Marvel Worldwide, Inc., commonly referred to as Marvel Comics and formerly Marvel Publishing, Inc. and Marvel Comics Group, is an American company that publishes comic books and related media. In 2009, The Walt Disney Company acquired Marvel Entertainment, Marvel Worldwide's parent company, for $4.24 billion.
Marvel started in 1939 as Timely Publications, and by the early 1950s had generally become known as Atlas Comics. Marvel's modern incarnation dates from 1961, with the company later that year launching Fantastic Four and other superhero titles created by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, and others.
Marvel counts among its characters such well-known properties as Spider-Man, the X-Men, Iron Man, the Hulk, the Fantastic Four, Thor and Captain America; antagonists such as Doctor Doom, the Green Goblin, Magneto, Galactus, and the Red Skull. 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, Los Angeles and Chicago.
Martin Goodman founded the company later known as Marvel Comics under the name Timely Publications in 1939, publishing comic books under the imprint Timely Comics. Goodman, a pulp magazine publisher who had started with a Western pulp in 1933, was expanding into the emerging—and by then already highly popular—new medium of comic books. Launching 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.
Timely's first publication, Marvel Comics #1 (cover dated Oct. 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 issue was a great success, with it and a second printing the following month selling, combined, nearly 900,000 copies. While its contents came from an outside packager, Funnies, Inc., Timely by the following year had its own staff in place.
The company's first true editor, writer-artist Joe Simon, teamed with imminent 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 sales of nearly one million.
Source: Wikipedia, "Marvel Comics", available under the CC-BY-SA License.