Eighty years of Marvel comics: reviewing the past, protecting the future

As the second decade of the new millennium ends, Marvel's iconic superheroes seem to have found a global stage in cinema. In 11 short years, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has shattered box office franchise records, grossing over $18 billion worldwide.

With the final film of the flagship Avengers arc (Endgame) hitting theaters in late April, 2019 is something of a capstone year for the storytelling juggernaut. While fans mourn the recent passing of the legendary Stan Lee, his legacy and the company's 80th birthday will be honored with the opening of the Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes exhibit in Philadelphia, PA. In Charlotte, NC, HeroesCon will be sure to delight casual and hardcore collectors alike.

With all this pomp and circumstance, it's easy to lose sight of the fact that it all started with the humble comic book. True collectors will recall the progress Marvel made since its inception as Timely Comics in pre-war 1939.

A brief history of Marvel Comics

Martin Goodman published Marvel Comics No.1 under the Timely Comics banner in 1939. Superhero comics had seen a rise in popularity during this time--known as the Golden Age of Comics--and Goodman wanted to capitalize on it.

By 1950, superheroes suffered a decline in popularity. Westerns, sci-fi, and humor-based comics had overtaken them. Timely Comics changed its name to Atlas Magazines and catered mostly to these genres.

Then along comes DC Comics with The Flash in 1956. People loved it, prompting DC to form The Justice League. Atlas responded by becoming Marvel Comics and answering with Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's The Fantastic Four (1961). The Silver Age of Comics was underway.

It seemed the superheroes were here to stay. With both DC and Marvel publishing huge successes, every decade after the sixties ushered in new waves of writing and illustrative talent for both companies.

Marvel ran into some trouble in the nineties, declaring bankruptcy in 1996 due to poor sales and issues with management. But like its resilient characters, Marvel was down, not out. In only two years, Marvel was back and had its sights set on more than just comics and figurines coming into the 21st century. Marvel Studios, for one, was about five years old at this point… and we all know what it's grown up to be!

Whether or not Marvel continues a meteoric rise in the world of fantastical storytelling remains to be seen--but it is clear that people all over the globe have embraced the characters, their stories, and the universe. We can probably count on seeing Marvel's 100th.

Suggestions for celebrating Marvel's 80th birthday

Four-fifths of a century is a pretty solid achievement. There's lots you can do to help celebrate:
  • See a movie! Captain Marvel, Avengers: Endgame, and Spider-Man: Far From Home are Marvel's (and Sony's) releases in 2019.
  • Visit the Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes exhibit. The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia will have this exhibit up from April 13 to September 2, with over 300 awesome pieces of art, costumes, and more from the Marvel universe.
  • Attend Comic-Con International: San Diego. It is the biggest of its kind, and something of a rite of passage for many serious collectors: July 18-21 at the San Diego Convention Center.
  • Read a Marvel comic. You can buy digital versions of comics from the forties or see the very latest releases at Marvel.com.

The Silent Guardian: Collectibles Insurance

Whether 80 years old or purchased yesterday, Marvel and other collectible memorabilia are precious things, and it's important to protect them beyond the vacuum seal. Homeowners insurance often does not. Be a superhero. Make sure your marvelous comic collections are adequately insured.