A little more than a decade ago, superhero movies and TV shows were considered to be a slightly juvenile if fun form of entertainment. Movies and TV shows were hit and miss in terms of popularity and success, and many of our most beloved characters, such as Superman and Batman, belonged to DC Comics.
Fast forward to today, and there is no doubt that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the most recognisable and esteemed superhero franchise in existence. New Marvel movies and TV series are eagerly anticipated, and the MCU has raked in billions at the box office. Yet in the 1990s, the comic company was close to bankruptcy. So, how did they turn their fortunes around to become the giant they are today? As it enters the so-called Phase 4 of its record-breaking franchise, we take a look at the history of the franchise, and what made us collectively fall in love with Marvel.
Marvel in Other Media
It’s not just at the movies that Marvel characters have come to life, and reaped profits for the company. The universe is a rich source of material for video and online games as well, and Marvel Games are responsible for the licensing of their intellectual property to third-party video and casino games developers.
Video game tie-ins have proved to be a very lucrative branch of the Marvel franchise, and as the movies and shows introduce us to more characters, the potential for such games continues to grow. Video game producers have mined only a fraction of the available universe, so we can hope to see Dr Strange and the inhabitants of Wakanda on our consoles in the near future.
As with all successful and popular movie series, many of us are keen to visit a new slots site like these to find a casino slot game featuring characters and graphics from the Marvel movies. However, there is a rather chequered history between Marvel and new slots sites. Just a year after the release of Iron Man, the company struck a deal with one of the biggest names in casino software development, Playtech. This provider created a number of superior quality slot games, to be made available at the best new slot sites. The games were an instant hit, further raising the profile of the MCU beyond the big screen.
However, in the same year that the deal with Playtech was signed, Marvel Entertainment was acquired by the Walt Disney Company for more than $4bn, and this spelled the beginning of the end for Playtech and their slot games. Although existing contracts were honoured, Playtech were forced to retire all their Marvel-themed slot games in 2017. The games have been repurposed into new titles, and new slots sites no longer carry any of the originals.
All is not lost, however. There are some remaining Marvel slot games courtesy of the smaller developer Cryptologic. These slots pre-exist the Playtech titles, and many of them can be found at new slot sites today. If you’re looking for games featuring Thor, The Hulk, Captain America or Iron Man, all these and more can be found with a bit of searching.
Marvel at the Movies
In the mid-90s, Marvel was struggling. The comic book bubble, in which publications became coveted collectors’ items, had burst and shares in the company had dropped dramatically. Cult author Neil Gaiman likened the golden age of comic book collection to the Dutch tulip mania of the 17th century, and his prophecy of doom had come to pass.
Marvel’s fortunes began to be restored after a boardroom shakeup in 1998. The new executives believed that the future of the characters belonged on the big screen, and the first success came that same year with Blade. This was followed by the first X-Men movie in 2000, and Tobey Maguire’s portrayal of Spider-Man two years later, which became the biggest-grossing superhero movie to date. However, Marvel itself still wasn’t seeing much of the profits, having sold the rights for X-Men and Spidey to 20th Century Fox and Sony respectively.
Then, in 2005, Marvel made a risky deal. Merrill Lynch, the investment division of Bank of America, agreed to finance ten movies to be entirely produced by Marvel. The catch? If the movies weren’t profitable, the bank would own the rights to the characters. The execs at Marvel had a vision; with full control over production, not only could they keep the profits, but they could build a coherent universe with character crossovers – just like in the comic books.
The new era of Marvel movies began with 2008’s Iron Man, which earned back the entirety of the Merrill Lynch loan and made a profit on top. The characters were safe, and the MCU as we now know it was born.
Why do we Love Marvel?
The Marvel phenomenon is quite incredible, if you take a step back. A collection of relatively unknown comic characters have, in less than a decade, replaced the DC superheroes who had dominated since the 1970s. Not only that, but their popularity and bankability has only increased since we first saw Iron Man at the cinema.
In 2008, Marvel no longer held the rights to most of its best-known superheroes, and so they needed us to fall in love with some of their more obscure creations. Remarkably, they have managed to do just that, and the MCU movies are a masterclass in creating a successful movie franchise. The casting is inspired, from the inimitable Robert Downey Jr. through to Tom Holland’s youthful Spidey – complete with Marisa Tomei as a glamorous Aunt May.
A strong association between actor and character has proved to be key in developing the universe, creating the kind of continuity that has been lacking over multiple recastings of Batman and Superman. The notable Marvel exception is Spider-Man, although here the fault lies with Sony, who still own the rights.
The movies are also much more plot-driven than the average action-packed superhero fare, with multiple storylines weaving together over the course of the series. Never before has there been such a fully realised shared universe of characters portrayed on the big screen, and audiences can’t get enough. The writing is sharp and witty, striking a perfect balance between sincerity and levity, and the story is never sacrificed for the action.
More than anything, it’s the characters that make Marvel’s universe so compelling. Norse gods, a billionaire playboy, a Russian assassin and an American military experiment don’t sound like they could be believable or sympathetic. Yet in the hands of the actors and writers who bring them to life, they become just that. Crucially, our heroes are given the opportunity to grow and develop. Marvel has created the most successful superhero franchise of all time, by patiently building a world inhabited by characters who have humour, humanity and heart.