Posted at Starpulse.com
Today is the 70th anniversary of Marvel comics, and I thought as a geek it would only be fair to dedicate this week’s column to them. All over the country there are going to be parties for Marvel so if you’d like to find one in your area, check their website for a list of participating locations. There will be special Barnes & Noble meetings too in specific cities where famous Marvel writers, editors, and artists will appear for Q&A sessions and sign autographs.
Marvel Comics was founded by Martin Goodman, and it was originally called Timely Publications in 1939. He was already publishing Western stories and decided to branch into the new arena of comic books. The very first comic was Marvel Comics #1 starring a version of the Human Torch and the Sub-Mariner. It grew in popularity and Timely eventually became its own independent and strong company. Captain America was published as one of the first solo artists of Marvel and created by Joe Simon and legend Jack Kirby.
However, during the 1950s it turned into Atlas Comics, and superheroes were dropped as a medium. It returned to Westerns, dramas, humor, adventures, and even some female-based comics, plus comics appealing to a children’s audience. Atlas did try to bring heroes back, and by the 1960s the superhero stigma was back and Marvel Comics made its own brand. DC Comics had proven that their team comics and heroes were getting plenty of notice and popularity, so Marvel started creating some of their own icons, such as the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, the X-Men, Daredevil, and many others. Stan Lee became the most well known Marvel writer and creator of these titles, and legends were born.
Over the past 30 years Marvel has had some pretty serious ups and downs. It was threatened with bankruptcy more than once, but each time successfully reinvented itself and came back stronger than ever. In the past few decades Marvel has branched into television, films, video games, toys, and even a few theme-park rides (try The Hulk at Island of Adventures!). Movies based on Marvel characters have made millions of dollars and hit the box office to huge success. They’ve done so well that Marvel Studios was born and made partnerships with FOX, New Line Cinema, and Lions Gate in order to publish several movies, but now they have managed enough success to create their own material without any help. Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk were both done by Marvel Studios (distributed by others) and did so well that Marvel is managing to maintain its character integrity without selling out to other big studios. I’m sure after seeing X-Men Origins: Wolverine (done with FOX), the fans are delighted to keep the upcoming “Thor” and “Captain America” in house.
Overall, Marvel has carved a name for itself in the entertainment industry and created some of the most beloved characters … not just in comic books, but in the entirety of pop culture. Fans have their problems with Marvel, make no mistake, and occasionally writers or editors have gotten flack for their decisions about the comic industry, but generally Marvel has maintained its professional and creative integrity over its 70 years. Today we toast to this excellent company and thank them for ‘The Phoenix Saga’ and ‘Demon in a Bottle,’ and forgive them for ‘One More Day.’
Happy birthday Marvel. May you have 70 more years and then some!