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A Very Brief History of Marvel

Barry

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A Very Brief History of Marvel
« on: March 23, 2022, 10:31:05 AM »
A Brief history of Marvel Comics:

Comic books, as we know them, with original material began in the mid 1930s.  Superman was introduced in 1938, Batman a year later and comics books became very popular, selling 25 million  a month in the early 1940s. (Not jst super-heroes, but many genres).

Martin Goodman was a successful owner and publisher of magazines and pulps, but was known for never innovating, but following a trend.

In 1939 he started a line of comics (called Timely) with a comic entitled “Marvel Comics” and was very successful. Eventually, he would be printing 50-60 titles a month. He hired his wife’s teen-age cousin, Stanley Martin Lieber (Stan Lee) to be an office boy.  After WW2, Stan became acting editor.

The 1950s brought a downturn in sales: The audience got older, super-heroes were virtually gone,  TV was popular, teenagers had other places to spend money and Congress was investigating and blaming comics for the upturn in juvenile delinquency. The industry greatly shrunk ands now comics had to submit to severe censorship.  (Called the Comics Code)

GOODMAN’S BIGGEST MISTAKE: To reduce costs, Goodman closed down his Distributing Service, which had delivered his magazine and comics to the newsstands. He then used American Distributors, wose fees were lower than his costs to deliver.

American Distributors went out of business, six month later, leaving Goodman with no way to deliver his comics and magazines. He had to go to his competitor, National Periodicals, owners of DC comics to deliver his periodicals! He signed a ten year project and DC limited his to 16 titles a month.

In 1961 the distributors of DC told Goodman that the Justice League was a big seller. Following the trend, Goodman had Stan Lee and Jack Kirby produce their own team super-heroes, the Fantastic Four!
At this point in time, DC, part of a big company, was following formula in their stories and much of their artwork looked all alike. Marvel began innovating, producing comics not made for children but for teen-agers and young adults. They used more adult language, had more adult topics, their super-heroes were no always successful and they allowed their writers and artists to develop their own styles. While DC generally had two or three stories an issue, Marvel most often had just one that often stretched out to several books. And Marvel loved cross-overs.

In 1961 Marvel sold 15,000,000 copies a year. By 1970 they were up to 70,000,000.

In 1968 Goodman sold Marvel to Perfect Film and Chemical for $15,000,000. He remained as Publisher until 1972. With their contract up with DC and Perfect Film having their own distributorship, Marvel began to expand rapidly.

Important Note: The term Publisher has no legal meaning.  We assume that it means the person in charge, but that is not the case.  Goodman was no longer in charge of the finances or personal, he just led the comic division.

In 1973 Goodman leaves Marvel and sets up his, new, comic company, “Atlas.” It fails within a year

. When it was a small company and rather wanted to introduce a new comic to make profits they created a new hero. That would be Spider-Man, Iron Man etc. but one perfect film took over in the 1970s creativity stopped. As with DC comics when I wanted to introduce a new comic they just put an old character in it rather than creating a new one. So you had the amazing Spider-Man, then the spectacular Spider-Man, then Spider-Man team up. At one point there were five different Spider-Man comics when previously there would be only one. Run by a major company and its bookkeepers the individuality of a small company evaporates

In 1973 Stan Lee leaves writing and editing and becomes “Publisher.” His major activity is to get licensing, TV and movie contracts. He later explains that he was given that title to impress the companies he would be dealing with.

Marvel slowly, like DC, becomes part of a big company and individuality fades as the comics become more and more formula. Their famous continuity fades with it.

For me, their era ends about 1977 when ALL the original creators have left the company.

Marvel made a lot of money in the 1980s and was sold in 1986, to to New World Entertainment, which sold it to MacAndrews and Forbes, owned by Revlon executive Ronald Perelman in 1989.

A Bit confusing here. Marvel did very well.  But Perelman issued a huge amount of junk bonds, based on his ownership. Simply, let’s say that he took out a huge mortgage on Marvel but spent the money in other places and the company went bankrupt because he could not pay back his loans.

Toy Biz bought Marvel in 1997 and the movies began: Men in Black and Blade. Marvel was just not successful in getting companies to produce movies of their characters other than Spider-Man and the X-Men (Fox). So they formed their own Studio and released Iron Man in 2008. Of course Disney bought the company in 2009 and has done very well.




« Last Edit: March 24, 2022, 08:26:17 AM by Barry »
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tripplej

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Re: A Very Brief History of Marvel
« Reply #1 on: March 23, 2022, 11:34:38 AM »
Thanks Barry for the historical write-up. Very interesting how all this came about.
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Re: A Very Brief History of Marvel
« Reply #2 on: March 23, 2022, 10:42:04 PM »
This is great Barry. Thanks!
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Barry

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Re: A Very Brief History of Marvel
« Reply #3 on: March 24, 2022, 08:24:58 AM »
I should have mentioned this and put it in the article. When it was a small company and rather wanted to introduce a new comic to make profits they created a new hero. That would be Spider-Man, Iron Man etc. but one perfect film took over in the 1970s creativity stopped. As with DC comics when I wanted to introduce a new comic they just put an old character in it rather than creating a new one. So you had the amazing Spider-Man, then the spectacular Spider-Man, then Spider-Man team up. At one point there were five different Spider-Man comics when previously there would be only one.
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tripplej

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Re: A Very Brief History of Marvel
« Reply #4 on: March 24, 2022, 09:19:26 AM »
So you had the amazing Spider-Man, then the spectacular Spider-Man, then Spider-Man team up. At one point there were five different Spider-Man comics when previously there would be only one.
Reminds me of this..

« Last Edit: March 24, 2022, 09:23:56 AM by tripplej »
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bmoney

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Re: A Very Brief History of Marvel
« Reply #5 on: March 24, 2022, 09:51:42 AM »
love this  very informative thanks Barry!
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Barry

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Re: A Very Brief History of Marvel
« Reply #6 on: March 24, 2022, 12:02:04 PM »
 An important point about how comics were produced then.  After the comics code censorship was passed DC editors felt that they were reaching just readers 12 to 15 years old.  Therefore, when they published a comic, there would be a lot of new material fir the first 201-25 issues then they would just repeat the plots and villains over and over again. Boring and that is why they lost a lot of readers to Marvel and why collectors during the 1960s only valued the first 20 or so issues of a title.
 
Again, Marvel was different and wanted to keep their readers.  So a lot of new material was always being introduced and it was so much fun to read.
 
For example, issues #40s to 60 of the Fantastic Four introduced the Inhumans, Silver Surfer, Galactus and the Black Panther. Issue $#55 of Iron Man introduced Thanos. The X-Men get an entirely new lineup in issue #94, Wolverine is introduced in Hulk #171 and so on.


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