Marvel Turns 80
Today, Marvel turned 80.
Yes, folks who only know Marvel through the movies, Marvel is less that 20 years younger than the Walt Disney Company itself.
I have been reading Marvel comics since before I could read. I remember curling up to some old issues of the Fantastic Four expertly drawn by Jack "The King" Kirby. I grew up with characters like Luke Cage, Shang-Chi, Iron Fist and more. I loved every moment I spent with these characters.
So, on this 80th birthday, I wanted to take a look back on the company's history, especially for those of you who are relatively new to Marvel.
Back in 1939, Marvel was known as Timely comics which launched with Marvel Comics #1 featuring the android Human Torch and the Atlantean anti-hero Namor, both of whom still exist today.
During that time, Captain America, created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, became Marvel's biggest hero as he fought Nazis throughout World War II. But, after the war, the American public turned it's back on superheroes and Marvel started producing more western and teen romance comics throughout the 1950s.
Then, in the 1960s, frustrated writer Stan Lee, who changed his name from Stanley Lieber to avoid the shame of writing for comics, was about to quit. But his wife Joan convinced him to write one last thing that he would be proud of writing. That thing would be the Fantastic Four which sparked a renaissance for Marvel and the superhero genre.
In 1961, Fantastic Four #1 was released under the new banner Marvel in honor of the first comic the company published. The company would then forever be known as Marvel. It was during the 1960s that Marvel would create some of its most enduring characters, including Spider-Man, Iron Man, Thor, the X-Men, Doctor Strange, Black Widow,and Hulk.
Unlike other comics, Marvel's heroes were flawed. They were humble humans with super powers. And whether it be Peter Parker trying to deal with being a teenager and a superhero or the discrimination of mutants by the general public, people saw something special in these characters.
Starting in the late 1960s, Marvel tried to expand beyond producing comic books. Starting in 1967, Marvel had a successful animated series in Spider-Man which had one of the best theme songs in television history. In 1977, Marvel had its first hit live action series in The Incredible Hulk. Despite this and the popularity of its characters, Marvel just could never get its heroes off the ground in terms of live action movies and television.
Still, Marvel had success in television animated series with Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends, X-Men and Fantastic Four.
In the 1990s, Marvel hit hard times after the speculator market busted the comics industry. Marvel was going bankrupt and sold itself to toy company Toy Biz to form Marvel Entertainment. And, to keep the company afloat, it started selling the film rights to the studios. Fantastic Four and the X-Men went to 20th Century Fox, Spider-Man went to Sony and the Hulk and Namor went to Universal.
In the early 2000s, Marvel movies started seeing success in Blade, X-Men and Spider-Man. Marvel heroes were finally being seen on the big screen. But, it was bittersweet as the film right were owned by other studios.
In the late 2000s, Marvel decided to strike out on its own, launching Marvel Studios. The thought was to create different superhero movies that would be connected so the heroes could come together once in awhile. And, so, in 2008, Iron Man graced the screens and would soon change the course of history at Marvel. From there came The Incredible Hulk, Thor, and Captain America: The First Avenger. In 2012, these heroes eventually came together along with Black Widow and Hawkeye to form Marvel's Avengers.
The experiment proved to be a success with Marvel Studios becoming a powerhouse in the movie industry. It eventually bore movies for lesser known heroes such as the Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man and the Wasp and Doctor Strange as well embracing diversity with Black Panther and Captain Marvel. Eleven years later, Marvel produced the culmination of what would be known as the Infinity Saga in Avengers: Endgame. This movie has gone on to the highest grossing film of all time, beating long time champ Avatar.
Marvel has a lot to be proud of through the company's lifeblood in its comics, the movies, video games, books and toys. Happy 80th anniversary, Marvel.