- Looking for another article with the name Marvel Comics? Check out the Marvel Comics disambiguation page.
Marvel Comics is the common name and primary imprint of Marvel Worldwide Inc., formerly Marvel Publishing, Inc. and Marvel Comics Group, is an American publisher of comic books and related media. In 2009, The Walt Disney Company acquired Marvel Entertainment, Marvel Worldwide's parent company.
Marvel started in 1939 as Timely Publications, and by the early 2950's had generally become known as Atlas Comics. Marvel's modern incarnation dates from 1961, the year that the company launched The Fantastic Four and other superhero titles created Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and many others.
Marvel counts among it's characters such well-known superheroes such as Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk, Thor, Spider-Man, Wolverine and Ant-Man, such teams as the Avengers, the Guardians of the Galaxy, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men and the Inhumans, with antagonists such as Doctor Doom, Red Skull, Green Goblin, Ultron, Doctor Octopus, Thanos, Magneto and Loki. Most of Marvel's fictional characters operate in a single reality known as the Marvel Universe, with locations that mirror real-life cities. Characters such as Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, the Avengers, Daredevil and Doctor Strange are based in New York City, whereas the X-Men have historically been based in Salem Center, New York and Hulk's stories have been set in the American Southwest.
As with all other comic books based on Marvel characters the comic books series Spider-Man Adventures and Adventures of Spider-Man which were based on Spider-Man: The Animated Series were published by Marvel Comics.
Martin Goodman founded the company later known as Marvel Comics under the name Timely Publications in 1939. Martin Goodman, a pulp magazine publisher who had started with a Western pulp in 1933, was expanding into the emerging - and by then already highly popular - new medium of comic books. Launching his new line from his existing company's offices at 330 West 42nd Street, New York City, he officially held the titles of editor, managing editor, and business manager, with Abraham Goodman officially listed as publisher.
Timely's first publication, Marvel Comics #1 (cover dated Oct. 1939), included the first appearance of Carl Burgos' android superhero the Human Torch, and the first appearance of Bill Everett's anti-hero Namor the Sub-Mariner, among other features. The issue was a great success, with it and a second printing the following month selling, combined, nearly 900,000 copies. While it's contents came from an outside packager, Funnies, Inc., Timely had it's own staff in place by the following year. The company's first true editor, writer-artist Joe Simon, teamed with artist and emerging industry notable Jack Kirby to create one of the first patriotically themed superheroes, Captain America, in Captain America Comics #1 (March 1941). It, too, proved a hit, with sales of nearly one million. Goodman formed Timely Comics, Inc., beginning with comics cover-dated April 1941 of Spring 1941.
While no other Timely character would achieve the success of these "big three", some notable heroes-many of which continued to appear in modern day retcon appearances and flashbacks - include the Whizzer, Miss America, the Destroyer, the original Vision, and the Angle. Timely also also published one of humor cartoonist Basil Wolverton's best-known features, "Powerhouse Pepper", as well as a line of children's funny-animal comics featuring popular characters like Super Rabbit and the duo Ziggy Pig and Silly Seal.
Goodman hired his wife's cousin, Stanley Martin Lieber, as a general office assistant in 1939. When editor Simon left the company in late 1941, Goodman made Lieber - by then writing pseudonymously as "Stan Lee" - interim editor of the comics line, a position Lee kept for decades except for three years during his military service in World War II. Lee wrote extensively for Timely, contributing to a number of different titles.
Goodman's business strategy involved having various magazines and comic book published by a number of corporations all operating out of the same office and with the same staff. One of these shell corporations through which Timely Comics was published was named Marvel Comics by at least Marvel Mystery Comics #55 (May 1944). As well, some comics' covers, such as All Surprise Comics #12 (Winter 1946 - 1947), were labeled "A Marvel Magazine", many years before Goodman would formally adopt the name in 1961.
The post-war America comic market saw superheroes falling out of fashion. Goodman's comic book line dropped them for the most part and expanded into a wider variety of genres that even Timely had published, featuring horror, Westerns, humor, funny animal, men's adventure-drama, giant monster, crime, and war comics, and later adding jungle books, romance titles, espionage, and even medieval adventure, Bible stories and sports.
Goodman began using the globe logo of the Atlas News Company, the newsstand-distributed company he owned, on comics cover-dated November 1951 even though another company, Kable News, continued to distribute his comics through the August 1952 issues. This globe branding united a line put out by the same publisher, staff and freelancers through 59 shell companies, from Animirth Comics to Zenith Publications.
Atlas, rather than innovate, took a proven route of following popular trends in television and movies - Westerns and war dramas prevailing for a time, drive-in movie monsters another time - and even other comic books, particularly the EC horror line. Atlas also published a plethora of children's and teen humor titles, including Dan DeCarlo's Homer the Happy Ghost and Homer Hooper. Atlas unsuccessfully attempted to revive superheroes from late 1953 to mid-1954, with the Human Torch (art by Syd Shores and Dick Ayers, variously), the Sub-Mariner (drawn and most stories written by Bill Everett), and Captain America (writer Stan Lee, artist John Romita Sr.). Atlas did not achieve any breakout hits and, according to Stan Lee, Atlas survived chiefly because it produced work quickly, cheaply, and at a passable quality.
Comic Code Authority
During this time, the Comics Code Authority made it's debut in September 1954, spearheaded by German-American psychiatrist Fredrick Wortham. Wortham published the book Seduction of the Innocent in order to force people to see that comics were impacting American youth. He believed violent comics were causing children to be reckless and were turning them into delinquents. In September 1954, comic book publishers got together to set up their own self-censorship organization - the Comics Magazine Association of America - in order to appease audiences. The next month, the code was published, forcing comic book companies to send their comics to them in order to gain their seal of approval. The stamp on the cover showed audiences that the comics were considered wholesome, entertaining, and educational.
The first modern comic books under the Marvel Comics brand were the science-fiction anthology Journey into Mystery #69 and the teen-humor title Patsy Walker #95 (both cover dated June 1961), which each displayed an "MC" box on it's cover. Then, in the wake of DC Comics' success in reviving superheroes in the late 1950's and early 1960's, particularly with the Flash, Green Lantern, and other members of the team Justice League of America, Marvel followed suit.
In 1961, writer-editor Stan Lee revolutionized superhero comics by introducing superheroes designed to appeal to more older readers than the predominantly child audiences of the medium. Modern Marvel's first superhero team, the titular stars of The Fantastic Four #1 (November, 1961), broke convention with other comic book archetypes of the time by squabbling, holding grudges both deep and petty, and eschewing anonymity of secret identities in favor of celebrity status. Subsequently, Marvel comics developed a reputation for focusing on characterization and adult issues to a greater extant than most superhero comics before them, a quality which the new generation of older readers appreciated. This applied to The Amazing Spider-Man title in particular, which turned out to be Marvel's most successful book. It's young hero suffered from self-doubt and mundane problems like any other teenager, something readers could identify with.
Lee and freelance artist and eventual co-plotter Jack Kirby's Fantastic Four originated in a Cold War culture that led their creators to revise the superhero conventions of previous era to better reflect the psychological spirit of their age. Eschewing such comic-book tropes as secret identities and even costumes at first, having a monster as one of the heroes, and having it's characters bicker and complain in what was later called a "superheroes in the real world" approach, the series represented a change that proved to be a great success.
Marvel often presented flawed superheroes, freaks, and misfits - unlike the perfect, handsome, athletic heroes found in previous traditional comic books. Some Marvel heroes looked like villains and monsters such as the Hulk and the Thing. This naturalistic approach even extended into topical politics.
Comics historian Mike Benton also noted:
- "In the world of [rival DC Comics'] Superman comic books, communism did not exist. Superman rarely crossed national borders or involved himself in political disputes. From 1962 to 1965, there were more communists [in Marvel Comics] than on the subscription list of Pravda. Communists agents attack Ant-Man in his laboratory, red henchman jump the Fantastic Four on the moon, and Viet Cong guerrillas take potshots at Iron Man."
All of these elements struck a chord with the older readers, such as college-aged adults, and they successfully gained in a way not seen before. In 1965, Spider-Man and the Hulk were both featured in Esquire magazine's list of 28 college campus heroes, alongside John F. Kennedy and Bob Dylan. In 2009 writer Geoff Boucher reflected that, "Superman and DC Comics instantly seemed like boring old Pat Boone; Marvel felt like The Beatles and the British Invasion. It was Kirby's artwork with it's tension and psychedalia that made it perfect for the times - or was it Lee's bravado and melodrama, which was somehow insecure and brash at the same time?"
In addition to Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four, Marvel began publishing further superhero titles featuring such heroes and antiheroes as the Hulk, Thor, Ant-Man, Iron Man, the X-Men, Daredevil, the Inhumans, Black Panther, Doctor Strange, Captain Marvel and the Silver Surfer, and such memorable antagonists as Doctor Doom, Magneto, Galactus, Loki, the Green Goblin, and Doctor Octopus, all existing in a shared reality known as the Marvel Universe, with locations that mirror real-life cities such as New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.
Marvel even lampooned itself and other comics companies in a parody comic, Not Brand Echh (a play on Marvel's dubbing of other companies as "Brand Echh" a la then-common phrase "Brand X").
Cadence Industries ownership
In 1968, while selling 50 million comic books a year, company founder Goodman revised the constraining distribution arrangement with Independent News he had reached under duress during the Atlas years, allowing him now to release as many titles as demand warranted. Late that year he sold Marvel Comics and his other publishing businesses to the Perfect Film and Chemical Corporation, which continued to group them as the subsidiary Magazine Management Company, with Goodman remaining as publisher. In 1969, Goodman finally ended his distribution deal with Independent by signing with Curtis Circulation Company.
In 1971, the United States Department of Health, Education, and Welfare approached Marvel Comics editor-in-chief Stan Lee to do a comic book story about drug abuse. Lee agreed and wrote a three-part Spider-Man story portraying drug use as dangerous and unglamorous. However, the industry's self-censorship board, the Comics Code Authority, refused to approve the story because of the presence of narcotics, deeming the context of the story irrelevant. Lee, with Goodman's approval, published the story regardless in The Amazing Spider-Man #96-98 (May-July 1971), without the Comics Code seal. The market reacted well to the storyline, and the CCA subsequently revised the Code the same year.
Goodman retired as publisher in 1972 and installed his son, Chip, as publisher, shortly thereafter, Lee succeeded him as publisher and also became Marvel's president for a brief time. During his time as president, he appointed as editor-in-chief Roy Thomas, who added "Stan Lee Presents" to the opening page of each comic book.
A series of new editors-in-chief oversaw the company during another slow time for the industry. Once again, Marvel attempted to diversify, and with the updating of the Comics Code achieved moderate to strong success with titles themed to horror (The Tomb of Dracula), martial arts (Shang-Chi: Master of Kung Fu), sword-and-sorcery (Conan the Barbarian, Red Sonja), satire (Howard the Duck) and science fiction (2001: A Space Odyssey, "Killraven" in Amazing Adventures, Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek, and, late in the decade, the long-running Star Wars series). Some of these were published in large-format black and white magazines, under it's Curtis Magazine imprint. Marvel was able to capitalize on it's successful superhero comics of the previous decade by acquiring a newsstand distributor and greatly expanding it's comics line. Marvel pulled ahead of rival DC Comics in 1972, during a time when the price and format of the standard newsstand comics were in flux. Goodman increased the price and size of Marvel's November 1971 cover-dated comics from 15 cents for 36 pages to total to 25 cents for 52 pages. DC followed suit, but Marvel the following month dropped it's comics to 20 cents for 36 pages, offering a lower-priced product with a higher distributor discount.
Goodman, now disconnected from Marvel, set up a new company called Seaboard Periodicals in 1974, reviving Marvel's old Atlas name for a new Atlas Comics line, but this lasted only a year and a half. In the mid-1970's a decline of the newsstand distribution network affected Marvel. Cult hits such as Howard the Duck fell victim to the distribution problems, with some titles reporting low sales when in fact the first specialty comic book stores resold them at a later date. But by the end of the decade, Marvel's fortunes was reviving, thanks to the rise of direct market distribution - selling through those same comics specialty stores instead of newsstands.
Marvel held it's own comic book convention, Marvelcon '75, in spring 1975, and promised a Marvelcon '76. At the 1975 event, Stan Lee used a Fantastic Four panel discussion to announce that Jack Kirby, the artist co-creator of most of Marvel's signature characters, was returning to Marvel after having left in 1970 to work for rival DC Comics. In October 1976, Marvel, which already licensed reprints in different countries, including the UK, created a superhero specifically for the British market. Captain Britain debuted exclusively in the UK, and later appeared in American comics.
In 1978, Jim Shooter became Marvel's editor-in-chief. Although a controversial personality, Shooter cured many of the procedural ills at Marvel, including repeatedly missed deadlines. During Shooter's nine-year tenure as editor-in-chief, Chris Claremont and John Bryne's run on the Uncanny X-Men and Frank Miller's run on Daredevil became critical and commercial successes. Shooter brought Marvel into the rapidly evolving direct market, institutional creator royalties, starting with the Epic Comics imprint for creator-owned material in 1982; introduced company-wide crossover story arcs with Contest of Champions and Secret Wars; and in 1986 launched the ultimately unsuccessful New Universe line to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Marvel Comics imprint. Star Comics, a children-oriented line differing from the regular Marvel titles, was briefly successful during this period.
Despite Marvel's successes in the early 1980's, it lost ground to rival DC in the latter half of the decade as many former Marvel stars defected to the competitor. DC scored critical and sales victories with titles and limited series such as Watchmen, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Crisis on Infinite Earths, Byrne's revamp of Superman, and Alan Moore's Swamp Thing.
Marvel Entertainment Group ownership
Marvel earned a great deal of money and recognition during the comic book boom of the early 1990's, launching the successful 2099 line of comics set in the future (Spider-Man 2099, ect.) and the creatively daring through commercially unsuccessful Razorline imprint of superhero comics created by novelsit and filmmaker Clive Barker. In 1990, Marvel began selling Marvel Universe Cards with trading card maker SkyBox International. These were collectible trading cards that featured the characters and events of the Marvel Universe. The 1990's saw the rise of variant covers, cover enhancements, swimsuit issues, and company-wide crossovers that affected the overall continuity of the fictional Marvel Universe.
Marvel suffered a blow in early 1992, when seven of it's most prized artists - Todd McFarlane (known for his work on Spider-Man), Jim Lee (X-Men), Rob Liefeld (X-Force), Marc Silvestri (Wolverine), Erik Larsen (The Amazing Spider-Man), Jim Valentino (Guardians of the Galaxy), and Whilce Portacio - left to form Image Comics.
In 1996, Marvel had some of it's titles participate in "Heroes Reborn", a crossover that allowed Marvel to relaunch some of it's flagship characters such as the Avengers and the Fantastic Four, and outsourced them to the studios of two of the former Marvel artists turned Image Comics founders, Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld. The relaunched titles, which saw the characters transported to a parallel universe with a history distinct from the mainstream Marvel Universe, were a solid success amidst a generally struggling industry, but Marvel discontinued the experiment after a one-year run and returned the characters to the Marvel Universe proper. In 1998, the company launched the imprint Marvel Knights, taking place within Marvel continuity; helmed by soon-to-become editor-in-chief Joe Quesada, it featured tough, gritty stories showcasing such characters as the Inhumans, Black Panther and Daredevil.
In late 1994, Marvel acquired the comic book distributor Heroes World Distribution to use as it's own exclusive distributor. As the industry's other major publishers made exclusive distribution deals with other companies, the ripple effect resulted in the survival of only one other major distributor in North America, Diamond Comic Distributors Inc. In early 1997, when Marvel's Hero World endeavor failed, Diamond also forged an exclusive deal with Marvel - giving the company it's own section of it's comics catalog Previews.
In 1991 Ronald Perelman, whose company, Andrews Group, had purchased Marvel Comic's Parent corporation, Marvel Entertainment (MEG) in 1989, took the company public. Following the rapid rise of the stock, Perelman issued a series of junk bonds that he used to acquire other entertainment companies, secured by MEG stock. Then, by the middle of the decade, the industry had slumped, and in December 1996 Marvel filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
In 1997, Toy Biz and Marvel Entertainment merged to end the bankruptcy, forming a new corporation, Marvel Enterprises. With his business partner Avi Arad, publisher Bill Jemas, and editor-in-chief Bob Harras, toy Biz co-owner Isaac Perlmutter helped stabilize the comics line.
With the new millennium, Marvel Comics emerged from bankruptcy and again began diversifying it's offerings. In 2001, Marvel withdrew from the Comics Code Authority and established it's own Marvel Rating System for comics. The first title from this era to not have the code was X-Factor #119 (October 2001). Marvel also created new imprints, such as MAX (an explicit-content line) and Marvel Adventures (developed for child audiences). In addition, the company created an alternate universe imprint, Ultimate Marvel, that allowed the company to reboot it's major titles by revising and updating it's characters to introduce to a new generation.
Some of it's characters have been turned into successful film franchises, such as the Men in Black movie series, starting in 1997, Blade movie series, starting in 1998, X-Men movie series, starting in 2000, and the then highest grossing movie series Spider-Man, beginning in 2002.
In across-promotion, the November 1, 2006, episode of the CBS soap opera The Guiding Light, titles "She's a Marvel", featured the character Harley Davidson Cooper (played by Beth Ehlers) as a superheroine named the Guiding Light. The characters story continued in an eight-page backup feature, "A New Light", that appeared in several Marvel titles published November 1 and 8. Also that year, Marvel created a wiki on it's web site.
In late 2007 the company launched Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited, a digital archive of over 2,500 back issues available for viewing, for a monthly of annual subscription fee.
In 2009 Marvel Comics closed it's Open Submission Policy, in which the company had accepted unsolicited samples from aspiring comic book artists, saying the time-consuming review process had produced no suitable professional work. The same year, the company commemorated it's 70th anniversary, dating to it's inception as Timely Comics, by issuing the one-shot Marvel Mystery Comics 70th Anniversary Special #1 and a variety of other special issues.
Disney conglomerate unit (2009-present)
On August 31, 2009, The Walt Disney Company announced a deal to acquire Marvel Comics' parent corporation, Marvel Entertainment, for $4 billion or $4.2 billion, with Marvel shareholders to receive $30 and 0.745 Disney shares for each share of Marvel they own. As of 2008, Marvel and it's major, longtime competitor DC Comics shared over 80% of the American comic book market. As of September 2010, Marvel switched it's bookstores distribution company from Diamond Book Distributors to Hachette Distribution Services.
Marvel relaunched the CrossGen imprint, owned by Disney Publishing Worldwide, in March 2011. Marvel and Disney Publishing began jointly publishing Disney/Pixar Presents magazine that May.
Marvel discontinued it's Marvel Adventures imprint in March 2012, and replaced them with a line of two titles connected to the Marvel Universe TV block. Also in March, Marvel announced it's Marvel ReEvolution initiative that included Infinite Comics, a line of digital comics, Marvel AR, an application software that provides an augmented reality experience to readers and Marvel NOW!, a relaunch of most of the company's major titles with different creative teams. Marvel NOW! also saw the debut of new flagship titles including Uncanny Avengers and All-New X-Men.
In April 2013, Marvel and other Disney conglomerate components began announcing joint projects. With ABC, a Once Upon a Time novel was announced for publication in September. With Disney, Marvel announced in October 2013 that in January 2014 it would release it's first title under their joint "Disney Kingdoms" imprint "Seekers of the Weird", a five-issue miniseries. On January 3, 2014, fellow Disney subsidiary Lucasfilm Limited, LLC announced that as of 2015, Star Wars comics would once again be published by Marvel.
Following the events of the company-wide crossover Secret Wars in 2015, a relaunched Marvel Universe began in September 2015, called the All-New, All-Different Marvel.
- Michael Z. Hobson: Executive Vice President, Publishing Group vice-president, publishing (1986)
- Stan Lee: Executive vice president & publisher (1986)
- Joseph Calamari: Executive vice president (1086)
- Jim Shooter: Vice president and Editor-in-Chief (1986)
- Abraham Goodman: 1939 - ?
- Martin Goodman: ? - 1972
- Charles "Chip" Goodman: 1972
- Stan Lee: 1972 - October 1996
- Shirrel Rhoades: October 1996 - October 1998
- Winston Fowlkes: February 1998 - November 1999
- Bill Jemas: February 2000 - 2003
- Dan Buckley: 2003 - present
Marvel's chief editor originally held the title of "editor". This head editor's title later became "editor-in-chief." Joe Simon was the company's first true chief-editor, with publisher Martin Goodman, who had served as titular editor only and outsourced editorial operations.
- "In the early '90s, Marvel had so many titles that there were three Executive Editors, each overseeing approximately ⅓ of the line. Bob Budiansky was the third Executive Editor [followed the previously appointed Mark Gruenwald and Potts]. We all answered to Editor-in-Chief Tom DeFalco and Publisher Mike Hobson. All three Executive Editors decided not to add our names to the already crowded credits on the Marvel titles. Therefore it wasn't easy for readers to tell which titles were produced by which Executive Editor. . . In late '94, Marvel reorganized into a number of different publishing divisions, each with it's own Editor-in-Chief."
Marvel reinstated the overall editor-in-chief position in 1995 with Bob Harras.
- Martin Goodman: 1939 - 1940; titular only
- Joe Simon: 1940 - 1941
- Stan Lee: 1941 - 1942
- Vincent Fago: 1942 - 1945; acting editor during Lee's military service
- Stan Lee: 1945 - 1972
- Roy Thomas: 1972 - 1974
- Len Wein: 1974 - 1975
- Marv Wolfman: Black and white magazines 1974 - 1975, entire line 1975 - 1976
- Gerry Conway: 1976
- Archie Goodwin: 1976 - 1978
- Jim Shooter: 1978 - 1987
- Tom DeFalco: 1987 - 1994
- No overall; separate group editors-in-chief (1994 - 1995)
- Bob Harras: 1995 - 2000
- Joe Quesada: 2000 - 2011
- Axel Aloonso: 2011 - present
Originally called associate editor when Marvel's chief editor just carried the title of editor, the title of the next highest editorial position became executive editor under the chief editor title of editor-in-chief. The title of associate editor later was revived under the editor-in-chief as an editorial position in charge of few titles under the direction of an editor and without an assistant editor.
- Chris Claremont: ? - 1976
- Jim Shooter: January 5, 1976 - January 2, 1978
- Tom DeFalco: 1987
- Mark Gruenwald: 1987 - 1994, senior editor 1995 - 1996
- Carl Potts: Epic Comics 1989 - 1994, 1995 -
- Bob Budiansky: Early 90's - 1994
- Bobbie Chase: 1995 - 2001
- Tom Brevoort: 2007 - 2001
- Axel Alonso: 2010 - January, 2011
- Martin Goodman: 1939 - 1961 - 1968
- Magazine Management Co.: 1968 - 1973
- Cadence Industries: 1973 - 1986
- Marvel Entertainment Group: 1986 - 1998
- Marvel Enterprises
- Marvel Enterprises, Inc.: 1998 - 2005
- Marvel Entertainment, Inc: 2005 - 2009
- Marvel Entertainment, LLC: 2009 - present, a wholly owned subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company
Located in New York City, Marvel has had successive headquarters:
- in the McGraw-Hill Building, where it originated as Timely Comics in 1939
- in suite 1401 of the Empire State Building
- at 635 Madison Avenue (the actual location, though the comic books' indicia listed the parent publishing company's address of 625 Madison Ave.)
- 575 Madison Avenue;
- 387 Park Avenue South
- 10 East 40th Street
- 417 Fifth Avenue
- a 60,000-square-foot (5,6000 m²) space at 135 W. 50th Street
- Disney Kingdoms
- Marvel Comics
- Marvel Presents, joint imprint with Disney Books Group
- Icon Comics (creator owned)
- Infinite Comics
- Amalgam Comics
- Curtis Magazine / Marvel Magazine Group
- Marvel Monsters Group
- Epic Comics (creator owned) (1982 - 2004)
- Malibu Comics (1994 - 1997)
- Marvel 2099 (1992 - 1998)
- Marvel Absurd
- Marvel Age/Adventures
- Marvel Books
- Marvel Edge
- Marvel Knights
- Marvel Illustrated
- Marvel Mangaverse
- Marvel Music
- Marvel Next
- Marvel Noir
- Marvel UK
- Marvel Frontier
- New Universe
- Paramount Comics (co-owned with Viacom's Paramount Pictures)
- Star Comics
- Ultimate Comics