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Marvel Publishing, Inc., a company doing business as Marvel Comics, produces American comic books and related media. It is owned by Marvel Entertainment, Inc, a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company.[2]

Marvel counts among its characters such well-known properties as Spider-Man, Iron Man, the X-Men, Wolverine, the Hulk, the Fantastic Four, Captain America, Daredevil, the Punisher, Ghost Rider, and others. Most of Marvel's fictional characters operate in a single reality known as the Marvel Universe, with locales set in real-life cities such as New York.[3]

The comic book arm of the company started in 1939 as Timely Publications, and by the 1950s had generally become known as Atlas Comics. Marvel's modern incarnation dates from 1961, with the launching of Fantastic Four and other superhero titles created by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, and others. Marvel has since become the largest American comic-book publisher, surpassing its longtime competitor DC Comics.[4]

On December 31, 2009, The Walt Disney Company acquired Marvel Entertainment for $4.24 billion.  

Contents [hide]*1 History

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Timely PublicationsEdit

Main article: Timely Comics

  [1]Marvel Comics #1 (October 1939), the first comic from Marvel precursor Timely Comics. Cover art by Frank R. Paul.Martin Goodman founded the company later known as Marvel Comics under the name Timely Publications in 1939.[5] Goodman, a pulp-magazine publisher who started by selling a Western pulp in 1933, expanded into the emerging — and by then already highly popular — new medium of comic books. Goodman began his new line from his existing company's offices at 330 West 42nd Street, New York City, New York. He officially held the titles of editor, managing editor, and business manager, with Abraham Goodman officially listed as publisher.[5]

Timely's first publication, Marvel Comics #1 (October 1939), included the first appearance of Carl Burgos' android superhero the Human Torch, and the first generally available appearance of Bill Everett's anti-hero Namor the Sub-Mariner, among other features. The contents of that sales blockbuster[6] came from an outside packager, Funnies, Inc., but by the following year Timely had its own staff in place. With the second issue the series title changed to Marvel Mystery Comics.

The company's first true editor, writer-artist Joe Simon, teamed up with soon-to-become industry-legend Jack Kirby to create one of the first patriotically themed superheroes, Captain America, in Captain America Comics #1. (March 1941) It, too, proved a major sales hit, with a circulation of nearly one million.[6]

While no other Timely character would achieve the success of these "big three", some notable heroes — many of which continue to appear in modern-day retcon appearances and flashbacks — include the Whizzer, Miss America, the Destroyer, the original Vision, and the Angel. Timely also published one of humor cartoonist Basil Wolverton's best-known features, "Powerhouse Pepper,"[7][8] as well as a line of children's funny-animal comics featuring popular characters like Super Rabbit and the duo Ziggy Pig and Silly Seal.   [2][3]The funny-animal title All Surprise Comics #12 (Winter 1946-47) was labeled "A Marvel Magazine" 14 years before the publisher formally adopted the name.Goodman hired a teen-aged relative, Stanley Lieber, as a general office assistant in 1939.[9] When editor Simon left the company in late 1941, Goodman made Lieber — by then writing pseudonymously as "Stan Lee" — interim editor of the comics line, a position Lee kept for decades except for three years during his military service in World War II. Lee wrote extensively for Timely, contributing to a number of different titles.

Atlas ComicsEdit

Main article: Atlas Comics (1950s)The post-war American comic market saw superheroes falling out of fashion. Goodman's comic-book line dropped them for the most part and expanded into a wider variety of genres than even Timely had published, emphasizing horror, Westerns, humor, funny-animal, men's adventure-drama, crime, and war comics, and later adding a helping of jungle books, romance titles, and even espionage, medieval adventure, Bible stories and sports. Like other publishers, Goodman also courted female readers with mostly humorous comics about models and career women.

Goodman began using the globe logo of Atlas, the newsstand-distribution company he owned, on comics cover-dated November 1951. This united a line put out by the same publisher, staff, and freelancers through 59 shell companies, from Animirth Comics to Zenith Publications, under the umbrella name Atlas Comics.

Atlas, rather than innovate, took what it saw as the proven route of following popular trends in television and moviesWesterns and war dramas prevailing for a time, drive-in movie monsters another time — and even other comic books, particularly the EC horror line.[10] Atlas also published a plethora of children's and teen humor titles, including Dan DeCarlo's Homer the Happy Ghost (à la Casper the Friendly Ghost) and Homer Hooper (à la Archie Andrews). Atlas unsuccessfully attempted to revive superheroes in Young Men #24-28 (December 1953 - June 1954), with the Human Torch (art by Syd Shores and Dick Ayers, variously), the Sub-Mariner (drawn and most stories written by Bill Everett), and Captain America (writer Stan Lee, artist John Romita Sr.).   [4][5]The Fantastic Four #1 (November 1961). Cover art by Jack Kirby (penciler) and unconfirmed inker.===1960s=== The first comic book under the Marvel Comics brand, the science-fiction anthology Amazing Adventures #3, cover-dated August 1961, appeared May 9, 1961 displaying a box labeled "MC" on its cover.[11] Then, in the wake of DC Comics' success in reviving superheroes in the late 1950s and early 1960s, particularly with the Flash, Green Lantern, and other members of the team the Justice League of America, Marvel followed suit.[12] The introduction of modern Marvel's first superhero team, in The Fantastic Four #1, cover-dated November 1961[13], began establishing the company's reputation. From then until the end of 1969, Marvel published a total of 831 comic books with at least one new superhero story,[14] the majority of them written by editor-in-chief Stan Lee.

Editor-writer Lee and freelance artist Jack Kirby's Fantastic Four, reminiscent of the non-superpowered adventuring quartet the Challengers of the Unknown that Kirby had created for DC in 1957, originated in a Cold War culture that led their creators to deconstruct the superhero conventions of previous eras and better reflect the psychological spirit of their age.[15] Eschewing such comic-book tropes as secret identities and even costumes at first, having a monster as one of the heroes, and having its characters bicker and complain in what was later called a "superheroes in the real world" approach, the series represented a change that proved to be a great success.[16] Marvel began publishing further superhero titles featuring such heroes and antiheroes as the Hulk, Spider-Man, Thor, Ant-Man, Iron Man, the X-Men (the original team consisting of Cyclops, Jean Grey, Beast, Angel and Iceman) and Daredevil, and such memorable antagonists as Doctor Doom, Magneto, Galactus, the Green Goblin, and Doctor Octopus. Lee and Steve Ditko generated the most successful new series in The Amazing Spider-Man. Marvel even lampooned itself and other comics companies in a parody comic, Not Brand Echh (a play on Marvel's dubbing of other companies as "Brand Echh", à la the then-common phrase "Brand X").[17]

Marvel's comics had a reputation for focusing on characterization to a greater extent than most superhero comics before them.[citation needed] This applied to The Amazing Spider-Man in particular. Its young hero suffered from self-doubt and mundane problems like any other teenager. Marvel often presents flawed superheroes, freaks, and misfits — unlike the perfect, handsome, athletic heroes found in previous traditional comic books. Some Marvel heroes looked like villains and monsters. In time, this non-traditional approach would revolutionize comic books. Writer Geoff Boucher in 2009 reflected that, "Superman and DC Comics instantly seemed like boring old Pat Boone; Marvel felt like The Beatles and the British Invasion. It was Kirby's artwork with its tension and psychedelia that made it perfect for the times — or was it Lee's bravado and melodrama, which was somehow insecure and brash at the same time?"[18]

Comics historian Peter Sanderson wrote that in the 1960s, "DC was the equivalent of the big Hollywood studios: After the brilliance of DC's reinvention of the superhero ... in the late 1950s and early 1960s, it had run into a creative drought by the decade's end. There was a new audience for comics now, and it wasn't just the little kids that traditionally had read the books. The Marvel of the 1960s was in its own way the counterpart of the French New Wave.... Marvel was pioneering new methods of comics storytelling and characterization, addressing more serious themes, and in the process keeping and attracting readers in their teens and beyond. Moreover, among this new generation of readers were people who wanted to write or draw comics themselves, within the new style that Marvel had pioneered, and push the creative envelope still further."[19]   [6]The Avengers #4 (March 1964), with (from left to right), the Wasp, Giant-Man, Captain America, Iron Man, Thor and (inset) the Sub-Mariner. Cover art by Jack Kirby and George Roussos.Lee, with his charming personality and relentless salesmanship of the company, became one of the best-known names in comics.[citation needed] His sense of humor and generally lighthearted manner became the "voice" that permeated the stories, the letters and news-pages, and the hyperbolic house ads of that era's Marvel Comics. He fostered a clubby fan-following with Lee's exaggerated depiction of the Bullpen (Lee's name for the staff) as one big, happy family. This included printed kudos to the artists, who eventually co-plotted the stories based on the busy Lee's rough synopses or even simple spoken concepts, in what became known as the Marvel Method, and contributed greatly to Marvel's product and success. Kirby in particular is generally credited for many of the cosmic ideas and characters of Fantastic Four and The Mighty Thor, such as the Watcher, the Silver Surfer and Ego the Living Planet, while Steve Ditko is recognized as the driving artistic force behind the moody atmosphere and street-level naturalism of Spider-Man and the surreal atmosphere of Dr. Strange. Lee, however, continues to receive credit for his well-honed skills at dialogue and sense of storytelling, for his keen hand at choosing and motivating artists and assembling creative teams, and for his uncanny ability to connect with the readers — not least through the nickname endearments he bestowed in the credits and the monthly "Bullpen Bulletins" and letters pages, giving readers humanizing hype about the likes of "Jolly Jack Kirby," "Jaunty Jim Steranko," "Rascally Roy Thomas," "Jazzy Johnny Romita," and others, right down to letterers "Swingin' Sammy Rosen" and "Adorable Artie Simek."

Lesser-known staffers during the company's growth[citation needed] in the 1960s (some of whom worked primarily for Marvel publisher Martin Goodman's umbrella magazine corporation) included circulation-manager Johnny Hayes, subscriptions-person Nancy Murphy, bookkeeper Doris Siegler, merchandising-person Charles "Chip" Goodman (son of publisher Martin), and Arthur Jeffrey, described in the December 1966 "Bullpen Bulletin" as "keeper of our MMMS [Merry Marvel Marching Society] files, guardian of our club coupons and defender of the faith".

In the fall of 1968, company founder Goodman sold Marvel Comics and his other publishing businesses to the Perfect Film and Chemical Corporation. It grouped these businesses in a subsidiary called Magazine Management Co. Goodman remained as publisher.[20]


In 1971 the United States Department of Health, Education, and Welfare approached Marvel Comics editor-in-chief Stan Lee to do a comic-book story about drug abuse. Lee agreed and wrote a three-part Spider-Man story portraying drug use as dangerous and unglamorous. However, the industry's self-censorship board, the Comics Code Authority, refused to approve the story because of the presence of narcotics, deeming the context of the story irrelevant. Lee, with Goodman's approval, published the story regardless in The Amazing Spider-Man #96-98 (May-July 1971), without the Comics Code seal. The market reacted well to the storyline, and the CCA subsequently revised the Code the same year.[21]   [7]Howard the Duck #8 (January 1977). Cover art by Gene Colan and Steve LeialohaGoodman retired as publisher in 1972 and Lee succeeded him, stepping aside from running day-to-day operations at Marvel. A series of new editors-in-chief oversaw the company during another slow time for the industry. Once again, Marvel attempted to diversify, and with the updating of the Comics Code achieved moderate to strong success with titles themed to horror (The Tomb of Dracula), martial arts, (Shang-Chi: Master of Kung Fu), sword-and-sorcery (Conan the Barbarian, Red Sonja), satire (Howard the Duck) and science fiction (2001: A Space Odyssey, "Killraven" in Amazing Adventures, Star Trek, and, late in the decade, the long-running Star Wars series). Some of these were published in larger-format black and white magazines, that targeted mature readers, under its Curtis Magazines imprint. Marvel was able to capitalize on its successful superhero comics of the previous decade by acquiring a new newsstand distributor and greatly expanding its comics line. Marvel pulled ahead of rival DC Comics in 1972, during a time when the price and format of the standard newsstand comic were in flux. Goodman increased the price and size of Marvel's November 1971 cover-dated comics from 15 cents for 39 pages total to 25 cents for 52 pages. DC followed suit, but Marvel the following month dropped its comics to 20 cents for 36 pages, offering a lower-priced product with a higher distributor discount.[22]

In 1973, Perfect Film and Chemical Corporation changed its name to "Cadence Industries", which in turn renamed Magazine Management Co. as "Marvel Comics Group". Goodman, now completely disconnected from Marvel, set up a new company called Atlas/Seaboard Comics in 1974, reviving Marvel's old Atlas name, but this lasted only a year-and-a-half.[23]

In the mid-1970s a decline of the newsstand distribution network affected Marvel. Cult hits such as Howard the Duck fell victim to the distribution problems, with some titles reporting low sales when in fact the first specialty comic-book stores resold them at a later date.[citation needed] But by the end of the decade, Marvel's fortunes were reviving, thanks to the rise of direct market distribution — selling through those same comics-specialty stores instead of newsstands.

In October 1976, Marvel, which already licensed reprints in different countries, including the UK, created a superhero specifically for the British market. Captain Britain debuted exclusively in the UK, and later appeared in American comics.[24]


  [8][9]Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars #1 (May 1984). Cover art by Mike Zeck.[25]In 1978 Jim Shooter became Marvel's editor-in-chief. Although a controversial personality, Shooter cured many of the procedural ills at Marvel, including repeatedly missed deadlines. The company enjoyed some of its best successes during Shooter's nine-year tenure as Editor-in-Chief, most notably Chris Claremont and John Byrne's run on the Uncanny X-Men and Frank Miller's run on Daredevil. Also under Shooter's editorial reign, Walt Simonson revamped The Mighty Thor and made it again a bestseller. Shooter brought Marvel into the rapidly evolving direct market,[26] institutionalized creator royalties, starting the Epic imprint for creator-owned material in 1982; introduced company-wide crossover story arcs with Contest of Champions and Secret Wars; and launched a new, albeit ultimately unsuccessful, line named New Universe, to commemorate the Marvel Universe's 25th anniversary in 1986.

Despite Marvel's successes in the early 1980s, however, it lost ground to rival DC in the latter half of the decade, as many former Marvel stars defected to their competitor. DC scored critical and sales victories[27] with titles and limited series like Watchmen, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Crisis on Infinite Earths, John Byrne's revamp of Superman, and Alan Moore's Swamp Thing.

In 1981 Marvel purchased the DePatie-Freleng Enterprises animation studio from Looney Tunes director Friz Freleng and his business-partner David H. DePatie. The company was renamed Marvel Productions and produced animated TV series and movies featuring such characters and properties as G.I. Joe, Transformers, Jim Henson's Muppet Babies, and Dungeons & Dragons, as well as cartoons based on Marvel characters, including Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends.

In 1986, Marvel was sold to New World Entertainment, which within three years sold it to MacAndrews and Forbes, owned by Revlon executive Ronald Perelman.


  [10][11]Spider-Man #1, later renamed "Peter Parker: Spider-Man" (August 1990; second printing). Cover art by Todd McFarlane.Marvel earned a great deal of money and recognition during the comic-book boom of the early 1990s, launching the highly successful 2099 line of comics set in the future (Spider-Man 2099, etc.) and the creatively daring though commercially unsuccessful Razorline imprint of superhero comics created by novelist and filmmaker Clive Barker. Yet by the middle of the decade, the industry had slumped, and in December 1996 Marvel filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.[28]

In 1991, Ronald Perelman, whose company MacAndrews and Forbes had purchased Marvel in 1986, took the company public in a New York Stock Exchange stock-offering underwritten by Merrill Lynch and First Boston Corporation. As part of the process, Marvel Productions sold its back catalog to Saban Entertainment (which was acquired in 2001 by The Walt Disney Company).[citation needed] Following the rapid rise of this popular stock, Perleman issued a series of junk bonds that he used to acquire other children's entertainment companies. Many of these bond offerings were purchased by Carl Icahn Partners, which later wielded much control during Marvel's court-ordered reorganization after Marvel went bankrupt in 1996. In 1997, after protracted legal battles, control landed in the hands of Isaac Perlmutter, owner of the Marvel subsidiary Toy Biz.[28] With his business partner Avi Arad, publisher Bill Jemas, and editor-in-chief Bob Harras, Perlmutter helped revitalize the comics line.[29]   [12]Marvel's logo, circa 1990sAlso in the early 1990s, Marvel created Marvel Studios, devoted to film and TV projects. Arad became director of that division in 1993, with production accelerating in 1998 following the success of the film Blade (loosely based on the Marvel character).[citation needed]

Marvel suffered a major blow in early 1992, when seven of its most highly-prized artists — Todd McFarlane (known for his work on Spider-Man), Jim Lee (X-Men), Rob Liefeld (X-Force), Marc Silvestri (Wolverine), Erik Larsen (The Amazing Spider-Man), Jim Valentino (Guardians of the Galaxy), and Whilce Portacio — left to form Image Comics.[30] This development is sometimes called the "X-odus", because four of these creators (as well as long-time X-Men writer Chris Claremont) — Liefeld, Lee, Silvestri, and Portacio — were famous for their work on the X-Men franchise. Propelled by the artists' star power and the eagerness of comic book collectors to get in early on the "next big thing", many Image titles sold in numbers that no publisher other than Marvel, DC, or Valiant Comics had achieved since the market's drastic decline in the 1970s.[citation needed]

In late 1994 Marvel acquired the comic-book distributor Heroes World Distribution to use as its own exclusive distributor.[31] As the industry's other major publishers made exclusive distribution deals with other companies, the ripple effect resulted in the survival of only one other major distributor in North America, Diamond Comic Distributors Inc.[32][33] In early 1997, when Marvel's Heroes World endeavor failed, Diamond also forged an exclusive deal with the "House of Ideas"[34] — giving the company its own section of its comics catalog Previews.[35]

Creatively and commercially, the '90s were dominated by the use of gimmickry to boost sales, such as variant covers, cover enhancements, special swimsuit issues, and trading cards. In 1991 Marvel began selling Marvel Universe Cards with trading card maker SkyBox International. These were collectible trading cards that featured the characters and events of the Marvel Universe. The following year, Marvel acquired the Fleer Corporation, also known primarily for its trading cards.

Another common Marvel practice of this period was regular company-wide crossovers that threw the universe's continuity into disarray. In 1996, Marvel had almost all its titles participate in the "Onslaught Saga," a crossover that allowed Marvel to relaunch some of its flagship characters, such as the Avengers and the Fantastic Four, in the Heroes Reborn universe, in which Marvel defectors (and now Image Comics stars) Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld were given permission to revamp the properties from scratch. After an initial sales bump, sales quickly declined below expected levels, and Marvel discontinued the experiment after a one-year run; the characters soon returned to the Marvel Universe proper. In 1998, the company launched the imprint Marvel Knights, taking place within Marvel continuity; helmed by soon-to-become editor-in-chief Joe Quesada, it featured tough, gritty stories showcasing such characters as the Inhumans, Black Panther and Daredevil.


With the new millennium, Marvel Comics escaped from bankruptcy and again began diversifying its offerings. In 2001, Marvel withdrew from the Comics Code Authority and established its own Marvel Rating System for comics. The first title from this era to not have the code was X-Force #119 (October 2001).

Marvel also created new imprints, such as MAX (a line intended for mature readers) and Marvel Age (developed for younger audiences). In addition to this, the company created an alternate universe imprint, Ultimate Marvel, that allowed the company to reboot their major titles by deconstructing and updating its characters to introduce to a new generation. The company has also revamped its graphic-novel division, establishing a bigger presence in the bookstore market.[citation needed] As of 2009, Marvel remains a key comics publisher, even as the industry has dwindled to a fraction of its peak size decades earlier.[citation needed]

As of 2009, Stan Lee, though no longer officially connected to the company save for the title of "Chairman Emeritus", remains a visible face in the industry. In 2002, he sued successfully for a share of income related to movies and merchandising of Marvel characters, based on a contract between Lee and Marvel from the late 1990s; according to court documents, Marvel had used "Hollywood accounting" to claim that those projects' "earnings" were not profits. As of 2009. Marvel Comics' parent company, Marvel Entertainment, continues to be traded on the New York Stock Exchange as MVL. Some of its characters have been turned into successful film franchises, the highest-grossing being the X-Men film series, starting in 2000, and the Spider-Man series, beginning in 2002[36]

In a cross-promotion, the November 1, 2006, episode of the CBS soap opera The Guiding Light, titled "She's a Marvel", featured the character Harley Davidson Cooper (played by Beth Ehlers) as a superheroine named the Guiding Light. The character's story continued in an eight-page backup feature, "A New Light", that appeared in several Marvel titles published November 1 and 8.[37] Also that year, Marvel created a wiki on its Web site.[38]

In late 2007 the company launched an online initiative, announcing Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited, a digital archive of over 2,500 back issues available for viewing, for a monthly or annual subscription fee.[39]

In 2009 Marvel Comics closed its Open Submissions Policy, in which the company had accepted unsolicited samples from aspiring comic-book artists, saying the time-consuming review process had produced no suitably professional work.[40]

On August 31, 2009, The Walt Disney Company announced a deal to acquire Marvel Entertainment for $4 billion, with Marvel shareholders to receive $30 and 0.745 Disney for each share of Marvel they own.[41] Disney had already owned a backlog of Marvel-related TV series since 2001, when it bought Saban Entertainment.[42] The shareholder vote took place December 31, 2009 and the merger was approved.[43] The acquisition of Marvel was finalized hours after the shareholders voted.[44] The company was subsequently delisted from the New York Stock Exchange under its ticker symbol (MVL).


The Marvel editor-in-chief oversees the largest-scale creative decisions taken within the company. The position evolved sporadically. In the earliest years, the company had a single editor overseeing the entire line. As the company grew, it became increasingly common for individual titles to be overseen separately. The concept of the "writer-editor" evolved, stemming from when Lee wrote and managed most of the line's output. Overseeing the line in the 1970s was a series of chief editors, though the titles were used intermittently. By the time Jim Shooter took the post in 1978, the position of editor-in-chief was clearly defined.

In 1994, Marvel briefly abolished the position, replacing Tom DeFalco with five "group editors", though each held the title "editor-in-chief" and had some editors underneath them. It reinstated the overall editor-in-chief position in 1995, installing Bob Harras. Joe Quesada became editor-in-chief in 2000.


Located in New York City, Marvel has been successively headquartered in the McGraw-Hill Building,[5][45] where it originated as Timely Comics in 1939; in suite 1401 of the Empire State Building;[45] at 635 Madison Avenue (the actual location, though the comic books' indicia listed the parent publishing-company's address of 625 Madison Ave.);[45] 575 Madison Avenue;[45] 387 Park Avenue South;[45]10 East 40th Street;[45] and 417 Fifth Avenue.[45]

Marvel characters in other mediaEdit

Marvel characters and stories have been adapted to many other media. Some of these adaptations were produced by Marvel Comics and its sister company, Marvel Studios, while others were produced by companies licensing Marvel material.

Television programsEdit

Main article: List of television series based on Marvel ComicsMany television series, both live-action and animated, have based their productions on Marvel Comics characters. These include multiple series for popular characters such as Spider-Man and the X-Men. Additionally, a handful of television movies based on Marvel Comics characters have been made.


Main article: List of films based on Marvel ComicsMarvel characters have been adapted into films including the Spider-Man, Blade and X-Men trilogies; the Fantastic Four film series, Punisher film series, Captain America, Daredevil, Elektra, Ghost Rider, Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, and X-Men Origins: Wolverine as well as the announced films Runaways,[citation needed]Iron Man 2, 'Thor, The First Avenger: Captain America and The Avengers.

Additionally, a series of direct-to-DVD animated films began in 2006 with Ultimate Avengers, The Invincible Iron Man, and Doctor Strange.


Marvel has licensed its characters for theme-parks and attractions, including at the Universal Orlando Resort's Islands of Adventure, in Orlando, Florida, which includes rides based on their iconic characters and costumed performers.[46] Universal theme parks in California and Japan also have Marvel rides.[47] In early 2007 Marvel and developer the Al Ahli Group announced plans to build Marvel's first full theme park, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, by 2011.[47]

Video gamesEdit

Main article: List of video games based on Marvel comics===Role-playing games=== TSR published the pen-and-paper role-playing game Marvel Super Heroes in 1984. TSR then released the Marvel Super Heroes Adventure Game in 1998. In 2003 Marvel Comics published their own role-playing game, the Marvel Universe Role-playing Game. This incarnation was discontinued a short time later after several team specific supplements.



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