Ever since the studio took the world by storm with their record hitting smash hit Avengers (2012), Marvel Studios has undoubtedly crushed box office. Each year, one right after the other, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has beyond enthralled comic lovers and action fans alike with heroic characters and death defying stakes.
Whether your a Tony Stark kind of guy or a Peter Parker lover, the studio has curated a vast selection of seat clenching movies for just about everyone of all ages to enjoy. From Deadpool to the Guardians of the Galaxy executive producer Kevin Feige has utilized Marvel Comic’s immense rolodex of capped crusaders and big baddies to keep die hard fans entertained for the past decade.
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A Heroic Past
The Marvel Universe is certainly nothing new. The comic book publisher got its start during the late 30’s when Martin Goodman left his career of publishing stories in pulp magazines to join the emerging trend of superhero comics. It wasn’t always called Marvel though; during it’s conception, the company went under the name of Timely Comics. The company’s future successes were quite imminent by its first issue, Marvel Comics #1, selling 80,000 copies. Today, a copy of the iconic beginnings of the company’s iconography in mint condition would amount to around $1.26 million.
Their next big hit was none other than Captain America #1 (1941). The now universally beloved character’s first appearance garnished a whopping one million sales in comic. This is certainly attributed to the comic being published just a year after the attacks on Pearl Harbor. The image of Cap punching Hitler in the face probably didn’t hurt the comics success either.
But everything changed when the 60’s rolled around, the newly renamed Marvel Comic gained a huge lead in the superhero game by adding the legendary storyteller Stan Lee to their team as an editor. Eager to one up the company’s biggest rival, DC Comics, Goodman assigned Lee to further expand Marvel’s catalogue of caped crusaders.
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“Stan, we gotta put out a bunch of heroes,” Godman says according to Bob Batchelor biography, Stan Lee : The Man Behind Marvel, “You know, there’s a market for it.”
Lee was the man behind a vast majority of the characters we se on the big screen today: Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, X-Men, Thor, and Scarlet Witch just to name a few. By the mid 60’s, Marvel was crushing the comic game, selling around 50 million copies a year!
From Comics to the Big Screen
Way before movie goers were watching the streets f New York City being attacked by aliens in Avengers, comic book movies were practically nowhere to be seen. Moreover, the only superhero films that were put out were no more than trivial campy takes on such staples as Superman and Batman. That all changed when Richard Donner gave a much more serious take on the Man of Steel in Superman (1978). The film industry slowly but surely began seeing superheroes in a new found light and Marvel wanted in on the action.
Though it was a rocky road for he company to get their character’s any big screen appearances at first. With the wildly considered flop of Howard the Duck (1986) failing to make the cut – and the Superman craze quickly dying out after failed attempts at sequels – the future for comic book movies was looking pretty grim. To make matters worse, by the year 1996, the company found itself in in millions of dollars in bankruptcy.
It took the surprisingly enormous success of X-Men (2000) to revive the once shunned over genre and hoist Marvel out of its slump. The Fox production, which featured a band of mutants fighting for their right to survive, saw Marvel’s first colossal hit. Banking $54.47 million in the box office, X-Men saw Hollywood’s the second biggest opening weekend during that time.
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The success saw Marvel’s hiring of i’s now executive producer, Kevin Feige. This was a huge win for Marvel, as he became the mind behind a vast majority of Marvel’s biggest blockbusters. With deals being bandied about to production companies like Fox and Sony, Marvel was on it’s way to curating its now iconic cinematic universe.
Sony’s Spiderman (2002) became the highest grossing superhero film of the year and the sixth highest of in history, making 821.7 million in the box office worldwide.
The MCU We Know Today
Iron Man (2008) was a distinct turning point in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Fans were immediately captivated by Robert Downey Jr.’s portrayal of the snarky billionaire Tony Stark. It made $102 million on it’s opening weekend. What came next were a series of character driven movies such as The Hulk, Thor, and Captain America: The First Avenger. All this fanfare lead up to what’s now become the MCU’s cash cow: the Avengers trilogy.
Building momentum in each film, Marvel completely crushed the comic book movie indursty by assembling their most beloved crime stoppers in Avengers (2012). The film’s $1,518,812,988 worldwide box office sales indicated that Feige had hit the jackpot when it comes to cinematic victory. He soon followed suit to crank out even more titles, ultimately leading up the Avengers prequel and MCU most successful picture, Avengers: Endgame (2019).
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Endgame was such a hit around the world, it took the #1 spot for the world highest grossing box office weekend with $2.797 in tickets. It surpassed that of James Cameron’s Avatar (2009) – though the classic soon regained it’s top spot in 2020.
All these feats have made Marvel and the actors who portray their iconic characters millions. According to Overmental, the company has made, “$7.1 billion worldwide, averaging $716 million per movie.”
Marvel’s superstar behind the scenes, Feige has garnished a net worth of $200 million over his decades of heroic movie making. Downey Jr. made $20 million up front for Endgame and Captain America star Chris Evans makes $15 million per film.
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Sources: Cnet, The Numbers, Time, Overmental
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