The Marvel Universe

The cover of The Jack Kirby Collector # 47 (Fall 2006) pencils/inks by Kirby
It’s amazing to consider that in the early 1960s, DC comics had a very popular pantheon of superheroes (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash), virtually all of whom were created by different people, and those titles were selling very well. Here is a chart I found online for Marvel and DC Sales Figures from 1957 – 1975. Notice how far ahead of Marvel DC’s sales are up until the mid-1960s where Kirby was at the peak of his powers (note: I’m not an expert on comics sales, so I’m not sure if this chart is accurate).

Marvel and DC sales figures 1957 – 1975 (enterthestory.com)

As soon as Jack starts significantly contributing to the Marvel line in 1960, the Marvel sales start to steadily skyrocket. Certainly this is due in large part to the other artists, Stan Lee’s input, and many other factors, but there is no denying that the period from 1960 – 1970 saw a tremendous spike in sales for Marvel thanks to Jack Kirby, to the point where Marvel was taking away readers from DC. After Jack leaves Marvel in 1970, you can see the sales curves begin to even out.

In 1960, Stan Lee challenged Jack Kirby to come up with characters that could compete with the DC pantheon of heroes. Jack met that challenge. Kirby created and designed the equivalent of the entire DC “universe” in a few short years — well over a hundred heroes and villains that populated Kirby’s unique version of New York City, venturing out into a spectacular Kirby cosmos. And there was something more modern and more dynamic — not only about Kirby’s innovative character designs, and stunning action sequences — but it was also Jack’s unique explosive style that attracted thousands of readers away from the more conservative DC Comics over to Marvel.

Kirby’s Marvel universe has gone on to equal and even surpass the DC universe in terms of popularity and profitability. What Jack accomplished in the early 1960s is pretty astounding. I doubt any single person will ever come up with so many successful intellectual properties again.

1969 Marvelmania button set (spidermancollector.com) pencils/inks by Kirby