[[quoteright:208:http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/MarvelLogo.jpg]]
->''"One of the things Stan Lee is credited with in Marvel comics is how he made superheroes relatable... Before Stan Lee, comics related to kids by just having the heroes hang out with kids, [[{{HoYay/Batman}} usually without pants.]]"''
-->--'''Creator/{{Seanbaby}}'''

'''Marvel Comics''' is one of the two biggest comic publishers active in the United States today, the other being Creator/DCComics.

!History

Marvel began its life as Timely Comics, founded in 1939 by Martin Goodman as the comic branch of his {{pulp}} empire. It began by publishing scifi, horror, and {{western}} [[AnthologyComic anthologies]], one of which happened to be named ''Marvel Mystery Comics''. Timely's biggest sellers at this time were the {{superhero}}es ComicBook/CaptainAmerica, ComicBook/SubMariner, and the Human Torch (predecessor to the ''ComicBook/FantasticFour'' character who would later go on [[TropeCodifier to take the same name to new heights]]).

After UsefulNotes/WorldWarII ended, sales of superhero comics began to suffer. Timely's big three ceased printing, and the company changed its name to Atlas in 1950. Atlas published anthologies and single-story comics in a wide variety of genres, and made some sporadic efforts to revive its superheroes, but with little success.

In 1956, Atlas switched from distributing comics itself to going via the American News Company, the biggest and most powerful magazine and comic distributor in the USA. Unfortunately, ANC was shortly thereafter forced out of business due to unlawful business practices, and Atlas was forced to turn to National Comics, owned by their rival, [[Creator/DCComics DC]], for distribution. This drastically reduced the number of comics Atlas was able to get onto shelves. This, plus a recession in 1957, forced Atlas to retrench, and for a time relied on art they had commissioned but not yet published.

Atlas changed its name to Marvel Comics in 1961, and the first comic published under the new name was issue 3 of the scifi anthology ''Amazing Adventures''. Following DC's successful revival of superheroes in 1958--1960, Goodman had one of his staff writers, Creator/StanLee, come up with their own superhero team, the ComicBook/FantasticFour. This team {{subverted}} many existing superhero tropes by eschewing secret identities (and, for some time, costumes), having a monster as a member of the team, and having the personalities of the members clash regularly. With UsefulNotes/TheComicsCode in full force, Marvel began aggressively creating more and more superheroes, drawn from the considerable energy and talents of Creator/StanLee, Creator/JackKirby, and SteveDitko. It was during this time that many of their most popular characters were introduced.

Marvel's big innovation was introducing characterization and personal problems to a greater extent than had ever been done with superheroes. Franchise/SpiderMan in particular suffered from insecurity, teenage {{angst}}, and trying to pay the bills in addition to fighting bank robbers. While this caused [[{{Antihero}} controversy at first]], it ultimately proved popular with readers, with the result that Marvel ended up massively exceeding DC in popularity, as well as drawing in teenagers and, later, adults who would previously have been considered too old to read comics. DC would later experience similar success when Kirby and Ditko started contributing to it.

From the start, Marvel's comics were tied to the real world to a much greater extent than those of DC or other companies. Characters lived in New York, not a fictional city like Metropolis or Gotham. Real-life events [[RippedFromTheHeadlines often impacted the plot]]; for example, ''Fantastic Four'' plots revolved around the space race and the 1962 stock market crash.

Also, surprisingly for the modern reader, events proceeded in approximately real time for the first few years, with one year passing the comics for every year that passed in the real world -- Spider-Man and the Human Torch both started off as teenagers in {{high school}}, but over a few years, graduated and went on to college. Also, when Namor was reintroduced, the writers actually came up with an explanation as to where he had been for 20 in-universe years. However, around 1968, things were stretched out by the introduction of 'Marvel time', in which a year in the comics corresponded to three years in the real world. This had morphed into full-blown ComicBookTime by about 1980.

[floatboxright:Imprints
* MarvelAdventures
* Marvel Illustrated
* Marvel Knights
* MAX
* Creator/IconComics
* Marvel Noir
* Creator/CrossGen
* ComicBook/DisneyKingdoms
]

Due to Lee's busy schedule, he implemented a manner of writing comics known as the ''Marvel Method'', in which the writer, rather than writing a full script, just gave the artist a story synopsis, and left details like pacing and panel layout to the penciller. Afterward, Lee would receive the finished pencils from the artists and write (or rewrite if the artist added a preliminary draft) the dialogue and/or captions. This, coupled with Marvel's seemingly more respectful treatment of artists, served to further bolster its popularity with fans. However, Ditko in 1966 and Kirby in 1970 eventually came to the end of their patience with being relegated to work for hire contracts that seemed to grow increasingly unfair while Lee got all the plaudits, and jumped ship.

[floatboxright:Universes
* ComicBook/AmalgamUniverse
* EarthX
* MarvelAdventures
* Franchise/MarvelCinematicUniverse
* MarvelMangaverse
* Franchise/MarvelUniverse
* ComicBook/TheNewUniverse
* ComicBook/UltimateMarvel
* MarvelComics2
]

In 1971, Marvel further innovated by violating UsefulNotes/TheComicsCode. Lee, at the urging of the Department of Health, wrote a ''Spider-Man'' story with an [[DrugsAreBad anti-drug message]]. Since the Code forbade ''any'' mention of drugs, doing this story was a radical action in comic publishing. When the story proved a success despite opposition, it opened the door to comics unapproved by the Code, ushering in the so-called BronzeAge and bringing sex and violence to the medium. Despite early successes in the 70s and 80s, Marvel began losing sales to DC after 1986, both as a result of many of its writers and artists defecting to the latter, and DC's shocking deconstructions ''ComicBook/{{Watchmen}}'' and ''ComicBook/TheDarkKnightReturns'', as well as the epic ''ComicBook/CrisisOnInfiniteEarths''. It suffered a further setback in 1992, when seven of its top writers and artists left to found Creator/ImageComics, and in late 1996, Marvel filed for bankruptcy protection.

Following several reorganizations, buyouts, and layoffs, Marvel emerged from bankruptcy in 2000, and has been reasonably successful since then. In late 2009, it was bought out by Creator/{{Disney}} for $4 billion. The full effect of this remains to be seen, but it has mostly been business as usual except for Marvel becoming the publishing arm for the comic versions of a few of Disney's properties, including once again becoming the comic book publishing home of the Franchise/StarWars franchise in 2015, Disney's high profile purchase of 2012, when its current contract with Creator/DarkHorseComics is over.

See MarvelComicsCharacters for an index of the characters in the Universe, and check MarvelComicsSeries for an index of all the series published by Creator/MarvelComics, both inside and outside the larger continuity. For the films and [[AnimatedAdaptation Animated Adaptations]] produced by the company, see the Franchise/MarvelCinematicUniverse, WesternAnimation/MarvelUniverse and Creator/MarvelAnimation. For the anime series produced by Creator/{{Madhouse}} using Franchise/MarvelUniverse characters, see Anime/MarvelAnime.
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