It was 2008 when the world first witnessed the start of a cinematic universe. 13 years, 25 movies, and four shows later, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has changed the face of the entire industry.
The journey, however, didn't start in 2008. 1939 is when it all began with the creation of Timely Comics and its first offering, Marvel Comics no. 1, which introduced us to Human Torch and Sub-Mariner.
Avengers: Infinity War was the first time fans across the globe saw their favourite superheroes turn to dust. However, for Marvel, this wasn't the first time they faced such a threat.
Tighten your seat belts. The rollercoaster is about to begin.
The Flight that didn't take off.
It all started with Detective Comics, popularly known as the DC, who launched a comic book featuring...well, Superman! Timely Comics was Martin Goodman's attempt to jump on the comic books bandwagon.
Human Torch, Sub-Mariner, Captain America, and Captain Marvel were some of the first superheroes introduced. They tasted some success here and there but didn't take off. Fast Forward to the 1950s, the comic books bandwagon came to a screeching halt.
Timely Comics turned into Atlas Magazines and focussed on different genres such as like Sci-fi and comedy.
Enters Stan Lee!
The 1960s marked the turnaround for the company. Atlas Magazines turned into Marvel Comics, and at the helm of it all was the person who changed the way people viewed and perceived superheroes, Stan Lee.
Stan, along with Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, led the way forward. Lee, however, was the face of Marvel. Spiderman, X-men, Fantastic Four, and Iron Man were just some of the iconic characters created during that time.
What really made them successful was the way these characters were written. They were normal individuals with superpowers. Spiderman worried about his studies and his love life. Tony Stark's mannerisms didn't fit that of an idol superhero. He was cocky and more often than not, did what he thought was right.
They changed the notion that a superhero has got to be perfect, and that was what made them unique and relatable. Going forward, a lot of crossovers began to happen. All these superheroes started to team up and show up in each others' comics. It was the true beginning of the Marvel Universe.
Fall from the top
The next few decades saw Marvel turn into a hot property. During that period, the comic book industry saw a new craze. People began to collect comic books in hopes that one day it would be worth a fortune. Be it fans, speculators, media houses or the publishers themselves, each and everyone jumped on the collector's bandwagon.
Marvel and the comic book industry as a whole immensely benefitted from it. Comic books were selling like hotcakes.
Marvel's newfound success attracted many investors, and the company changed hands several times during that period. Marvel Productions opened its first studio in LA in 1981. Five years down the line, New World Pictures acquired Marvel Comics and Marvel Productions. They now called it the Marvel Entertainment Group.
Sometime after, Marvel Comics went to MacAndrews & Forbes Holdings. Now, this is where things started to change. The chief architect of the change was Ronald Perelman.
Under Ronald, Marvel went Public. To expand the company's presence and increase profits, Marvel acquired 46 percent of ToyBiz in 1993. Since the comic book industry was on fire at that point, Perelman decided to hike prices.
But, between 1993-1996 the market turned upside down. People stopped collecting comics, sales dropped and the bubble burst.
Ronald, however, wasn't going to give up. To bring all these comic book characters to life on the big screen, he set up, what is today known as Marvel Studios.
His vision was to buy the remaining part of ToyBiz, but when the shareholders resisted, he filed for bankruptcy. Marvel spent the next few years selling rights of some of its most iconic characters like Spiderman, X-men, Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Thor, and Black Widow to stay afloat.
Balde came out in 1998, The X-men movies started to roll out, and Spiderman came out in 2002. All these movies did well, but for Marvel, this wasn't going to power them up.
And then it happened.
"Why not produce the movies with your characters and under your own banner?", said David Maisel to Marvel.
The Thanos level threat
David Maisel was brought in as the Chief Operating Officer. But producing movies was going to cost a lot of money.
This is when the company took its biggest leap of faith. Marvel cracked a deal with Merrill Lynch. A loan worth $525 million was taken. In return, Marvel put up the rights to Avengers, Ant-man, Nick Fury and other characters at stake if they failed to make that money back.
Marvel did what Captain America would rightly say, "Whatever it takes".
I am Iron Man
Marvel now had the money. A deal with Paramount Pictures gave them the rights of Iron Man, Black Widow, and Thor back. Now, in a move that is acknowledged as one of the best decisions by the company, Kevin Feige was promoted as President of Marvel Studios.
In 2019, it took Iron Man's life to stop the biggest threat in the MCU. In 2008, the birth of Iron Man on the big screen saved Marvel.
Iron man did fantastically well at the box office. Robert Downey Jr. was elevated to super-stardom overnight. Tony Stark became a fan favourite character. Everything started to fall in place. In 2009, Disney bought Marvel for $4 billion.
Hulk, Thor, Captain America followed and then came the first big team up on the big screen in 2012, the Avengers. The movie made a whopping 151.9 crore USD.
The story finally changed and everyone could see the turnaround.
From the very first film, Marvel had a different touch. They started placing important scenes in the middle or after the credits rolled. These scenes would raise further interest in the upcoming movies and teased future storylines.
Who can forget Nick Fury showing up after Iron Man and saying, "You think you are the only superhero", or Thanos showing up wearing the infinity gauntlet, saying he'll take care of things himself.
In 2018, Avengers: Infinity War came out and changed the same old ending of heroes coming out on top. Thanos was the big bad, and he won. No cheap tricks or anything. He came, and he dominated.
People weren't used to it. After all, a superhero movie needs to end with the good guys coming out on top. It was a fresh take on how a villain needs to be made big enough.
It worked. Infinity War collected 204.84 crores USD at the box office and is ranked 5th on the list of highest-grossing movies of all time.
Infinity war's ending made headlines around the world. The craze for Marvel's next film, Avengers: Endgame, reached monstrous proportions.
As expected, the movie came out and broke records like it was nothing. It is currently placed 2nd on the list of highest-grossing movies of all time.
The journey into the multi-verse
Marvel is just getting started. With its foray into series through Disney Plus, the universe is expanding at a rapid pace. Wanda-Vision, Falcon and the Winter Soldier fared great. Loki introduced us to the multi-verse. What-if is exploring possibilities that we never thought of a few years back.
With Marvel, we are heading into the multi-verse. With Spiderman: No Way Home, we may see Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield as spidermen of their respective universe team up with Tom Holland's Spiderman. If that happens, it will arguably be the biggest on-screen collaboration ever.
The company just released Shang-chi a few weeks back, and despite the pandemic, the movie is doing extremely well a the box office.
With a host of movies and shows like Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Thor: Love and Thunder, Hawkeye, Eternals, and Spider-Man: No Way Home in the pipeline, the interest in Marvel productions has never been higher.
Marvel was always destined to make its own movies. As Frigga would say, "Everyone fails at who they're supposed to be. The measure of a person, of a hero, is how well they succeed at being who they are".
(Edited by : Kanishka Sarkar)
First Published: IST