Let's talk a bit about the humble beginnings of Marvel Comics, shall we, fellow Zombies? Originally, Timely Comics was started in 1939 by Founder Martin Goodman. It's interesting to note that Timely's first publication was Marvel Comics #1, and it featured the debuts of the Human Torch and Namor the Sub Mariner, heroes still prolific in the Marvel Universe today, though both have evolved since their first appearances.
Two years later, in 1941, Captain America was created by writer Joe Simon and legendary comic artist Jack "King" Kirby, a patriotic hero created to take on the Axis during World War 2. Captain America Comics #1 even featured the Captain socking Hitler square in the jaw.
In the 1950s, Timely became Atlas Comics, and superheroes weren't as popular anymore. As a result, Atlas switched genres often; flooding the market with horror books, war stories, romance comics, Westerns, funny animals...basically trying to capitalize on whatever was hot at the time. Goodman tried to cast a wide net and wanted to focus on volume rather than innovation and creativity.
It was the 1960's that finally saw the creation of the Marvel Universe with The Fantastic Four #1. Goodman had taken note of how well rival company DC Comics was doing with the superhero team book Justice League of America, and he wanted a team all his own. He turned to writer Stan Lee, who started at Timely as a teenager, basically hired to be a gofer in 1939 before moving up the ranks until he was named Editor. Stan "The Man", along with Jack Kirby, came up with the Fantastic Four, a family of adventurers who hijacked a rocket and were bombarded with "Cosmic Rays" in space. As a result, the foursome gained strange powers when they crashed back to Earth.
Needless to say, the book was a smash hit, and was soon followed by other iconic heroes created by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, etc. Characters like the Hulk, Iron Man, Daredevil, Thor, The X-Men, and Marvel's most recognizable character, The Amazing Spiderman. Lee created a Marvel universe that centered primarily in and around New York City, while DC's heroes fought crime in such fictional cities as Metropolis and Gotham. Lee created heroes that were tortured and outcasts, like the monstrous Hulk and the misunderstood Mutant X-Men. And Lee tried to give his heroes identifiable problems, best embodied by Spiderman's alter-ego Peter Parker, a nerdy teenager with money problems that was unlucky in love. DC's heroes, in contrast, were seemingly perfect ideals. What could hurt Superman?
Lee also tried to give readers a peek behind the creative curtain, updating fans with his Bullpen Bulletins, monthly reports about Marvel's creative talent. He wrote a long-standing opinion column called Stan's Soapbox, and he created the Marvel fan clubs the Merry Marvel Marching Society and FOOM, (Friends of Ol' Marvel). He also was one of the first to actually print fan's feedback in a letters column in his comics. Stan wanted fans to feel like they were "in the know", like they were part of the club reading Marvel Comics, and he was more than proud to be the public face of the comics he, along with others, created.
Marvel marched on, from the first Marvel mini-series, Contest of Champions, to the first company-wide crossover, Secret Wars, to the recent Marvel Universe splitting Civil War. Marvel went from the boom of the speculators market of the 1990s to the bust of bankruptcy, and back to the successful multi-media company it is today. The comics themselves have evolved from the Silver Age of the advent of the Fantastic Four, "The Worlds Greatest Comic Magazine!", to die cut holographic foil covers on the 1990s, to the digital, downloadable motion comics at Marvel.com. From the less than humble Captain America serial of 1944, to the flop of Howard The Duck the movie in 1986, to the blockbuster Spiderman and X-Men movie film franchises of today. The Marvel Universe has permeated the world of pop culture. Spiderman is every bit as recognizable the world over as Mickey Mouse.
Okay... enough rambling. Lol I truly meant for this to be a brief overview of the beginings of Marvel Comics, but it's hard to be succinct about something so massive. I'll be getting into the current state of the Marvel U in my next post. As Stan The Man used to say... Excaliber! At least, it was something like that...
Have you read... Current State Of The Marvel Universe?
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