|Company Name:||Marvel Comics|
|Genre:||Crime, horror, mystery, romance, science fiction, war, Western|
|Foundation:||1939 as Timely Comics|
|Location:||417 5th Avenue, New York City, New York, U.S.|
|Key People:||Joe Quesada, Editor-in-chief|
Dan Buckley, Publisher, C.O.O.
|Products:||Comics/See list of Marvel Comics publications|
|Operating Income:||US$53,500,000 (2007) |
Marvel Comics is an American comic book and related media company owned by Marvel Publishing, Inc., a subsidiary of Marvel Entertainment, Inc. Marvel counts among as its characters such well-known properties as Captain America, the Fantastic Four, the Hulk, Iron Man, Spider-Man, the X-Men, and many others. Most of Marvel's fictional characters operate in one single reality; this is known as the Marvel Universe.
The comic book arm of the company started in 1939 as Timely Publications, and by the 1950s was generally known as Atlas Comics. Marvel's modern incarnation dates from 1961, with the launching of Fantastic Four and other superhero titles created by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, and others. Marvel has since become the largest American comic book publisher over long time competitor DC Comics.
See main article: Timely Comics.
Martin Goodman founded the company later known as 'Marvel Comics' under the name "Timely Publications" in 1939. Goodman, a pulp-magazine publisher whose first publication was a Western pulp in 1933, expanded into the emerging — and by then already highly popular — new medium of comic books. Goodman began his new line from his existing company's offices at 330 West 42nd Street, New York City, New York. He officially held the titles of editor, managing editor, and business manager, with Abraham Goodman officially listed as publisher.
Timely's first publication, Marvel Comics #1 (Oct. 1939), contained the first appearance of Carl Burgos' android superhero the Human Torch, and the first generally available appearance of Bill Everett's anti-hero Namor the Sub-Mariner, among other features. The contents of that sales blockbuster were supplied by an outside packager, Funnies, Inc., but by the following year Timely had a staff in place. With the second issue the series title changed to Marvel Mystery Comics.
The company's first true editor, writer-artist Joe Simon, teamed up with soon-to-be industry legend Jack Kirby to create one of the first patriotically themed superheroes, Captain America, in Captain America Comics #1. (March 1941) It, too, proved a major sales hit, with a circulation of nearly one million.
While no other Timely character would achieve the success of these "big three", some notable heroes — many continuing to appear in modern-day retcon appearances and flashbacks — include the Whizzer, Miss America, the Destroyer, the original Vision, and the Angel. Timely also published one of humor cartoonist Basil Wolverton's best-known features, "Powerhouse Pepper,"  as well as a line of children's funny animal comics whose most popular characters were Super Rabbit and the duo Ziggy Pig and Silly Seal.
Goodman hired a teen-aged relative,once said Stanley Lieber, as a general office assistant in 1939. When editor Simon left the company in late 1941, Goodman made Lieber — by then writing pseudonymously as "Stan Lee" — interim editor of the comics line, a position Lee kept for decades except for three years during his World War II military service. Lee wrote extensively for Timely, contributing to a number of different titles.
See main article: Atlas Comics (1950s).
No-one wanted to read their and the post-war American comics saw superheroes falling out of fashion. Goodman's comic-book line dropped superheroes and expanded into a wider variety of genres than even Timely had published, emphasizing horror, Westerns, humor, funny-animal, men's adventure-drama, crime, and war comics, later adding a helping of jungle books, romance titles, and even espionage, medieval adventure, Bible stories and sports. Like other publishers, Atlas also courted female readers with mostly humorous comics about models and career women.
Goodman began using the globe logo of Atlas, the newsstand-distribution company he owned, on comics cover-dated November 1951. This united a line put out by the same publisher, staff, and freelancers through 59 shell companies, from Animirth Comics to Zenith Publications.
Atlas, rather than innovate, took what it saw as the proven route of following popular trends in TV and movies — Westerns and war dramas prevailing for a time, drive-in movie monsters another time — and even other comic books, particularly the EC horror line. Atlas also published a plethora of children's and teen humor titles, including Dan DeCarlo's Homer, the Happy Ghost (a la Casper the Friendly Ghost) and Homer Hooper (a la Archie Andrews). Atlas unsuccessfully attempted to revive superheroes in Young Men #24-28 (Dec. 1953 - June 1954), with the Human Torch (art by Syd Shores and Dick Ayers, variously), the Sub-Mariner (drawn and most stories written by Bill Everett), and Captain America (writer Stan Lee, artist John Romita Sr.).
The first comic book under the Marvel Comics brand, the science-fiction anthology Amazing Adventures #3, showed the "MC" box on its cover. Cover-dated August 1961, it was published May 9, 1961. Then, in the wake of DC Comics' success in reviving superheroes in the late 1950s and early 1960s, particularly with the Flash, Green Lantern, and other members of the team the Justice League of America, Marvel followed suit. The introduction of modern Marvel's first superhero team, in The Fantastic Four #1, cover-dated November 1961, began establishing the company as known .
Editor-writer Stan Lee and freelance artist Jack Kirby's Fantastic Four, reminiscent of the non-superpowered adventuring quartet the Challengers of the Unknown that Kirby had created for DC in 1957, originated in a Cold War culture that led their creators to deconstruct the superhero conventions of previous eras and better reflect the psychological spirit of their age. Eschewing such comic-book tropes as secret identities and even costumes at first, having a monster as one of the heroes, and having its characters bicker and complain in what was later called a "superheroes in the real world" approach, the series represented a change that proved to be a great success. Marvel began publishing further superhero titles featuring such heroes and antiheroes as the Hulk, Spider-Man, Thor, Ant-Man, Iron Man, the X-Men and Daredevil, and such memorable antagonists as Doctor Doom, Magneto, Galactus, the Green Goblin, and Doctor Octopus. The most successful new series was The Amazing Spider-Man, by Lee and Steve Ditko. Marvel even lampooned itself and other comics companies in a parody comic, Not Brand Echh (a play on Marvel's dubbing of other companies as "Brand Echh", a la the then-common phrase "Brand X").
Marvel's comics had a reputation for focusing on characterization to a greater extent than most superhero comics before them.
However, film producer and comics historian Michael Uslan partly debunked the story in a letter published in Alter Ego #43 (Dec. 2004), pp. 43-44: Goodman, a publishing trend-follower aware of the JLA's strong sales, did direct his comics editor, Stan Lee, to create a comic-book series about a team of superheroes. According to Lee in Origins of Marvel Comics (Simon and Schuster/Fireside Books, 1974), p. 16: