Marvel Comics (founded in 1939 as Marvel Worldwide Inc., then Marvel Publishing, Inc. and later Marvel Comics Group) is an American comic book company that makes "superhero" comic books. Its top rival is DC Comics. In 2009, The Walt Disney Company bought Marvel for US$4 billion. Their comic book characters were created by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and many others.
Some of their most iconic and well-known characters are Spider-Man, Namor the Sub-Mariner, Captain America, Deadpool, Hercules, The Incredible Hulk, Ms. Marvel, Wolverine, She-Hulk, Thor, Ant-Man, Iron Man, Black Panther, Doctor Strange, Howard the Duck, Jessica Jones, Nick Fury, Silver Surfer, The Punisher, Blade, Daredevil, Elektra and Vision. Most of their characters take place in the fictional Marvel Universe with locations that either mirror real-life cities or are fictional places. Some of their most well-known superhero teams are The Avengers, The Fantastic Four, The Inhumans, The Defenders, The Runaways, the Guardians of the Galaxy, S.H.I.E.L.D. and the X-Men. Some of their most famous and iconic villains are Doctor Doom, Doctor Octopus, Venom, Sandman, Lizard, Electro, Galactus, Thanos, Kang the Conqueror, Mystique, Apocalypse, Ultron, Red Hulk, Kraven the Hunter, Green Goblin, Red Skull, Magneto and Loki. Some of their supervillain teams are The Dark Avengers, The Frightful Four, the Masters of Evil, the Sinister Six, H.A.M.M.E.R., The Dark X-Men, Thunderbolts and Black Order.
Marvel has also made movies, toys, video games, cartoons, and other merchandise about the characters, which have made them even more popular.
Marvel Comics has had many large scale "crossovers" in their "Multiverse" that retconned large parts of continuity. A "fictional crossover" is the placement of two or more otherwise discrete fictional characters, settings, or universes into the context of a single story. They can arise from legal agreements between the relevant copyright holders, unauthorized efforts by fans or common corporate ownership.
The "Multiverse" is the collection of alternate universes that share a universal hierarchy. A large variety of these universes were originated from another due to a major decision on the part of a character. Some can seem to be taking place in the past or future due to differences in how time passes in each universe. Often, new universes are born due to time traveling, another name for these new universes is an "alternate timeline". Earth-616 is the established main universe where the majority of Marvel books take place. They are often called parallel universes and they are also known as the Marvel Multiverse.
Marvel used to be a company called Timely Comics in the 1940s and then Atlas Comics in the 1950s. The first comic published with the name "Marvel Comics" was The Fantastic Four #1 in November, 1961.
Located in New York City, Marvel has had successive headquarters:
- In the McGraw-Hill Building, where it originated as Timely Comics in 1939.
- In suite 1401 of the Empire State Building.
- At 635 Madison Avenue (the actual location, though the comic books' indicia listed the parent publishing-company's address of 625 Madison Ave.)
- 575 Madison Avenue.
- 387 Park Avenue South.
- 10 East 40th Street.
- 417 Fifth Avenue.
- A 60,000-square-foot (5,600 m2) space at 135 W. 50th Street.