The 60s, 70s and 80s were remarkable years for Marvel Comics. They gained a well deserved reputation as a major storytelling company and, with it, financial success. The comics they produced told unique tales and contained fantastic artwork, which attracted many fans, both locally and internationally. By the 1980s, comic books had become collector’s items, and many people would invest in more than one copy of the same edition, with the hope of reselling them for a small fortune at a later date. Marvel produced special editions to appeal to these customers, such as those that had the covers foil embossed, or printed using other flashy techniques. The company’s sales continued to grow until the early 90s, but by 1996 they had declined by 70%, due to higher prices and a decrease in the collectors’ market.
The company had been expanding over the years, and Marvel Productions was responsible for releasing cartoons based on the comics. In 1995, another branch of production, Marvel Studios, was formed. In the late 90s, several movies that had been adapted from Marvel Comics successfully played on the big screen. The movies had been released under other major production companies, however, and Marvel received little commission for each.
In 2003, the company carried a business proposal to Merrill Lynch that would provide them with the means of producing movies under their own label, thus receiving the majority of the profits. By 2005, the contract was signed, and included a clause that gave over the rights of their major characters to Merrill Lynch if their movies were not successful. The deal also included $525 million to be given to Marvel, over a period of 8 years, with the intention of them releasing 10 movies. The company bought back their rights to several major characters, such as Iron Man, Hulk and Thor, before embarking on their movie production journey.
Marvel Studios first venture unto the big screen involved reviving a character that had already passed through several giants in the movie industry, including Fox, New Line and Universal. Iron Man was released and proved to be immensely successful, establishing Marvel as a leader in movie production. Since then, the company has continued to expand and has released several movies that have grossed billions, including Iron Man 3 and The Avengers, which is the third highest grossing film of all time.
Viewing the company’s success, in 2009, Disney purchased Marvel Studios for 4.3 billion. The company continues to grow, gaining high profits from even its least successful films. The comic industry had evolved and fans, that followed the stories of their heroes for many years in beautifully illustrated paperback, now have the chance to view their lives on the big screen. In addition, there is an entire fan base that has never read one comic book. The company’s strength proved to be in its ability to adapt, in an ever-changing industry, and they continue to thrive as their fans remain happy.