It was the late 1930s and the dawn of what is now considered the "Golden Age" of comic books. That autumn -- eighty years ago this October -- Manhattan based Timely Publications brought to readers a book that would forever change the industry: an anthology of pulp adventures under the title Marvel Comics.
Although the three color printing format had been around since the beginning of the decade, early "funnybooks" were comprised wholly of newspaper strip reprints. It was in 1935 that National Allied Publications changed the game by publishing the first original stories in the pages of "New Fun: The Big Comic Magazine". It was only a few years after that the company merged with Detective Comics, Inc. and introduced the world to two of the medium's most beloved characters. Superman debuted in the pages of Action Comics #1 in June 1938 with Batman following in Detective Comics #27 the following May.Not to be outdone by the Distinguished Competition, Timely sought to present their own bigger than life heroes. The premiere issue of Marvel Comics, introduced the world to characters like Bill Everett's Sub-Mariner and Carl Bugos' Human Torch (an android precursor to the flame powered Fantastic Four member). When the heroes first clashed in the pages of 1940's Marvel Mystery Comics 8 and 9, it would mark the very first crossover in comic book history and the beginning of a shared continuity embraced by publisher to this day.
The first issue of Marvel Comics would also resurrect a pulp jungle hero called Ka-Zar, a personal favorite of Timely’s young teenage assistant, Stanley Martin Lieber. In 1941, Lieber would write his first credited comic book story in the pages of a newly launched book about star-spangled hero, Captain America Comics. Lieber wrote that story under a pen name that he would later legally adopt: Stan Lee.
Stan Lee wasn't the only comic book legend whose origins were tied to Timely. Captain America was the creation of Joe Simon, Timely’s first editor, and Jack Kirby, who would soon become art director for the publisher. Fast friends, the creative duo brought their patriotic hero to the newsstand in March 1941, nine months before the United States would enter World War II. Featuring an iconic cover of Cap punching Adolph Hitler square in the jaw, the book was a massive hit, selling over a million copies.
Captain America Comics would continue for 75 issues, occasionally teaming Cap with the Human Torch and the Sub-Mariner to become the Allied super team, the All-Winners Squad (later retroactively known as The Invaders). By the time the war ended in 1945, however, Americans began to lose their taste for superheroes. Captain America's adventures would end (albeit temporarily) not with a bang, but with a whimper. Although the story would later be retconned that Steve Rogers disappeared during a fight and was preserved in ice in Antarctica, his famous last battle was never printed. Cap himself didn't even make an appearance in the final issue of his own book, which had be retitled Captain America's Weird Tales. Even Timely's own name went away as they began publishing books in the 1950s as Atlas Comics.
Despite a brief attempt to bring back their Timely heroes, Atlas spent most of the 1950s publishing the then far more popular crime mysteries, light hearted love stories and tales of science fiction monsters. Then, in June of 1961, the publisher officially launched the Marvel Comics imprint with the 69th issue of the anthology book Journey into Mystery and the 95th issue of popular romance heroine Patsy Walker. Five months later, Marvel Comics would help usher in sequential art's Silver Age with the debut issue of a new superhero team from Kirby and Lee, The Fantastic Four. Within the year, Marvel would introduce their take on the Norse god Thor (created by Kirby, Lee and Lee's brother, Larry Lieber) in the pages of Journey into Mystery and, that same month, debut Lee and artist Steve Ditko's teenage wallcrawler Spider-Man in the final issue of the anthology Amazing Fantasy. Spidey was so popular that he received his own title in March 1963 while, that same month, Tales of Suspense began to feature stories about "The Invincible iron Man," created by Kirby, Lee, Lieber and artist Don Heck.
Since its debut as Timely, Marvel has published more than 35,000 individual issues and introduced hundreds of characters that are known the world over. The 21 entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe have, in just one decade, grossed more than $18.5 billion at the worldwide box office. While Avengers: Endgame may represent an ending of sorts, the fictional universe that has endured for the better part of a century is stronger than ever and a testament to the incredible fact that, after all this time, it may be that the Age of Marvels is only just beginning.
- Silas Lesnick
Over the weekend, press conference for their hugely anticipated “Avengers: Endgame,” calling on Happy Hogan himself, Jon Favreau to moderate a conversation with directors Anthony and Joe Russo alongside stars Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Brie Larson, Paul Rudd, Danai Gurira and Karen Gillan. You needn’t fear spoilers watching the below video as everyone is pretty tight lipped about the film’s plot, instead reflecting on what has been an incredible decade long journey.
The grave course of events set in motion by Thanos that wiped out half the universe and fractured the Avengers ranks compels the remaining Avengers to take one final stand in Marvel Studios’ grand conclusion to twenty-two films, “Avengers: Endgame.”
The “Endgame” cast includes Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, Chris Evans as Captain America, Mark Ruffalo as the Hulk, Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Anthony Mackie as Falcon, Paul Bettany as Vision, Elizabeth Olsen as Scarlet Witch, Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye, Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther, Sebastian Stan as Winter Soldier, Don Cheadle as War Machine, Chris Pratt as Star-Lord, Dave Bautista as Drax, Zoe Saldana as Gamora, Pom Klementieff as Mantis, Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange, Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie, Letitia Wright as Shuri, Benedict Wong as Wong, Tom Holland as Spider-Man, Paul Rudd as Ant-Man, Tom Hiddleston as Loki, Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts, Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan and Josh Brolin as Thanos.
Directed by the “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and “Captain America: Civil War” pair of Anthony and Joe Russo, “Avengers: Endgame” is produced by Kevin Feige. Louis D’Esposito, Victoria Alonso, Michael Grillo and Stan Lee are the executive producers. Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely wrote the screenplay.