Marvel: Transformation from comics to movie franchise

Marvel was established as Timely Comics in 1939. Since then, it has had an unlikely journey from being one out of hundreds of brands of pulp comics to reaching dizzying heights in the comic boom. In the 1990s it came perilously close to bankruptcy before taking advantage of its intellectual property in creative ways. Today Marvel Studios is the market leader with the highest intellectual property set in the movie industry.

So, what exactly is Universe Building and how did Marvel perfect its Cinematic Universe with its strategy?

The decade-long schedule and strategy allowed Marvel to have total control over its cinematic universe. This control was exemplified by breaking the ‘Infinity Arc’ (the overall story) into three distinct phases.

Phase 1 debuts each hero (and a few villains) along with a smattering of supporting characters. These eventually star in the ensemble Avengers films which feature larger plots involving the safety of the Earth. The supporting members often star as employees of SHIELD or HYDRA. These are Government Agencies that regulate/exploit superpowers and are based loosely on the FBI and the Gestapo. This presence of bureaucracy allowed Marvel to spin off more relatable content like the TV series Agents of SHIELD.

Phase 2 would develop each Avenger’s personal backstory as they dealt with the fallout from their actions in the ensemble movie.

Phase 3 expanded the character list, added elements of friction in the ensemble, and moved the overall ‘Infinity Arc’ towards a conclusion that set up future story arcs, each with its own distinct phases.

Marvel went a step beyond beloved franchises like Star Wars and Star Trek in weaving all supplemental media into its master schedule. Instead of having retcons and continuity issues like Star Wars Legends and Star Trek with its disparate TV shows, Marvel used its TV series like Agents of SHIELD to flesh out its ‘Infinity Arc’ using the longer run time available.

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