Say what you might – Marvel Studios has triumphed over DC. And it all started with Avengers
In 2012, when Iron Man in The Avengers, said, “The Avengers. It’s what we call ourselves, kind of like a team. The “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” kind of thing,“Nobody knew what was going to happen. Ten years later, “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” have grown from the core of six – Iron Man, Captain America, Black Widow, Hulk, Thor and Hawkeye – to more than 30 with the penultimate film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase 3: Avengers: Endgamereleased in 2019. In the “real” world, production company Marvel Studios has morphed into the leader of the “superhero” genre.
Like The Avengers completed his 10and anniversary on May 4, I reflect on how Joss Whedon’s film was the turning point in the production company’s journey. Although movies like Pontoon and daredevil (both from 2003) were released in association with Marvel, The Avengers helped make Marvel Studios a brand to be reckoned with. Many millennials, including non-comedy readers, have joined the fandom.
The economics behind Marvel Studios
Martin Goodman, a pulp magazine publisher, launched Marvel, then known as Timely Comics, in 1939. Since then, superheroes created by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and many others have sated millions of comic book readers with the ‘save the planet’ stories. But the transition from “comics to movies” to shape superhero genre pop culture is a fascinating story in itself, involving bankruptcy and censorship.
Until 2005, Marvel Studios didn’t make its own movies. Movies such as Pontoon (2003) and the famous Spider Man The trilogy starring Toby Maguire from 2002 to 2007 was based on characters from Marvel Comics but licensed for adaptations to different production houses. At first, the licensing model seemed viable after the company went bankrupt in 1996. But Marvel Studios soon realized the limitations of pocketing royalties alone as opposed to huge box office numbers.
Despite the financial crisis of 2008, the production company managed to obtain a loan from Merrill Lynch, an investment company, which led to the release of the first film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe — Iron Man (2008). The film has grossed over $585 million worldwide.
After Iron Manthe company has released four origin films of other superheroes, including Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), Thor (2011), and Pontoon (2008), but it is with The Avengers that Marvel Studios hit the jackpot in 2012. With the six “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” reunited on screen for the first time, Marvel had finally cooked up the superhero movie blockbuster formula. The film grossed over $1 billion after its theatrical release worldwide, becoming the highest-grossing film of the year. The film reached this milestone within 19 days of its release, tying the previous record set by Avatar (2009) and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2011). And, these figures relate only to the release of the film in English. The film was also released in Russian and Hindi.
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Marvel vs. DC
Marvel Studios may face competition from other fantasy/superhero franchises, but, given the nature of its films, it is often compared to DC Extended Universe (DCEU), superhero films produced by DC Films, led by Warner Bros., based on DC Comics characters. . While some die-hard comic book readers may side with DC comics over Marvel comics, the cinematic world created by the MCU has, time and time again, triumphed over the DCEU.
Of the last 10 films (from 2013 to 2021) released in the DCEU (excluding Zack Snyder’s Justice League), the production company earned $5.82 billion in theatrical releases worldwide. As for MCU movies, a total of 23 movies have been released over the past decade. If we just look at box office earnings for the last 10 MCU movies (excluding the recently released strange doctor in the Multiverse of Madness), it stands at $12.18 billion, just over double the revenue of the (last 10) DCEU movies.
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What sets MCU movies apart
Twenty-eight films, 14 years, and more than 20 directors – Marvel Studios is a thrilling masterclass and case study in how to create a one-of-a-kind movie empire.
Most movies released under the MCU are highly entertaining, dominated by their comedic quotient. movies like the Iron Man series, Thor: Ragnarok (2017), and the guardians of the galaxy the films are among the MCU movies that have been acclaimed for their comedic element. But if you dig deeper, there are recurring patterns that make this franchise one of the most successful of all time.
Before Marvel Studios released its very first ensemble film in 2012, it released four standalone superhero films. After The Avengersit wasn’t until 2015 that the superheroes reunited for another multi-star episode – Avengers: Age of Ultron. Marvel Studios invested in individual stories and cultivated public curiosity by building isolated universes for different superheroes.
The franchise has gone beyond the six core “Avengers” and recruited more in the form of Spider-Man, Black Panther, Captain Marvel, Doctor Strange, Ant-Man, and the Guardians of the Galaxy. The 2019 episode of the series, Avengers: Endgame, had the audience courting and booing when the “Avengers of the Universe” reunited near the end. Each superhero has one or more dedicated movies and TV series under their name that allow viewers to connect and learn more about them.
MCU movies are split into different phases. It took Marvel Studios 11 years to bring the first three to a conclusion – that’s the level of patience, effort, and money it invested to catapult itself into the most successful franchise. And it all started with The Avengers.
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This article is part of a series called Beyond the Reel. You can read all the articles here.
(Edited by Humra Laeeq)