The Marvel Cinematic Universe is regarded as one of the biggest franchises in today’s day and age. But like every other success story, the comic book company too had to go through a lot of struggles before it made its way from rock bottom up the stairs of victory. Although after years of fighting and trying, the superheroes did finally succeed in winning readers’ hearts worldwide, yet, this didn’t stay for long.
Turns out even the rough-and-tough characters couldn’t save the company from ending up in bankruptcy after two decades of immense success just because of a riskily greedy decision Marvel owners took which made the company its own villain.
Marvel Comics Was Flourishing In The Industry By The 1960s
Flashback to 1939, when Marvel Comics initially set foot in the industry under the name ‘Timely Comics’ with their first ever comic book: MARVEL COMICS #1. In those early days, it originally released stories on superheroes like the Submariner (an underwater adventurer) and the Human Torch (who is now a part of the Fantastic Four) and changed its name to ‘Atlas Comics’ by 1951.
Though not too famous in the beginning, after over two decades of its origin, Atlas Comics finally started to make its mark on the industry by creating a different range of superheroes, ones who were more flawed and less perfect, just like ordinary people: like Hulk, whose superpowers were driven by rage.
Going forward, the company’s name was then officially shifted to ‘Marvel Comics’ by the 1960s, and its stories were beginning to get more inclined toward people’s needs and wants; highlighting even the major issues raging at the time like issues of social justice and prejudice and making its characters fight them to make the world a better place to live in.
This challenging of the ongoing conventions and stereotypes helped strengthen the company’s feet in the industry, increasing its fame with each passing day. But while it accomplished its much-deserved worth, it also fell into the trap of greediness and risky investments, which led the company to bankruptcy after more than two decades of thriving in the industry.
Marvel’s Bankruptcy Came After Nearly 2 Decades, Leading To Its Downfall
Back in the early 1990s, news had spread about old toys and merchandise of comic book readers being valued at an enormously high price, worth thousands of dollars. This raised a craze in people, leading to a whole new generation of comic book collectors collecting comics in hopes of becoming rich. This also helped Marvel increase its profits as its biggest fans bought over 20 comics of every single issue at the time.
At the same time, Ron Perelman made his introduction to the story. He bought the company for $82 million, only to raise the prices of the books all the while generating multiple versions of each issue to cater to speculators. Perelman then took the initiative to make Marvel public, with investors rushing to buy its shares considering the constantly rising stock value, leading to over 1,500% rise in the stock price.
That’s when Perelman made his biggest mistake which led to the company’s downfall in the 1990s: he sank Marvel’s hard-earned profits into several risky acquisitions. In the meanwhile, comic book collectors also realized that none of their comics were rare enough to make them rich, and thus stopped buying them. This immensely affected Marvel, for its stock price plummeted as its revenues fell, leading to the company declaring bankruptcy in 1996.
Thereafter, the company was resold to another billionaire Carl Icahn all the while selling off the movie rights to Spider-Man, X-Men, and several more just to stay afloat. The rest is history, for by the 2000s, both Spider-Man as well as X-Men movies grossed tons of money for other companies, and Marvel finally ditched both Perelman and Icahn to seriously enter the film industry and make a blast that will help it forever be remembered as one of the biggest industry giants of all time.