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Marvel Comics Timeline
Significant moments in the publishing history of Marvel Comics

See also John Jackson Miller's essay on
the history between Marvel and new owner, Disney.

1932: Martin Goodman starts the magazine publishing business that will later become Marvel.

August 1939: Marvel Comics #1 is published under Martin Goodman's Timely Comics umbrella. Other logos would be used, including Atlas in the 1950s.

1961: A renaissance begins at perennial also-ran comics publisher Marvel with the publication of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's Fantastic Four #1, the first of a new wave of super-heroes that would include Spider-Man, The Hulk, Iron Man, The X-Men, and The Avengers. Marvel's market share would grow, solidly becoming the #1 publisher by the 1980s.

1968: Martin Goodman sells Marvel to a firm whose products range from magazines to vitamins; the firm would later be known as Cadence Industries.

1986: Cadence sells Marvel to New World Entertainment, a television and film production company.

January 1989: Ronald Perelman's MacAndrews and Forbes holding company buys Marvel Entertainment group from failing New World Entertainment for $82.5 million.

Summer 1991: Perelman and company sell 40% of Marvel in a public offering. The stock booms, becoming one of the fastest-growth stocks in the early 1990s.

July 4, 1992: Marvel buys trading-card manufacturer Fleer for $265 million.

Dec. 28, 1994: Marvel buys comics distributor Heroes World Distribution.

March 9, 1995: Marvel buys trading-card manufacturer Skybox for $150 million.

Dec. 27, 1996: Burdened by a large debt following many expensive acquisitions in trading-card and other tangentially related fields -- and shaken by the mid-1990s decline in comics publishing fortunes -- Marvel Entertainment files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

1997-98: A long legal battle between holders of Marvel's bonds results in temporary control of the company by Carl Icahn and his associates. Later, control is regained by the owner of one of Marvel's subsidiaries, Toy Biz. Marvel emerges from bankruptcy with a much-reduced publishing slate.

May 2002: The first Spider-Man feature film is released. Increased attention to comics benefits Marvel and a comics industry on the rebound, thanks to a business model that also includes bound collected editions of comics, allowing Marvel and other publishers to capitalize on their long publishing histories through bookstore sales.

Aug. 31, 2009: The Walt Disney Company announces the purchase of Marvel Entertainment Group for $4 billion in stocks and cash.

Dec. 31, 2009: Walt Disney Company shareholders approve the purchase of Marvel Entertainment Group for $4.3 billion. Under the deal, Marvel shareholders receive $30 per share in cash, plus 0.745 Disney shares for every Marvel share they own. Given Disney's value, the AP calculates that values Marvel shares at $54.25.

Additional moments from comics distribution history can be found here:

Distribution timeline


Find out more about comics and fiction from writer John Jackson Miller!