These days it seems like there’s a Marvel movie in the cinema every other week. Everywhere you go, there’s Marvel. Honestly, how can you be surprised? Marvel superheroes are well loved and have taken the world by storm, changing forever the way that we view superheroes.
Of course, even the biggest ideas and companies need to start somewhere, and Marvel is no different. Marvel had to grow to become what it is today. So, what’s the history of marvel and the cinematic universe that we know and love? Let us enlighten you!
What Is Marvel? The History Of Marvel Comics
So, what exactly is Marvel? Unless you’ve lived under a rock for half of your life, there’s a good chance that you already know at least a little bit about Marvel comics. If you aren’t familiar with the history of Marvel, then here’s all that you need to know.
Founded in 1939 by a magazine publisher- Martin Goodman
Today, many of us associate Marvel Comics with Stan Lee, who came up with many of the character ideas. Of course, Stan Lee wasn’t there at the beginning. Marvel was born thanks to a Pulp magazine publisher by the name of Martin Goodman. At this time, comics were becoming increasingly popular, so Goodman joined forces with his brother Abraham Goodman to start Marvel comics under the original name of Timely Publications.
Goodman created ‘Timely Comics’-introducing superhero character such as Captain America
Once Timely Publications was started, it was time for Goodman to get to work on creating the universe for the comics. The comics went under the name of ‘Timely Comics’ at first, with the first comic called Marvel Comics released in October 1939. This comic featured a few early characters, including the Human Torch and Namor the Sub Mariner. This comic was a tremendous hit, selling around 900,000 copies in just the first two months.
Later on, more staff members were employed, including Joe Simon and Jack Kirby who helped to create one of the most well known Marvel superheroes - Captain America, the First Avenger! Captain America was released to the world in Captain America Comics #1 in 1941 and was immensely successful.
In 1939, the man we all know and love was employed at Timely Publications as an office assistant - Stan Lee, or Stanley Lieber.
1940’s: Superheroes were becoming less popular, Goodman cancelled the last comics in 1950
In the years following the Second World War, superheroes were slowly becoming less popular. It was at this point that Timely Comics expanded into other genres like Westerns and Horror. The very last comic books in the genre were canceled in 1950 by Timely. Timely Comics would later become Atlas Magazines. During 1953 to 1954 an attempt was made to revive the superheroes from the ashes, but the attempt was a failure.
Atlas Magazines would bear its stamp on the final comic in 1967 with the release of Dippy Duck #1.
Of course, as we all know, this wouldn’t be the last that we would see of characters such as Captain America and the other characters that would soon follow. Marvel as we know it today would soon emerge and make waves in film and comics alike.
1956- Competitors DC reintroduced superhero characters, with significant success
In 1956, superheroes started to become more popular again thanks to DC Comics, a direct competitor of Marvel. You most likely know all about this company, too - they are known for characters such as Batman and the Joker. In the 1960s DC introduced its audience to characters from The Justice League of America. It was at this point that a light bulb went off in the minds of those working at Atlantis Comics - it was time to revive their own characters, too.
1960’s: Atlantis Comics changed their name to Marvel, to compete with DC
As the 1960s came around, Atlantis Comics decided it was time for a rebrand. It became Marvel Comics, as we know them today. Marvel was created to compete with DC, whose comics were becoming more and more popular. These two companies would become the most popular ones at the time for superhero comics.
This new era of Marvel started with a few major comics, such as The Fantastic Four, first released in November of 1961. More on that later, though! As the years continued on, Marvel released more and more huge comics that we all know about today, such as The Hulk, Thor, Spider-Man, Iron Man, Ant-Man, the X-Men and Daredevil.
Many of these comics have now made their way onto the big screen and bestselling movies, ushering in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or MCU. Marvel were praised especially for their characterization of their superheroes. It’s hard not to like the characters in these comics, even the villains in some cases!
2007: Marvel began publishing digital comics
In the early 2000s technology was becoming more prominent, and as such, consumers needed a new way to enjoy comics. Marvel noticed an opportunity here. In 1996 the first Marvel comics were released on the web with the introduction of Marvel Cyber Comics, but it wasn’t immensely popular at first so the idea was soon put on the back burner. The growth of digital comics was slow until 2007.
In 2007, the digital comics underwent an overhaul, becoming Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited. With this, users could subscribe to the service and have access to a whopping 2,500+ comics. With new comics being added every single week, it’s hard to say no to that! The service has only become more popular as the years have gone by, and it’s a great way to experience Marvel comics. It now goes by the name Marvel Unlimited and it’s even available on iOS mobile devices.
The Marvel Universe
Marvel is known for its vast and expansive universe - or multiverses, in some cases! But what exactly does the Marvel Universe consist of? Here’s what you need to know.
1961-63 known as ‘the silver age’, making a transition from Timely comics, to Marvel Comics
While Marvel characters that we know and love were around before the 1960s, it was during the 1960s silver age that Marvel truly began to take off. As we’ve already mentioned, this is when the originally named Timely Comics morphed into the Marvel Comics that we know and love today.
In response to the popularity of superheroes and to compete against DC
Of course, the silver age doesn’t only exist in reference to Marvel. The Silver Age encompasses an entire period of mass success in Superhero comics - it was a time period ranging from around 1956 to 1970. Before this was the Golden Age of Comic Books, and after would come the Bronze Age. With that in mind, it was actually DC that started the beginning of the Silver Age when they brought The Flash back into the world after his five year hiatus. They also re-released other popular characters such as the Green Lantern.
It should be only natural, then, that Marvel thought it necessary to revive some of their characters and make new ones to compete with DC, a company that was only becoming more popular at the time. It was during the silver era that The Avengers were born.
What is especially interesting about the Silver Age is the focus on science. In the comics of the Golden Age, a superhero’s power was largely unexplained, or it was considered to be the result of magic. This is not the case in the Silver Age, where science took the reins. In this era, characters such as Spiderman would gain their powers from a spider bite, or the Hulk would become the green monster we all know of through gamma radiation.
Fantastic Four Comic: Famously known for kickstarting Marvel Universe
So what comic launched Marvel’s debut into the silver age of comics? Why, it’s the Fantastic Four, of course! Fantastic Four #1 was released in 1961 and was a massive hit. The iconic Fantastic Four has inspired movies, merchandise and more. This was the beginning of a new era of comic intrigue.
The comic also ended up making writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby into household names. As mentioned earlier, Stan Lee began working originally at what would become Marvel as a teenager. He is known for being the pioneer behind many of the characters that we know and love from Marvel. His very first work was writing small bits of text in the Captain America comics from the Golden Age back in 1941. In 1961 he and Kirby began their collaboration on The Fantastic Four Comics - the characters even ended up dealing with bankruptcy and the Cold War, so it’s clear that many topics in the comics were closely linked to real life issues. It was then in 1962 that Peter Parker would come onto the scene in Radioactive Spiderman. He even inserted himself into a comic in 2006 called Stan Lee Meets Spider-Man. His career only continued to blossom up until his recent death, and his legacy still lives on through his characters.
The History Of Marvel Cinematic Universe
So we know all about the comics, but what else is Marvel known for? That’s right - its blockbuster movies. As TV and movies became more and more popular, Marvel started making its way onto the big screen. Thus began the Marvel Cinematic Universe...
Began in 2008: When the first MCU movie was released
As of 2020, there were a massive 23 movies released in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Of course, other companies had tried to make movies based on many of the characters in the original comics, but these are generally not considered to be part of the Marvel movie canon.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is a collection of various key movies in the Marvel canon that create a long standing story that persists throughout the movies. Various elements of the plot overlap from one movie to the next, and the movies usually accumulate in larger plot points explored in bigger movies, such as the final installment of the third phase of the MCU, Avengers: Endgame.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is Divided into four key phases as of the present day. The very first Marvel movie, and the beginning of Phase 1 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, was Iron Man, released in 2008.
Phase 1 of the MCU
The first phase of the MCU consists of the following movies, and spans from 2008 - 2012:
Iron Man (2008)
The Incredible Hulk (2008)
Iron Man 2 (2010)
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
The Avengers (2012)
This phase of the MCU is an introduction to some of the key players in the MCU - Iron Man Tony Stark, The Hulk Bruce Banner, Captain America Steve Rogers and Thor. It also introduces other key characters such as Nick Fury, Hawkeye and more. These characters then form The Avengers, and the phase ends with the formation of this mega team of superheroes.
Phase 2 of the MCU
Now onto phase 2! Phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe Spans from 2013-2015, and includes the following movies:
Iron Man 3 (2013)
Thor: Dark World (2013)
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
This phase expands on some of the themes and plot points from the first phase of the MCU, and introduces some new characters like the Guardians of the Galaxy cast, Ant Man and more. It’s also the first we learn about the major villain of this part of the series - Thanos.
Phase 3 of the MCU
The final phase of the Infinity Arc of the Marvel Cinematic Universe Begins in 2016 and ends in 2019. It encompasses the following movies:
Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Doctor Strange (2016)
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
Black Panther (2018)
Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)
Captain Marvel (2019)
Avengers: Endgame (2019)
Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)
Here, the MCU is wrapped up, climaxing in a huge showdown against Thanos in Avengers: Endgame.
Phase 4 of the MCU
Phase 4 of the MCU is still ongoing, and encompasses the events taking place after the Infinity Saga. It’s a new era of Marvel, and as of yet, we still don’t know a great deal about it. So far, the following movies have been released or are due to release later in 2021. Read on in this article for more information about upcoming movies from the MCU that are due to release in Phase 4.
Black Widow (2021)
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)
Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)
The MCU doesn’t end with the movies, either. The universe has even been built up in various TV shows such as Agents of Shield, though not all Marvel TV shows are directly linked with the big MCU. Some examples of recent Marvel TV shows include Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Loki and What If, all of which have recently been released on the Disney+ streaming service.
It should ultimately come as no surprise to learn that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is one of the highest grossing film franchises to date, earning more than $23 billion dollars throughout its lifespan. Primarily though, their profits today come from merchandising for the superheroes, like clothing, costumes and more. They also generate a large portion of their profits from their videos and games.
Marvel Movie Viewing Order
There’s a lot of debate about how you should watch Marvel movies. There are so many of them, and not all of them are in chronological order based on release date. There are a massive 24 movies in total, so you will want to ensure that you are watching them in an order that is going to make sense to you.
There are three main ways of watching Marvel movies - in release date order, chronological order and something known as spaghetti order. Sounds pretty confusing, right? Well, we’ve already covered the release order - simply watch the movies in the dates of release mentioned above in the ‘Phases’ section of this article.
Chronological order is a bit more tricky. Instead of Iron Man, the very first movie that you should be watching is Captain America: The First Avenger. This movie is set in the Second World War, and is the making of the aforementioned First Avenger, Steve Rogers. Many people prefer to watch the movies in chronological order, since there are certain things that simply make more sense if you watch them in this order. This is the chronological viewing order:
Captain America: The First Avenger (1942)
Captain Marvel (1995)
Iron Man (2010)
Iron Man 2 (2011)
The Incredible Hulk (2011)
The Avengers (2012)
Iron Man 3 (2012)
Thor: The Dark World (2013)
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
Guardians of the Galaxy 2 (2014)
Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Black Widow (2016)
Spider-Man: Homecoming (2016)
Doctor Strange (2016-2017)
Black Panther (2017)
Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
Avengers: Infinity War (2017)
Ant-Man and the Wasp (2017)
Avengers: Endgame (2017-2022)
Spider-Man: Far From Home (2023)
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2023)
Some people do enjoy watching it in chronological order, but if you have never watched the movies before then it’s best not to do this since you can end up getting early spoilers and certain characters may not come up again for a long time after their first appearance. It’s generally better to watch the movies in release date order if you can. If you are rewatching the movies then you can probably find some enjoyment from watching them in chronological order.
There’s also something known as Spaghetti order. Wait, what’s this? Spaghetti order has absolutely nothing to do with your mom’s homemade bolognese and everything to do with the post credits scenes after the movies. Any long time Marvel fan will tell you that whatever you do, you should never leave a Marvel movie until after the credits. Most Marvel films come with a post credits scene, and some of them can be rather important to the overarching plot. It’s also important for following the Spaghetti order. Basically, if a post credits scene references another movie in the MCU, that’s the movie that you need to watch next. The viewing order is exactly the same in phase 1 with the spaghetti viewing order. Phase 2 is where it changes a little. When you watch Guardians of the Galaxy, you will need to move onto the next Guardians film instead of following the usual release order. In phase 3, everything gets a little freaky and the order is a bit different. You can find out more about the exact order here.
Disney & Marvel
There are a lot of big names in film and TV, but Disney is one of the most well known and loved names out there. Disney has bought many film franchises throughout the years, so it should hardly come as a surprise to learn that in recent years, Disney has also acquired Marvel. Here’s all that you need to know about the Disney acquisition of Marvel, and how it’s taken Marvel to a whole new level.
In 2009, Disney bought Marvel
In 2009, massive global conglomerates Disney purchased Marvel Entertainment. This was a large move that helped to really increase the reach of Marvel stories, but it didn’t come without its challenges and risks. Marvel was bought for $4.24 billion by Disney, and both TV and film have come out of the partnership.
Disney took a risk, exploring by using less popular Marvel comics E.G. Guardians Of The Galaxy, which turned out to be a big hit
The very first Marvel movie to be released under the Disney umbrella was the first The Avengers film back in 2012. After this release, Disney decided it was time to take a couple of risks. There were many comics from Marvel that weren’t so popular, and this includes The Guardians of the Galaxy. Producing the first of these movies was a huge risk for Disney, but it was one that ultimately paid off. What’s especially interesting is that Disney still managed to generate a profit on the movie, despite being over budget at $232 million.
It certainly seems that the acquisition of Marvel was a smart move for the Mouse House, since they have managed to generate more than $18 billion from the global box office alone, that’s not even considering what they earn from merchandise, TV and more.
As part of the MCU, Disney had started releasing TV shows
Speaking of TV, Disney also noticed an opportunity to start taking advantage of their home streaming service, Disney+, and has released TV shows that are directly linked to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Some of the earliest TV shows produced by Disney were Agent Carter, Jessica Jones, Daredevil and more.
Now, Disney+ has a few other TV shows. For starters, there’s Falcon and the Winter Soldier, following the titular characters through various adventures. In Loki, we see more of the multiverse. That’s sure to be a huge plot point throughout the following movies in the Phase 4, especially if some of the future titles and trailers are anything to go by. It follows the titular Thor villain who ends up battling...Himself?
WandaVision follows Wanda and Vision from the MCU - be warned though, don’t watch this until after you’ve finished watching Avengers: Endgame if you don’t want to be spoiled. The same goes for the other TV shows that we have mentioned so far.
Finally, What If is another TV show that has been released on the streaming platform. This is essentially the plot of the previous movies and what would happen if just one thing had happened differently throughout the course of the movie. For instance, what if Captain America wasn’t Steve Rogers, but the love of his life instead?
Disney + has encouraged fans to purchase a Disney + subscription to watch Marvel TV shows/ movies,increasing Disney’s pop culture dominance
In fact, the Marvel TV shows have been a big selling point for Disney, and they have gained many new subscribers because of this. Disney has made an effort to encourage people to buy a subscription to the streaming service in order to see the shows. Understandably, this has made them much more relevant in pop culture!
Disney has also taken the opportunity to launch ‘Avengers Campus’ at DisneyLand
Disney is known for many different things, but one thing that many people think of when Disney is brought up is their theme parks. Who hasn’t wanted to visit Disneyland at least once in their lifetime?
Disney has capitalized on its partnership with Marvel by introducing the beloved superheroes to their Disney theme parks. In particular, you’ll find the Avengers Campus in Disney California Adventure Park when you visit. Here you will find a wide range of different attractions, such as the Spider-Man themed ‘Web Slingers,’ The Ancient Sanctum, Avengers Headquarters and more. There is even marvel themed food and drink on offer. It can certainly add a lot of extra fun to a trip to Disney resorts!
The Future Of Marvel
So what lies in the future of one of the world’s most beloved superhero creators? As it turns out, there’s a lot in store, something that many fans will be pleased to learn. We don’t know anything definitive just yet about the future of the MCU, but it will take inspiration from the original comics and will introduce many new characters along the way. Here’s more about some of the Marvel movies and shows that are in the pipeline.
Upcoming Marvel shows and movies
Recently, there were a few movies announced that should be coming out over the next few years. These are going to be key to the multiverse going forward.
Earlier in 2021, Black Widow released, which slots nicely into the chronology of the first three phases of the movies. Towards the end, there’s a teaser for what may be to come in Marvel. Later in 2021, we will see Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Eternals and Spider-Man: No Way Home.
In 2022, we will see the release of the second Doctor Strange Movie, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, followed by Thor: Love and Thunder. Other releases expected to drop in 2022 include Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and The Marvels.
In 2023, we are expected to see Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. There are other movies such as the Fantastic Four and Blade set to release in the years to come that do not have a release date yet.
Some TV shows are set to release too, such as She Hulk, Ironheart, I Am Groot and Hawkeye.
As you can see, Marvel has an extensive history that has led us to where we are today. Hopefully this article will give you an incentive to hop on Disney+ and binge watch some of the movies or crack out your comics to read!