The Mighty Marvel Comics Chronology
It's Marvel Day at your local Barnes and Noble, sponsored by Get Pop Cultured. But in our NOT SO HUMBLE opinion, every day is Marvel day! The characters are larger than life and iconic. Powerful, but still susceptible to the unfortunate curve balls everyday life may throw their way. Marvel has stayed true to this narrative formula since its inception, and their commitment has propelled them—even through jeopardizing hardship—to universal recognition. Wave your hammers and shields in the air, true believers, for our mighty Marvel Comics chronology! 'Nuff said.
1) Right on Time
Acting on the encouragement of a friend from the comic book publisher Funnies, Inc., Martin Goodman struck out on his own and founded Timely Publications, including its imprint Timely Comics. Dedicated to the superhero genre, the publisher's premiere magazine was, in an instance of uncanny foreshadowing, Marvel Comics. In its first issue, the original Human Torch and Namor the Submariner were introduced, holding the distinction of being the fledgling Marvel's very first (and enduring) superheroes.
2) Enter "Smiling" Stan and "Jolly" Jack
Timely Comics' readership was increasing at a steady clip, necessitating the need to take on more creatives and editors to meet the demand. During the '40s, Goodman hired a talented young artist by the name of, you guessed it, Jack Kirby, one of the major creative forces in the Marvel universe's development. Soon after, Stanley Lieber—the cousin of Goodman's wife—was brought onboard, writing under the handle "Stan Lee." It would be years before the pair laid down Marvel's groundwork, but things were already moving in that direction with Joe Simon and Kirby's Captain America in March 1941.
3) With Great Power...
The comic book landscape had changed considerably after World War II. Soldiers returning home didn't want to read superhero stories, opting for less juvenile genres such as crime fiction, western and horror. Timely shifted its focus in order to satisfy the tastes of the zeitgeist, eventually re-branding as Atlas Comics in the '50s. But it wasn't until a decade later when Stan Lee—as acting Editor-in-Chief—artists Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, and others galvanized the superhero genre, combining Stan's proclivity for human drama and the excitement of costumed crime-fighters. Fantastic Four #1 was the first to enter the scene, followed by the likes of Spider-Man, the Hulk, and Iron Man—all victims of circumstances that granted them powers. The Marvel universe was born!
4) The Children of the Atom Return
We know them now as the cornerstone of Marvel's marketing empire, but not many may know that the X-Men were once the publisher's least popular franchise. X-Men #66 spelt the end of original stories as subsequent issues reprinted earlier tales. In 1975, the Children of the Atom were given a second chance with Giant-Size X-Men #1. Starring a new team led by original field leader Cyclops—and adding Wolverine to the roster—Uncanny X-Men was a smash hit, becoming a top-selling title and turning creatives Chris Claremont, Dave Cockrum, and John Byrne into comic book legends.
5) Truly Epic
Prompted by the success of Marvel's Epic Illustrated—a magazine featuring stories and art too explicit for standard Marvel titles—then-Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter launched a new imprint called Epic Comics in 1982, releasing creator-owned works exclusively for the direct market. In addition to original content, Epic Comics also handled the translation and colorization of the manga saga Akira, running from 1988 until the imprint's closure over a 38 issue span.
6) Down, But Not Out
Between the years of 1993 and 1997, the comic book industry suffered a major blow resulting from a speculative market. Poorly managed comic shops, a quantity-over-quality publishing philosophy, and ostentatious sales gimmicks contributed to the collapse, with Marvel given no choice but to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Able to restructure and pay off incurred debts, Marvel used $365 million earned from the Andrews Group investment firm to purchase Toy Biz, Inc. and regain its stability.
7) Marvel at the Movies
Marvel Studios, LLC—originally Marvel Films during the mid '90s—managed to survive the financial upheaval wrought by the speculative market, releasing its first licensed film, Blade, in 1998 (produced by New Line Cinema). The films primarily produced by studio licensees (e.g. Sony's Spider-Man and 20th Century Fox's X-Men trilogy), Marvel Studios made a gamble by handling such duties in-house. It was criticized as a lofty venture, given the fact its film slate was anchored by Iron Man, Captain America, and other intellectual properties considered too obscure for mainstream audiences. 2008's Iron Man allayed all doubts, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe has since become the company's most profitable pillar.