Story of Marvel: From Comic Books to a Universe of Superheroes

Harshit Verma Harshit Verma
Oct 16, 2021 7 min read
Story of Marvel: From Comic Books to a Universe of Superheroes

We all know Marvel. The world's biggest and most celebrated Superheroes Fiction producer, but it is more than just that. If we peek into its history, it is as big as it gets. Starting from a pulp fiction comic producing name, it has travelled a journey that is not spoken much. This is an article covering that journey. From almost bankruptcy to producing an enormous Cinematic Universe and huge fandom. The journey, that is heroic in every sense.

The Origins of Marvel
Marvel - The Golden Age(1938-56)
Marvel - Silver Age(1956-70)
Marvel - Bronze Age (1970-85)
Marvel - Modern Age(1985-present)
The Marvellous Story
Dissecting the growth of Marvel
Lesser Known Facts about Marvel
FAQs

The Origins of Marvel

Marvel came into existence in 1939. When a comic book publisher named Martin Goodman thought to make some cash from the growing market of comic books. The title was “Timely comics” under which the first comic was published as Marvel One. Comics were short books with an average of 32 pages and at that time were just starting out. They showcased some superheroes, with their usual work of fighting the bad and re-establishing peace in the world. Superheroes like the Human torch and submariner turned the air in the town. As the comics were making their cult, More superheroes came to uplift the ground for marvel. The most important was Captain America who made a debut in 1941 as a fighting soldier. That was an outbreak almost instantly.

Timely Comics logo

That era, now called the “Golden Era” of comics, was the beginning of Comics celebration and Marvel. If we look back to the history of ‘how comics have travelled through time’, we can map several ages depending upon their types and traits.


Popular Subsidiaries Of The Walt Disney Company
Walt Disney is a leader in the media and entertainment industry. This is mainly because of its subsidiaries like ABC, ESPN, Pixar, LucasFilms, Marvel, etc.

Marvel - The Golden Age (1938-56)

The Era of World War Two. The era in time when heroes like Superman, Captain America, Wonder Woman, and Batman came in their debut. These were patriotic heroes, fighting the evil and inaugurating peace. Many times Heroes could be seen fighting real world bad guys like Hitler in the comics. The time couldn’t be perfect, the heroes struck a chord and people loved them. It laid a strong base of love for Comics as well as Super Heroes. Even in the aftermath of the traumatic times, comics were seen as a way for children to ease up their fear of war, and to neutralise their anxiety.

The Comic Age

Marvel - Silver Age (1956-70)

Then came the silver age when comics with a strong base became the mainstream source of entertainment among Americans. This was the time when the golden age heroes lost a little of their shine. Heroes were tailored with time, and then we had Spiderman and The Fantastic Four. These were more into the area of mystery and horror genres.

Silver Age Representation

Marvel - Bronze Age (1970-85)

This was more commonly known as the continuing age, when the heroes from the past (Most famous), that is from the golden era continued to showcase some past issues like poverty and drug abuse.

Marvel - Modern Age (1985-present)

The time after 1985 is the modern age of comics that is still continuing, when superheroes from comics are taken from the books, to a new genre of Movies and Series and Spin Offs. The deep dive into the world of Science Fiction.

Later on, after the inception, Martin saw a surge in readers as commissioned writers like Stan Lee and Jack Kirby started to write for the comics. They made the heroes more personal and neighbourhood friendly than ever. Heroes like Spiderman and Fantastic Four were a hit with this hack. With these characterisations and stories connected and rooted to normal life, These writers were a hit and they pioneered the time of young new talent of writers. Writers like Jim Steranko, who introduces Nick Fury (A Fictional Secret Agent) added in the wind’s direction. Revitalising of X-Men based on comics by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby and recurrence of Captain America as a patriotic soldier was a fad.

The Marvellous Story

Marvel Comics and superheroes
Marvel Comics and superheroes

After the golden age of comics and the success of heroes like Captain America, Martin changed the title to Atlas Comics. That experimented with new genres. Again in the 1960s, the comic producer changed its name to Marvel Comics after DC (Another Comic producer and their largest competitor) entered the market in the silver age. They both were the top players at that time. Soon Marvel got bigger and bigger and went public in 1991. As it got huge, management issues crept in and the company went almost bankrupt in 1996 and surprisingly sailed through the bankruptcy and got up again in 1998. Soon out of the pit, they started diversifying into digital comics and Marvel Cinematic Universe under the name of Marvel Studios. Which eventually was bought by Walt Disney in 2009.

As Marvel diversified, They started to work on movies. In 2012 they dropped The Avengers, A film starring Iron Man, Captain America and Thor. All these characters were already hit and now a film starring all these was a recipe for success. In the 21st Century, Marvel saw that the most profits are from Toys and Video games of famous Heroes and merchandise of blockbuster releases.

Dissecting the growth of Marvel

(and How it managed to scale heights)

I Hate Sequels. They are never as good as the first book - Connie Wills (American Writer)
Ed Catmull, Pixar’s CEO, describes movie sequels as a form of “creative bankruptcy”

It is evident with our personal experience too that, there is very little chance of a sequel doing better among fans than the original movie. But Marvel has kept redefining it again and again for over a decade now. If it happens once or twice, it's luck but Marvel seems to have somehow found a formula for back to back blockbuster releases. Some of the key aspects that we can notice are -

Equality to Flow and Renewal

Marvel is trying (and succeeding) to follow initials and future growth. That means the comic giant is good in the continuity of its characters and the customer retention that comes with it. They are good at managing the past flow. Another thing is that Marvel is also in parallel renewing its ideas around superheroes to experiment.

Exceeding Predictions

Ask any Marvel fan, every movie is prediction proof. Marvel knows how to violate expectations in a fun way. Let us take an example of a famous franchise, Thor. The first part is super classic and establishes a good overview of the character, The second part is totally different in tone and the third is a comedy mixed with Hulk. This adds some suspense feel to Marvel releases.

Rollercoaster tone

This observation is more of an addition to the last mentioned step. If we pinpoint tones used in movies in the original order then we will find a graph that is a nice ZIGZAG figure. Showing the roller coaster of emotions or tones used in creating these movie masterpieces.

Marvel knows how to retain its fans and that is how it has managed to create a Universe of Fandom out of comics.

Lesser Known Facts about Marvel

  • During the early 90s, Michael Jackson tried to buy Marvel Comics. The reason behind it was that he wanted to star as Spider-Man in his version of the movie.
  • During Marvel’s boom in 1984, the head of Warner Communications’ publishing approached former Marvel editor Jim Shooter for licensing the publishing rights to the entire DC Comics universe.
  • DC refused the offer and continued to publish comics. Later on, DC became a hit with readers as Marvel hit bankruptcy in 1996.
  • Venom was created by a fan in 1982 in a contest held by Marvel Comics. Randy Schueller submitted a concept art for a storyline that involved Spider-Man upgrading his suit to all black for stealth purposes.
  • A character named Jihad was introduced eleven days before the 9-11 attack. Jihad was introduced as a character bent on world destruction and conquest. However, due to the sensitivity after the historical event of 9/11, the character was written off.
  • The King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley’s trademark haircut was based on the Marvel superhero, Captain Marvel Jr.
  • The Men in Black is owned by Marvel. Originally owned by Malibu Comics, Marvel bought the rights for The Men in Black in 1994. This would mean that all films, shows, and video games have been produced by Marvel.

FAQs

When was Marvel comics founded?

Marvel Comics was founded on 1939 in New York.

Who was first Marvel superhero?

Sub-Mariner was the first Marvel Superhero.

Some of the most popular Marvel superheros are:

  • Spider-Man
  • Iron Man
  • Captain America
  • The Hulk
  • Thor
  • Wolverine
  • Ant-Man
  • The Wasp
  • Black Widow
  • Captain Marvel

Who is owner of Marvel Studios?

The Walt Disney Company is the owner of Marvel Studios.

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