Instead of the usual Tuesday night broadcast of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., this week the ABC network aired an hour-long special entitled Marvel: 75 Years, From Pulp to Pop!, where we explored the growth of Marvel from a small publishing house in New York to one of the most influential companies in the world.
I didn’t expect much from this special besides the same old story of Marvel’s growth to success. It was more-or-less a re-hashing of familiar information, but it was certainly entertaining and worth a viewing, especially if you are a fan of Marvel Studios. The show features insight from various figureheads in Marvel Studios, from Chris Evans to Joss Whedon to Stan Lee himself. Even people outside of the studio such as Kevin Smith and Jimmy Kimmel shared their opinions on the massive Marvel monster and its continued growth, which further proves the incredible influence of the company as a whole.
Right away, the special dove into Guardians of the Galaxy and its unpredicted success. Key Marvel figures explain how Marvel wanted to do something different and decided to do this film despite its obscurity. While many people assumed that it would be the first critical failure for the company, they were quick to eat their words and admit that it was perhaps one of the most successful Marvel movies to date. At this point, Marvel knew that it had the ability to spin straw into gold.
Going back even further, this special discusses the origins of Marvel and Lee’s first encounter with the company. Though many people know who Lee is, there are other names to be recognized as well, such as artists Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, and key founder Martin Goodman. Lee started out as a lowly worker within Marvel, completing administrative tasks here and there, but slowly rose within the ranks and become one of the most iconic people in the business.
The special emphasized how Marvel blossomed during World War 2, mainly because it spawned a patriotic icon in the form of Captain America. U.S. soldiers found comfort in bringing various comic books with them abroad because they liked to look up to the heroes. American citizens considered their own armed forces as real-life superheroes, thus spurring nationalism and patriotism to record highs. As with all propaganda, comic books were a powerful tool during the war.
Unfortunately, after the war, it seemed that comics began to fade into obscurity. Not only that, but it almost became taboo to be known as a comic book artist or writer. The program revealed how one of the only reasons they comics came back into the mainstream was because Lee spoke to his wife, who convinced him to try something different by making a comic about a team of heroes with different powers and personalities. Thus, the team known as the Fantastic Four was born.
It appeared that Lee found his momentum and began churning out new popular heroes over the next few years with Ditko and Kirby. When Goodman eventually retired from Marvel, he found his successor in the person who helped revive the company: Stan Lee. This man would be a crucial component in Marvel’s major success in the coming years as the company transcended comics and began appearing in video games, movies, live-action television shows, and more.
One of the most hard-hitting parts of the program was during the discussion about Marvel’s near-bankruptcy around 2000. Many people fail to realize how Marvel Studios took a huge risk when it made the first Iron Man movie in 2008 because it was the first self-financed film. Iron Man was not as well-known a hero as the Fantastic Four or Spider-Man, so nobody was sure whether his movie would be a hit. If it failed, then that could’ve meant the end of Marvel. Well, you can guess how that turned out…
Honestly, it’s difficult to cover everything that went on in the special in such a short amount of time. How can you properly assess 75 years’ worth of growth and development within an hour? I would have wanted the program to be longer, but with the allotted time slot, it did pretty well. Due to Marvel’s surge in popularity in recent years, this special could not have come at a better time. It gives an in-depth look at the company and its maturity over the past seven decades, and which direction it is heading towards in the future. Even if you have never read a Marvel comic, it would be wise for you to check out this program.
Final Grade: B
+ This was an incredibly helpful guide for someone who wants to learn the history of Marvel.
+ The sneak-peak at Agent Carter at the end of the program was outstanding.
+ It was cool seeing the input from various key figures.
– It was too much to fit into the time slot. It could’ve been its own mini-series.
Did you find this special to be informative and entertaining? What was your favorite part? Sound off in the comments or send us your thoughts on Twitter!