Marvel Comics: Where do they fit in?
With the recent release of Avengers: Infinity War to DVD, Marvel has seen the culmination of 10 years visual storytelling, finally lead into a defining moment with the finale of the Infinity Gauntlet saga. The epic… and long time coming, mystery of what all the different colour stones were about, has finally slotted into place and made sense of most of the end credit scenes.
Not many can argue that Marvel have been successful with their movies. But, what about the media from which it all started for them, Marvel Comics. The films are incredibly popular by breaking all kinds of box office records and almost redefining Hollywood by driving some of the best talent to consider starring in superhero movies.
A Brief History of Comics
Comics have been around since the 1920s, when the first notable version was called The Funnies #1, and were part of newspapers rather than the separate articles they are today. However, it wasn’t until the 1930s that comic books became much more familiar to us today, in the 1933 Famous Funnies: A Carnival of Comics, the first comic book to include a full colour cover and interior pages.
The War Years (1940’s)
During this period, Marvel (originally called Timely) began to dip their toes into the Publishing Ocean, as the World plunged into war around the 1940s. As soldiers began to deploy overseas, comics were sent over to boost morale and divert their attention away from the surrounding conflict. Unfortunately, paper was a useful resource for the war effort and comics were not exempt from the war cause.
Despite the small volume of comic book material at the time, it can be considered a Golden Age of comics with the birth of heroes like Captain America and Captain Marvel. Although, by the end of the 40s their popularity had begun to decline.
Birth of The Silver Age (1950’s – 60’s)
With the decline of comic book heroes by the start of the 1950s, only Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman remained popular throughout this period. DC at this time began to develop some of their most famous heroes, such as The Flash and Green Lantern, which revitalized the comic book industry. Bad times for Marvel Fans!
But, by the 1960s, DC had began to falter, Atlas Comics had become Marvel Comics and they began to publish new title such as Spider-Man, The Hulk and The Fantastic Four. Strangely enough, Marvel was restricted to releasing only eight titles a month due to the distribution company, which was actually owned by DC!
Marvel Takes Number 1 Spot (1970’s – 80’s)
With the start of the 1970s, Marvel had taken the number one spot and was leaving their competition in its wake. Despite their popularity, sales were still low and quality of content and distribution was beginning to become a problem. Creatively, in the decade leading up to the 80s, this was the birth of now iconic staples to the Marvel universe such as The X-men.
Throughout the 80s, the tone of comics turned grittier, with characters like Wolverine and revamping of characters like Batman, especially Frank Miller’s interpretation of the character, Daredevil: Born Again and The Watchmen series.
The Silent Renaissance (1990’s)
The 1990s was a great decade for storytelling and re imagining of characters, with the creation of successful comic book series such as Frank Miller’s Sin City, The Death of Superman, The Weapon X series and The Infinity Gauntlet.
Despite this decade as a creative success, financially it was a bad time for the comic book industry. Although, the rise of grim and gritty characters did attract a wider audience.
The Movie Era (2000’s – onward)
Over the last few decades, comic books have steadily increased in popularity and most people would attribute it to the success of the movies. From the early X- Men films, which tried to ground comic books stories in reality, to the more colourful and complex films we see today, the movies were able to engage a wider audience, who became enthralled with the characters they saw on the big screen and wanted to know more about them. The way to do this is through comic books, and getting back to their roots.
The Comic Book Story of Today
Technology has played a huge part in the success of comic books today, with greater accessibility through the internet, streaming and downloads, new technology has made it even easier to read comics and much faster than ever before. The amount of content that comic book readers have at their disposable is incredible and allows for the comic book community to grow and diversify.
In truth, comic books will always have their low and high periods. Recently, there was controversy around the re imagining of iconic characters into female superheroes, which many felt was too far. However, throughout the history of comic books there has always been a need to try something new, and allow creativity to push the boundaries. Female or not, the stories and the nature of the hero is what’s important and the message they try to present.
Despite ongoing controversies, Marvel Comics has always survived. Like the heroes they portray in their comics, they always find a way to win and a huge part of their most recent successes has been down to the popularity of their ‘Cinematic Universe’. This has allowed the acquisition of a bigger audience, and the opportunity to engage with a wider audience through entertainment and the utilizing of new technologies, which are the fundamental avenues for all modern business.
As a comic book reader, we are in a great era to see our heroes brought to life on the big screen, but that could never have happened without the grit, determination and creativity of the Comic Books of the past. Marvel Comics laid the foundation for everything we come to enjoy about superheroes today and I believe it will continue for many years to come, with both the books and movies providing, as always, quality entertainment for all.
Thanks for reading this article, what are some of your favourite comic book stories or who are your favourite superheroes? Comment below and we can discuss them further
All the best,