, simultaneously writing comics under the psuedonym "Stan Lee."
Timely Comics became "Atlas Comics" in the 1950s. During this time, the world was just coming out of the Second World War, and less interested in superheroes, who prior to this period were fighting Nazis and supporting the armed troops. Atlas dropped the vast majority of their superhero titles during this period, rather focusing on monster stories, westerns, mysteries, and romance comics. This was a very difficult time in the company's history, and Stan Lee has said that it was a miracle that the company survived the decade.
In 1961, Atlas offically changed their name to "Marvel Comics" and it has stuck ever since. At this point in comic book history, DC Comics were being very successful with reviving their old line of superheroes, and Marvel decided to follow suit. The first comic Marvel attempted to do this with was also the company's first superhero team, the Fantastic Four.
At this point, much of Marvel's superhero comics were being written by Stan Lee, and drawn by Jack Kirby or Steve Ditko. Marvel attempted to make superheroes that were interesting to adults as well as children, countering the notion that comics were "for kids." During the decade of the 1960s, Marvel would create characters that are still hugely successful now, such as Spider-Man, Iron Man, the Avengers, Dr. Doom, the X-Men, Galactus, and the Green Goblin. Much of Marvel's early success is due to their superior characterization, making heroes and villians relatable and realistic.
In 1972, Martin Goodman would retire as the president and publisher of Marvel Comics, and Stan Lee would take his place. Marvel would have huge financial success through much of this period, introducing new heroes and many new talented artists and writers.
In the 1980s, comics in general became a lot darker and grittier, a trend which carried into the 1990s. In the mid 90s, Marvel would use an event called "the Onslaught Saga" to relaunch and reboot much of its titles' continuity and runs. Unfortunately, this could not prevent Marvel from falling victim to the fall of the comic book market in the late 90s, and filling for bankruptcy in 1996.
In 1997, Marvel merged with several other companies to form Marvel Enterprises, thus pulling them out of bankruptcy. At the turn of the century, Marvel introduced the Ultimate Universe, an alternate universe for the Marvel characters, which allowed new fans to jump at the very beginning of their stories. Marvel would also begin producing film adaptations of their most successful characters, such as the X-Men and Spider-Man, which were hugely successful at the time, and have paved the way for what is now called the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Now, Marvel is still building their MCU, having since being aquired by The Walt Disney Company, while dealing with other studios owning the film rights to some their biggest characters. Marvel is also building their main universe relaunch, called "Marvel NOW", and introducing their digital comic book services.
At the time I am writing this, Marvel has just released their MCU film releases until 2019, which include Black Panther, the Inhumans, Captain Marvel, Civil War, and the Infinity Wars. They are also teasing some HUGE events in the comic book universe to becoming in the next year.
Marvel has proven themselves to be worthy of their place in the comic book superpowers. They have faced hardship as well as success, and have continued to rebuild themselves and explore new territory. Personally, I can't wait to see where Marvel takes its fans next.
For this issue's question, I want to know what the first Marvel comic you ever read was? For me, mine was Scarlet Spider #1, which I read in late 2012.
I hope this cleared up some stuff on the history of Marvel Comics!