What do Spider-Man, the X-Men, the Hulk, and Iron Man have in common? They’re all creations of Marvel Comics! Whether you know them from comic books, movie screens, or both, Marvel’s superheroes are among the world’s most popular characters. But where did they come from?
Marvel Comics was the title of a comic book published by Timely Publications in 1939. The first issue featured the Human Torch and other superheroes. It is now one of the world’s most valuable comics, with a copy having sold for US$350,000 in 2003! It was also a hit in its own day, as was the company’s next offering, Captain America, in 1941. The end of World War II, however, also brought an end to comics’ golden age. Timely, now called Atlas, struggled along for the next 15 years without great success.
In 1961, the company again changed its name, this time to Marvel Comics, and quickly turned its fortunes around. Over the next three years, Marvel introduced the Fantastic Four, the Hulk, Spider-Man, Thor, Iron Man, Dr. Strange, the X-Men, and Daredevil. Even Captain America came back after more than a decade to meet a whole new generation of fans!
Marvel’s success owed much to the humanity of its heroes. Spider-Man was really Peter Parker, a teenage nerd who acquired super powers from a spider bite. The X-Men were mutants, born with abilities that could save the world but made them outcasts. And Daredevil was a superhero with a difference—he was blind! Thanks to these and other successful titles, Marvel soon became one of the world’s best-selling comic book companies. It still competes for that title with the industry’s other giant, DC Comics, the home of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman.
In recent years, Marvel has found a new world to conquer. Its characters are now as successful on the screen as they ever were on paper. If the Spider-Man, X-Men, and Iron Man film series are any indication, the house of heroes will be around for a long time.