In 1996, Marvel Entertainment Group filed a voluntary bankruptcy in New York.
But Marvel knew it was here to stay. Back in the day, their plan was to develop their own film-producing studio, Marvel Studios, which was said to launch in mid-1997 to solidify the company’s finances. However, we all know it took a decade before Marvel Studios became a reality.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe now owns the world’s largest film franchise, but Marvel sticks to their roots and continues to produce comic books to this day. It continues to feature different multiverses where thousands of their characters (there are more than 8,000!) live on and tell stories outside of its films.
“We are now on our 79th year,” Marvel Comics chief editor C.B. Cebulski says. “Marvel has the largest continuing fictional narrative in history.”
If you’re preparing for a Marvel quiz night soon, we took some notes during the Marvel Creative Day Out, where C.B. shared some facts about the entertainment and publishing giant:
1) Marvel Comics was a real comic book
Marvel Comics was not the name of the company, it was the name of the magazine and it was run by publisher Timely Comics. The first issue came out in 1939 and featured the first of its superheroes Human Torch, Ka-Zar, Namor, The Angel, and Masked Rider.
“Aside from the Masked rider, the characters that debuted in 1939 are still in existence today and are being used readily in current continuity in the comic tales we tell. So that’s pretty amazing,” the editor shares.
2) Don’t be fooled, the Marvel Universe is the real world
“Marvel is the real world, all our stories take place in New York City,” CB says. Who the current president of a country is in the real world is reflected in the comics, too. Even actors and actresses make an appearance as themselves both in the pages and screens. Marvel also takes inspiration in world events for their material to be updated.
3) Spider-Man kicked off Marvel’s superhero niche
Fantastic Four released in 1961 was where the superhero genre started. In the next year, Stan Lee was asked by publisher Martin Goodman to create another superhero and after seeing bugs around him like flies, mosquitos, and spiders, he thought the name Spider-Man was cool. But Marvin hated the idea and didn’t want to publish the comic. Stan put his job on the line, saying if the comic flops, his pay check can be used to cover the printing costs.
Spider-Man debuted in Amazing Fantasy 15.
4) The Avengers were an accident
“The artists were having deadline problems, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby wondered what they could do to put another book out? Stan says, why don’t we just put together all the heroes in existence and have them on one team,” CB recalls. “That’s the birth of the Avengers, it’s not as planned as people would think.”
Jack Kirby was able to draw the characters pretty quickly and came out with a new comic book, and it’s been 55 years since the Earth’s mightiest heroes have first assembled.
5) Officially a pop culture icon by the '70s
By the 1970s, an illustration of The Incredible Hulk was featured on the cover of a Rolling Stone magazine, and that’s when Marvel knew it has graduated from being a children-oriented comic company into a pop culture icon loved by all generations.
6) '90s comic bubble
“It became like a stock market. People were saying, hey those comics in your basement are worth a lot of money, you can buy a car or have a great retirement. So people started buying 10 or 15 copies of each comic. But just like any false bubble you create, there was lots of comics out there and nobody reading, the bubble burst," CB says.
7) Project Rebirth
In the 2000s, Marvel had to rebuild itself from the ground up. They went back to basics and started stories they knew fans would love because, focusing on the foundation of great artists and writers like Jack Kirby and Stan Lee. Marvel also started licensing out characters, like Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, and the X-Men, to different movie producers.
8) Marvel Studios was born in 2008
“Back then when we announced that Iron Man was our first movie, people thought we were crazy! He was a sea-level character at that point. A lot of people thought we already licensed away ALL our good characters, but we knew we had hidden gems,” CB shares.
9) Interconnected movies and the birth of after-credit scenes
“Just like our comic books with interconnected storylines, producer Kevin Feige had this idea to do the same in the movies. That’s what started the after-credit scenes and Marvel Shorts, to establish that all these stories are connected,” CB reveals.
Stan Lee’s cameos were actually included to hint that the movies share the same universe and timeline.
10) Not just the superhero genre
Each Marvel movie has its own genre.
“Captain America was like a Bond film, Ant-Man was a romantic comedy, Guardians of the Galaxy was sci-fi. And then we have Thor: Ragnarok, which was such a fun and funny movie,” he says.
11) #FOOM: Friends of ol’ Marvel
The artists and widely acclaimed creators of superheroes started fan groups where readers could reach out to Marvel’s people and give feedback. It was also through these that comic enthusiasts could geek out and build theories about their favorite superheroes. There was Stan’s Soapbox, FOOM, among many other sections that publish fan letters.
Marvel calls Stan Lee the godfather of social media.
“Marvel pulled back the curtain and spoke to its fans, not just about the stories they read but the stories behind creating the comics. It was groundbreaking at that time. They were getting to know the stories behind the stories and meeting the creators,” Marvel’s comics editor proudly shares.
12) Embracing diversity is at the Marvel core
Marvel is always trying to push the boundaries by creating heroes everyone can relate to. Black Panther is the first African superhero with his own movie. And now, the world is ready for Marvel’s first female superhero title with Captain Marvel.