It was August, 1961 and change was in the air. Throughout the nation, a new comic book filled the stands, heralding an era of creativity soon to be dubbed the Marvel Age of Comics. Fantastic Four #1 did not feature the squeaky clean heroes of yesteryear, clad in gaudy primary colors and hiding behind secret identities. These were real characters placed in extraordinary circumstances. They lived together, they fought amongst each other, and sometimes they even lost to the bad guys. This was more than a change in attitude; it was the beginning of something entirely different. And readers couldn't get enough.
Thanks to the fertile imaginations of Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and others, the runaway train called Marvel showed no signs of slowing down. An unending list of heroes followed the FF with ever-increasing acclaim and popularity -- The Amazing Spider-Man, The Mighty Thor, The Incredible Hulk, Daredevil, Iron Man, and The Uncanny X-Men, to name but a few. These were the Marvel heroes, born of conflict and a continuous struggle to balance human lives with superhuman responsibilities.
Marvel's comics presented the drama of ordinary life on an extraordinary scale, filling each illustrated adventure with more than its share of classic themes. Love, conflict, birth, death, good and evil could hardly be contained within the twelve to twenty pages allotted to any one story. Plots and subplots could take months to resolve, so rich were the imaginary worlds these characters inhabited. Every action had a consequence and each consequence was felt throughout the collective universe.
It was this cohesiveness, this sense of continuity that set Marvel apart from its numerous competitors. Marvel was more than just a name, it was a wholly consistent environment in which its many characters could exist and interact. What eventually became known as the Marvel Universe was built on a solid foundation of interlocking occurrences, with every event felt by the collective whole and carried over from month to month.
Not only has this universe endured more than forty years, it continues to evolve within the framework solidly established by Marvel's founding fathers. Today, the exploits of Marvel's heroes and villains are enjoyed the whole world over, crossing multiple generations and breaking even the most steadfast demographic barriers. Comic book fantasy is growing like never before and the demand for Marvel stories seems insatiable.