Marvel Comics (originally known as Timely Publications) got its start in 1939, under founder Martin Goodman. Behind such talented writers, editors and artists as Jack Kirby, Joe Simon, Carl Burgos, Bill Everett, Steve Ditko and Stan Lee, Marvel was off to the races. It has come a long way in its history, from an exploratory venture to a worldwide media empire, surviving a challenge to the medium in 1954 by the Comic Code Authority, which proclaimed comic books a bad influence on American youth, and it is still going strong today.
The Superheroes and Anti-heroes
Marvel is probably best known for its superhero characters. Some of Marvel’s first legendary characters were The Human Torch, the Sub-Mariner (both introduced in Marvel’s first-ever edition), and Captain America. In the 1960s, superheroes were more popular than ever before, and Marvel rode the wave with the creation of The Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, The Thing, The Hulk, X-Men, Iron Man, Captain Marvel, and of course, Superman, among many others. Interestingly, far from being immortal, attractive, and flawless, Marvel’s superheroes were never mainstream or glamorized. Often, their powers stemmed from accidents or other circumstances that left them looking monstrous and freakish, but always able to overcome their various adversities.
Other Comic Genre Lines
Marvel Comics didn’t consider their work done with just a stellar line of exciting superheroes. Some lines geared toward small children featured cartoon animal characters, such as Silly Seal and Super Rabbit. Under the imprint of Atlas Comics, also run by Goodman, western, adventure, war, horror, romance and other genres found life in comic books, although the EC pulp horror comic line seems to be the real standout under Atlas.
Conquering Other Worlds
Marvel comics fueled the fever for comic book conventions in the 1970s, at a time when entire stores devoted to the medium began to pop up as the primary sales venue for comics. In the intervening decades, Marvel’s characters have been featured on television in cartoons and live action series, books, films, and more varieties of franchise-related merchandise than its founder, Goodman, could ever have dreamed. Its juggernaut shows no signs of slowing. On the contrary, once considered the realm of “geeks” or “nerds,” comic books, and many of Marvel’s, in particular, have not only come into their own chic, but have become indelible worldwide icons. And best of all, the face of Marvel’s success, the inimitable Stan Lee is still happily leading the charge at the age of 93, an inspiration for generations of grateful comic book fans.