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Last Updated: Friday, 4 July 2003, 11:01 GMT 12:01 UK
How cinema boosted Marvel's fortunes
Helen Bushby
Helen Bushby
BBC News Online entertainment staff

The Hulk is the latest Marvel Comics character to hit the big screen, following in the lucrative of footsteps Spider-Man, X-Men and Daredevil.

The muscle-bound green monster has come a long way since his angry beginnings in a comic strip back in 1962.

Back in the 60s, Marvel had to compete with its rival DC Comics, which fired up the imaginations of youngsters with its caped crusaders Superman and Batman.

Stan Lee
Stan Lee wrote The Hulk, Spider-Man and X-Men
But Marvel's characters, under the guiding hand of the legendary Stan Lee, were different.

The Hulk, Spider-Man and X-Men, which were all created by Lee, were all emotionally frail and had failings - they were almost human.

Readers could relate to their heroes' lives in small American towns, rather than sprawling, fictitious cities such as Batman's Gotham City.

Click here to have your say on Marvel Comics

As word spread about the comics and their new brand of struggling superheroes, New-York based Marvel grew in popularity.

The Hulk was always a firm favourite, perhaps because he was such a tortured soul.

Lee depicted scientist Bruce Banner as being emotionally stunted, having suppressed his childhood anger against his violent father.

One burst of gamma rays later, and Banner's rage transformed him into the havoc-wreaking Hulk - a creature fuelled by anger.

The Hulk
The Hulk has been made into a film by Ang Lee
But Banner ended up with even more emotional turmoil, with part of him enjoying the power of his alter ego, while another part of him hated its violence and anger.

Lee, 80, who still scripts a syndicated Spider-Man newspaper strip, told US magazine Entertainment Weekly's Tom Sinclair in a recent interview that his life changed after publishing his first Fantastic Four comic in 1961.

Its runaway success prompted Lee to change the name of the publishing firm he was head of from Timely to Marvel Comics, which proved to be a shrewd move.

He continued as managing editor until the early 1970s, but still found time to write his much-loved comics, many of which are now collectors' items.

Wolverine in X-Men 2
X-Men 2 was a box office hit
But despite his loyalty for Marvel, the writer is currently fighting a lawsuit with the company, claiming it shut him out of "jackpot" profits from the recent Spider-Man blockbuster film.

But he told Mr Sinclair he did not harbour any animosity, adding: "I'm hoping my lawsuit will go down as the friendliest in history.

"I love the guys at Marvel, I love the company, I love the spirit and the potential - I've always felt that Marvel should be another Disney."

Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst in Spider-Man
Filming on the Spider-Man sequel has started
The success of Marvel, whose huge list of superheroes also included Iron Man and Silver Surfer, began to wane by the 1990s.

It began reporting losses and, according to Fortune Magazine, this was due to "years of losses and a bitter battle for control" between its two financiers Ronald Perelman and Carl Icahn.

Debts began to pile up and Marvel was not helped by a 1994 baseball strike, which caused sales of its stickers and cards to plummet.

Sales of comic books also suffered after distribution issues saw them began to appear in specialised comic shops rather than newsagents.

Ben Affleck in Daredevil
Ben Affleck played superhero Daredevil
But by May 2003, Marvel was back in profit, having had a colossal boost from royalties from the Spider-Man, X-Men and Daredevil films.

It had already had success with forays into TV, such as the 1977 Hulk TV series - starring Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno in the lead role - and a Spider-Man TV movie.

But Hollywood's multi-million dollar takings initially proved more elusive.

A 1989 movie about Marvel character The Punisher, starring Dolph Lundgren, did not do well with critics who said it "lacked commitment" to the comic book, while a 1990 movie of Captain America went straight to video.

Nostalgia factor

But of course the rip-roaring, post-millennial success of Spider-Man, the X-Men films, and Daredevil revived Marvel's fortunes.

Marvel had finally found film-makers who really understood its characters and this has made all the difference.

The nostalgia factor for Spider-Man and his friends also reignited the popularity of Marvel for its original fans, who flocked to see its films.

As a result, Marvel went from posting a loss of $8m (£4.8m) five years ago to a respectable first-quarter profit of $41.1m (£24.5m).

The company's revenue also rose 53% to $87.4m (£52m).

Video and DVD boost

The Evening Standard's Richard Thomson sounded optimistic for Marvel's future.

"Once the craze for comic book films peters out in Hollywood, Marvel will still have video and DVD sales as well as residual merchandising to support its revenues," he said recently.

With Spider-Man 2 currently being made, Marvel will be hoping that the red and blue webspinner will come to its rescue once more.

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Are you a Marvel Comics fan? What do you like about them and why are the Marvel-based films currently so popular?

Send us your views on the postform below.

I'll quote comics writer Scott Mccloud: "The potential of comics is endless." I read them for what is great now, but also in anticipation of what is yet to come.
Jesse Winget, United States

I think the production of the movies will help tremendously to bring back popularity in the comics. I hope they do an Avengers movie, or a Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, and the Surfer... there's so many to pick from.

One thing though...I think the original origins are the best, but I do understand the changes being made for "these" times. Keep up the good work. Oh and please make a Mighty Thor or and Avengers movie with Thor in it!
Ray Ortega, US

Comics - the medium - is as broad and as deep as any form of human communication. Their versatility may surprise you if all you've ever seen of them is Dennis the Menace or Spider-Man.

To dismiss them as being simply "for kids" misses that point completely. Comics are not all about men in tights. Like all truly mature media, comics reflect all aspects of the human condition, from harsh reality to dreams of a better tomorrow.

Crucially, one shouldn't confuse the Hollywood machine with the source material. Recent films such as From Hell, whilst being a fairly pleasant way to waste two hours, are a far cry from the exhaustively researched and intellectually rich graphic novel it was based on.
Matthew Craig, England

I saw all of the movies mentioned above, however, I did not find any of them interesting. they are all quite pointless, with no real plot or story, it is probably because they were developed from a rather stupid comics.
Jack, Canada

To say that comics are for kids makes about as much sense as saying 'all films are for kids' or 'all books are kids'
Stephen B
I always prefered Marvel to DC comics,so I salute Stan Lee for his contributions to comicdom. That said, Stan Lee is single-handedly responsible for the low-quality of initial Marvel adapations by always trying to do the movies on the cheap.

I credit the success of comic book movies to DC with Superman, Batman (the first two at least), and the Flash TV series ( better than aformentioned features). DC showed that if you spend money on a good/decent script, actor, director, and high production values you will bank boffo box office.

It pained me for years to see all the lousy Marvel films go straight to video. And while I at least enjoy Marvel films, none has captured my imagination the way Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Terminator have.
Edward L. Nemil, US

Man I can't wait till the new Superman as well as the new Batman movie comes out and crushes Marvel's short lived movie popularity.
Justin Hughes, U.S

Excuse me Mr James C, of the UK have you ever read a Marvel comic? The stories that Marvel tell revolve around the ideals of honor, nobility, duty, and compassion.

I was always under the impression that these were rather mature concepts. Perhaps sir you should read a Marvel comic book. If I may, perhaps Spider-Man where you will learn the most important of lessons. That with great power comes great responsiblity.
Carey Brice Franklin, USA

James C, your comment, "comics are for kids" is typical of the mindset that is only prevalent in the UK and the USA. Around the world, comics are recognised as 'the ninth art'.

To say that comics are for kids makes about as much sense as saying "all films are for kids" or "all books are kids". Kids' comics are for kids.

Adult comics are for adults.
Stephen B, England

The Golden age of Marvel Comics came to be when Stan Lee finally took two dimentional stock characters and ADDED all the emotional baggage neccessary to make them human

Jeffery Williams, Canada
I used to love the Marvel comics in my younger days. There were so many characters, The Hulk, Thor, Spiderman, Conan. They were a feast for the imagination. Stan Lee is a genius who has brough happiness into the lives of millions.
Neil, England

I like Marvel comics and films because they're subtly subversive, having heroes who are not simply fighting costumed loonies, but often taking on the negative forces of military, government and media. (That's where the real fantasy fulfillment comes in, I guess.) Before the Marvel wave, the action genre was dominated by the meathead mentalities of Schwarzenegger, Willis and Stallone. I like the more imaginative liberal approach better.
Jeremy, USA

The Golden age of Marvel Comics came to be when Stan Lee finally took two dimentional stock characters and ADDED all the emotional baggage neccessary to make them human.

Then Lee took his now fully fleshed charcters and had visionary sequential artist Jack Kirby splash them out on the page to fight supervillians atop landmarks like the statue of Liberty. As hard as we knew it was for our heroes to defeat those villians, it was harder still for them to face their personal demons. In the 70s at least, DC was printing laughable fluff while Marvel was creating Graphic Literature.
Jeffery Williams, Canada

It is great to (finally!) see Marvel Comics come into its own as a maker of Hit Movies...after so many misses and precious few hits in the 1970s and 1980s...the major reason being that DC has the clout of Warner Brothers, a major Hollywood studio behind it whilst Marvel does not....YET!

In any case, it's keen that Stan Lee is still here to reap the rewards of his works, and he must be proud to see his "children" making it big...especially now since most of his conferes are gone. Stan, EXCELSIOR, True Believer!
Mike Bryant, USA

To James C, it's that kind of attitude that, unfortuately, stains the publics attitude towards comics. You ought to try picking up "Maus" sometime and say "it's for children". The X-Men books deal with racism. Do a little research before you put anything down!
Joseph, USA

Comics were among the first to explore female heroes and female power and present it to young readers.
Land, US
I grew with several animated series on air.Especially Spider -Man. I didnt know all these diff company making cartoons and stuff. All I knew was character that are appealing. To be honest I didnt know to which company Spider-Man, X-men and all belong to until I saw the movies.Movies are really well made. X-men has gone beyond expectations. Spider-Man though misses little original touch. But I am sure they will go beyond in the sequel.
BND123US, India

I have read comics for almost 25 years now. Kirby's New Gods series is my favorite. I must admit though, that when I walk into the comic shop, which I do Bimonthly, all I see is bunch of nerds and I say to my self, are they seeing in me what I see in them... Jeez I hope not...
Jerrold Summers, USA

Comics were among the first to explore female heroes and female power and present it to young readers. In the US, we still struggle with the deeply engrained problem of sexism.

That may sound harsh to some of my fellow Americans' ears but bare in mind that virtually all the stories, fairy tales, toys, and social marketting are still tuned to the theme of women being saved by men, women not able to make it alone, women as homemakers and housewives, and women defined not by their own success but by the successes of their husbands.

Thank you DC and Marvel and all the others for your great social commentary but also for creating powerful female characters so that the young can dream of something more than social stereotypes.
Land, US

The reason the Marvel movies are big hits now is that movie making technology has brought comic book fantasy to life, and at a reasonable cost. We will certainly see a lot more of this in the future, ¿nuff said.
Paul Lynch, USA

As someone who detests and avoids Hollywood films, it may seem strange to hear that I'm happy for the success of Marvel's films, but it really is for selfish reasons: my hope is that it will pay off in higher comic book sales, to reward Marvel for having "found their way" again a couple of years back after over a decade of incoherence.

DC (not including their excellent Vertigo imprint) is now the company suffering from incoherent plots, characters, and motivations, so maybe a popular Superman film will help revive their creative spark as well.

I was a "DC kid" and didn't like Marvel until the first generation of post-Stan Lee writers, as I felt the early Marvel was too violent and jingoistic, misogynous, homophobic, etc.

With people like Bruce Jones exploring deep into the psyches of characters like Incredible Hulk, "mainstream" superhero comics have never been better than right now.
Mark Schmieder, USA

I used to collect marvel comics when I was younger.and the sheer excitement I got from reading the exploits of the X-Men or captain america still brings a smile to my face now.

Comics are no longer for kids, you go into any comics shop,and the majority of customers will be in their mid to late 20s, and this has helped the X-Men, Spider-Man, Hulk films to sell so well. People are going to see them because it raises a feeling of nostalgia within that person, who may be trying to recapture the feelings of youth.

Well done to stan lee and all at Marvel, from a true believer
Matthew Lewin, London

Spiderman is my favourite. I loved the way he had to deal with everyday issues like work, family, money, relationships and illness, as well as fight super-villains.
Nigel Sykes, UK
I like Marvel comics because they stir real-life imagination. The heroes are powerful yet still have human fragilities. The life of heroes makes people believe that nothing is impossible.

Heroes face seemingly undefeatable odds, but Marvel Comics has shown that undefeatable odds only win if you give up. I have been a fan for over 20 years. Nuff said! Thank you Stan Lee, an American icon of good values.
Jaye, USA

I was, and still am, a big fan of Spider-Man, Alpha Flight and Daredevil, but Spiderman is my favourite. I loved the way he had to deal with everyday issues like work, family, money, relationships and illness, as well as fight super-villains.

All this makes for excellent entertainment, and hopefully more top rate films.
Nigel Sykes, UK

Comics were the first thing I had a passion for growing up. Back when I got an allowence, all of it went to comics. Comic books are what inspired me to draw at a very young age. I have all the comics I collected from day one in mint conditon with plastics and hardbacks. Gotta keep them in good shape.

My sole opinion for the decline in comic sales is the fact that people don't read as much as they use to, especially kids. The televison has taken over the minds of kids, They'd rather watch instead of imagine for themselves.

I'm still developing my skills to where I want them to be, but looking back I'm thankful for Marvel and Image for that motivation to push me to do something I love.

Now I'm a college student who is aspiring to be computer animator. My passion has shifted to the 3d realm of technology. Maybe someday I can repay my dues to marvel by working with a special effects team!
Darron , USA

I am a 31-year-old barrister who's thirst for Marvel characters has not waned since I was 11. Fables of good v evil seem to feature in every culture and at every point of history.

The idea of fighting for good touches deep chords with the human soul. I am very sad to see that much of the sincerity of the characters has not been reflected in the comics recently, and it is not uncommon to find dialogue bordering on the stupid, although there are still many good plots.

While the quality of paper and ink has become very good, cover price has become prohibitive. Like so much of entertainment today, form seems to be outstripping substance.
Abdurahman Jafar, UK

I love comics, but I think the industry has been in creative decline for nearly 20 years now. Instead of forging ahead, telling new stories with new characters, we've been subjected to the same concepts and storylines being recycled over and over again.

The industry has ensured its survival by selling on their franchises to other forms of media, like the cinema and the internet. Soon this bubble will burst; film-goers will tire of the novelty, and those who are turned on to comic-books will not stay long if the storytelling remains so poor and derivative.

This problem is that the creative talent is concentrated in a handful of writers and artists. It's time to pass on the pen and ink to a new generation, hungry and ambitious young people who have something to say. If the comic industry fails to evolve, it will surely die.

Bulent Yusuf, UK

Marvel has had a tremendous influence on me
Krishna Sadasivam, USA
I've been a Marvel (and DC) fan since early 1970s although my tastes have changed over the years, it's good to see some of the dire comic book movies of the past buried with the latest offerings.

The X-Men and Spider-Man films stand out because they are faithful to the comic; and that's the point. Early films were made by studio types who'd never read a comic in their life.

The new directors are either fans or have taken the trouble to understand the comic. There's a lot of talk about better effects and computer graphics, but X2 was relatively light on them and did well.

The trick the new films have realised is to stick as closely to the comic as possible, because that's what made it so popular in the first place.
Dan Hamlin, England

I started collecting Marvel comics in the mid-80s. I continued to collect them til the mid-90s. During that time, Marvel began to get a little over-the-top with its gimmick covers. The quality of story-telling was also suffering, and it seemed like each new book was a cash-in on a popular character (Ghost Rider, The Punisher).

Marvel has had a tremendous influence on me. I alway knew that I would be working in the field of cartoons and comics because of my avid passion for the medium.
Krishna Sadasivam, USA

I love Marvel Comics to bits but I'm getting scared that they might flood the market with to many films on the go. Spider-Man is in the middle of filming and there are already rumors of a Spider-Man 3 - I think they should just take it one step at a time.
Steven Anderson, Scotland

Anyone who is interested in seeing how far the comic book progressed last century need only be directed to Art Spiegelman's wonderful Maus*. An autobiographical tale about Spiegelman's parents and their experiences as German Jews in WWII, this book moved me as much as any other novel or film ever has.

I wonder whether I'd have been interested in this masterpiece if I hadn't been brought up on Marvel and DC (as well as UK titles such as 2000 AD, Crisis and Scream and the 'funnies' such as Beano and Whoopee). The comic is seriously marginalised from being recognised as a credible medium. I don't understand it.

*See also Jimmy Corrigan, From Hell, Ghost World and 1000s of other titles.
Mark, UK

All the movie-makers have to remember is that a large percentage of the people going to see these films grew up with these characters, have developed an emotional attachment, and are, in fact, adults
Thomas, USA
I started buying marvel comics in the early 60s, the real McCoy, imported from the US. Only a few newsagents sold them then. Iron Man was a favourite, Thor too; but Daredevil captured my imagination most. The artwork (part Kirby) was great and the characters and storylines exciting. When I look back now though, the heroes were all lonely, misunderstood vigilantes; vengeful and angry. Extensions and protectors of the american dream. Thankfully I was also rooted in the silliness and realities of British comics.
Paul McCloskey, UK

All the movie-makers have to remember is that a large percentage of the people going to see these films grew up with these characters, have developed an emotional attachment, and are, in fact, adults. The best part of X2 is that we get to see Wolverine stab people in his trademark "berskerker rage" and it isn't tempered or censored in any way, although there is a noticeable lack of blood (perhaps George Lucas had a hand in this?).
Thomas, USA

The comics always a getaway from the normal everyday life, a place where I could pretend to fight the villains side-by-side next to my favourite superheroes
Avinash, US
My first job was as a newspaper carrier and I would take my 2.50 cents a week and go spend it freely on Marvel comics, Spiderman, the Hulk, Fantastic Four, the Avengers and the Silver Surfer as well as Thor, Defenders etc. I still have many of them at home wrapped in a box and wouldn't you know that my 2.5-year-old son upon seeing the first Marvel promo materials at Wal mart demanded a Spider-Man video (Cartoon) and then on his own began demanding dolls, and other Marvel superhero materials following the films.

So is it in the genes, the mind or are the marvel heroes as important to the development of youth, morals and honesty as Sesame Street which he won't watch anymore?
Ric, USA

I have been a huge fan of the comic book industry ever since I was a boy. The comics always a getaway from the normal everyday life, a place where I could pretend to fight the villains side-by-side next to my favourite superheroes.

In some cases feel sympathetic toward the villians. I would just like to say that I enjoy greatly the amount of publicity the comic industry has been recieving after a few years of of no one even knowing of the great comic superheroes. Marvel/DC comics are the best!
Avinash, US

Comics are for children. The recent popularity upswing for the funny books and movies is yet another sign of the increasing infantilisation of popular culture.
James C, UK

I think credit needs to go to Dark Horse, whose comic books have reached the screen via the likes of Men In Black, The Mask and Mystery Men, as well as the upcoming Hellboy. Compared to Marvel, they're a small independent but have exploited their characters just as well.

They're also an example of how the traffic can go the other way. During the 1990s they took some of the 1980s biggest sci-fi characters such as The Terminator, Aliens and Predator and created stories that took them in a new direction - including Aliens vs Predator... which is due to shoot in the next year or so...
Nick, UK

I have always loved the Hulk. I got into the X-Men and Silver Surfer as well. I could relate to these characters
Arnold, US
I've always loved the characters you guys have created through the years. Your next great challenge, at least in my mind, is to create Asian superheroes who have wide appeal.
Rakesh Mohan, Trinidad & Tobago

Pete Bevan - you'll (hopefully) be pleased to know that there's a whole flood of films on the way - a John Constantine movie in production, new Dredd movies controlled by 2000AD's parent company, Dan Dare has a CGi TV show (shown early Saturday AM on Channel 5, which to be honest isn't that good), and, finally, a "proper" version of The Punisher, more closely based on the comic with Thomas Jane playing the title role.

So long as they don't attempt another TV movie of Captain America, things could be good. Oh, and I hear rumours about Green Lantern. That might not be so good - I smell an "elements of all the previous GL's" plotline. Argh.
Dave MK, London

I have always loved the Hulk. I got into the X-Men and Silver Surfer as well. I could relate to these characters. My house was full of violence and sadness as a kid. These charaters were dealing with their lot the best they could. They got angry. They made mistakes and got into trouble, but they learned from it all along the way. I spent a good portion of my youth angry as well. These characters represent various aspects of my own tortured soul. I have come a long way since those days, but my nostalgia for these characters lives on.
Arnold, US

Marvel pulled me into comics when I was 13, many years on I still read them (even sticking with the X-Men through the 90s when it went to hell) - I hope the movies bring more people into comics and elevate it from the realms of geekdom in the UK.

DC has their work cut out for them if they want to compete on the movie front
Charles J Baserap, New York, United States
And for all those grown-ups out there looking for something outside of the superhero try Sandman, Hellblazer, Preacher or Transmetropolitan (most of these are written by Brits for American companies and available in book shops) and not forgetting good old 2000AD.
Cath, UK

I've been reading Marvel for over a decade, though I'm also a fan of DC. It was nice to see comic book movies done well after so many flops like Punisher and DC Batman and Robin. DC has their work cut out for them if they want to compete on the movie front.
Charles J Baserap, New York, United States

Big-budget Hollywood movies are all well and good - or in the case of Spider-Man, very good indeed - but to get the full-on authentic Marvel Comics experience, you have to go back to the source. Marvel is enjoying something of a creative renaissance at the moment, with hoary old favourites like The X-Men and The Hulk having been turned into strong science fiction thrillers and psychological drama, respectively.

If you're only watching the movies, then you're not seeing the best of these characters. Find your local comic shop at . Ask for Grant Morrison's X-Men, Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch's The Ultimates, and Brian Bendis' Ultimate Spider-Man and Daredevil. You'll be glad you did. I guarantee it.
Matthew Craig, England

I'm 37, female, and have read Marvel since I was 10 (stealing my brother's comics). Definitely not your average fan. I love Marvel because their characters are human. DC's are archetypes with little emotion. Most of the independents are either hyperviolent or perverted in some way, excused under the guise of being "adult". I can't related to them the way I have to Marvel's universe. IMO, the films are so popular because they show people making a difference and taking a stand. We're tired of weepy chick flicks and tedious dramedys where all that gets done is whining.
Andrea, USA

At 42 I am ecstatic to see Spiderman and the Hulk at last being done justice on the big screen
Greg H, UK
Stan Lee, the "driving force" behind Marvel hasn't been an important part of their operations in years. The credit for reviving Marvel goes strictly to Avi Arad and his other business partner, whose name eludes me at the moment. Jack Kirby built the company as Stan's equal and even superior in creation of characters.
Brian SilverFox, United States

At 42 I am ecstatic to see Spiderman and the Hulk at last being done justice on the big screen. Ironically it comes at a time when comics in the UK (which are a bit behind the US) are going off the boil. It has been a shame to see the classic Clone Saga (bring back Ben Reilly!) followed up by nothing much more than reworks of the original 60s and 70s storylines.

Marvel needs to move its characters on and allow development - yes, the original stories were great in their time but an injection of vision is required
Greg H, UK

Was not overly impressed with the X-Men movies. I feel that the origin of the group should have been told with the original characters ie Cyclops, Ice-Man, Angel, Marvel Girl, and the Beast. Is it not until X-Men 2 that Bobby Drake is introduced? Also, using the comics as a base, was not Colossus, Nightcrawler and Sprite in the group before Rogue - who was originally a partner in crime with Mystique as part of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants?!?!

There's a bigger majority of comic readers, which are of adult age than is recognised and, if like me, you must be crying out for a movie to be made which encapsulates the dark and gory side of the comic world. Eg. DD#181 The Death of Elektra, XMn#95 The Death of Thunderbird, the Spiderman issue where the Green Goblin kills Gwendolyne Stacy (Peter Parker's first true love).
Monty, England

20 years ago, I can only have dreamed that I would be watching my favourite Marvel characters up on the big screen. But with the release of Blade in 1998 (the film that really did kickstart this new age of Marvel cinema) those dreams have come true.

I still feel that the films aren't quite what is delivered in some of the comics
Mark Evans, Sweden (expat Brit)
SFX have finally caught up with the imaginations of Stan Lee, Frank Miller, Chris Claremont, Jack Kirby to bring these fantastic tales to life. Another reason why these films have worked is the producer Avi Arad (who is also the head honcho at Marvel). He gets the best filmmakers involved and does not rush the production of these movies. Long may these movies continue.
Gary Edwards, UK

The film-makers obviously have grown up on the comic-book heroes and see them as viable box-office. The films of recent years (starting, I suppose with Burton's first murky Batman movie) have all benefited from the enormous advances in film-making that have taken place.

I still feel that the films aren't quite what is delivered in some of the comics. Comic art and the comic narrative has it's special approach, one that can't be translated to film so easily. That said, there have been many fine attempts at filming the medium recently.

A comics fan, my interest was rekindled in the 1980s with the magnificent Watchmen series and Miller's Dark Knight story of an aged Batman. DC were paving the way, while Marvel seemed to be a little after. DC's Sandman by the über talented Gaiman is the epitome of the medium. Quite soon, Marvel's Daredevil got a fabulous facelift and Dark Horse comics were also out there producing fantastic quality graphic literature for an adult market.

The rise in computer gaming has deflated the entire comics industry, which seems to have been reeling ever since. Nice to see that computers have come to the aid of the heroes in their time of need.
Mark Evans, Sweden (expat Brit)

There are so many things in comic strips and cartoons that are way over children's heads, and are much funnier or more intriguing now that I'm older
Andrew Lahan, UK
I am happy to see a lot of the American comic makers doing well in the movies, but lets not forget our glorious comic tradition. Where are the Judge Dredd movies (I'm sorry but Stallone doing "i yam der law" doesn't count.)

Where are the Rogue Trooper, John Constantine, Dan Dare, Miracleman et al movies. It really is about time that Hollywood looked outside the borders of the US for gritty and realistic characters that can mix a comedic and serious message in one seamless mix.
Pete Bevan, uk

I've also liked comics more as I became older. There are so many things in comic strips and cartoons that are way over children's heads, and are much funnier or more intriguing now that I'm older.

I guess that's because adults write them, so why should people think they're for kids?
Andrew Lahan, UK

One of you correspondents rightly mentioned that comic-book film conversions are very difficult to achieve due to how the look of the comic-book frameis transfered to the screen. See Hulk and I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at the techniques Ang Lee has used to pull it off.
Nick, UK

Comics can be as adult as you want them to be, like films or books, and the idea that picture stories is for kids is a little blinkered - it's obvious that people love this stuff, or else the movies would have done badly.

I'm more of a 2000 AD fan, myself, good old British comics rock as well as our fantastic Stateside counterparts. Get Johnny Alpha on the screen!
Jonathan Hicks, UK

Stan Lee is a very genuinely nice guy who enjoys every outing of the characters he created.
Simon, UK
I am 50. I bought all the first editions of Marvel and collected the monthly issues. Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Avengers, Daredevil. Dr Strange was a great character. I liked D.C comics, but the difference was the artwork. D.C, neat and tidy, but Jack Kirby, Steve Dikto were something special.

I kept them in great condition. I came home from school one day and discovered that my brother had sold my collection to a second hand book shop. Writing that last sentence was painful. Who says 'time heals'!
D Bush, UK

As a fan of Marvel I find it intensely frustrating that such epic and diverse, deep and meaningful storylines get so dummed down and trivialised on the silver screen. Of course its impossible to not watch the films as there is some fantastic translation of costume and action, but the films will never be as rewarding as the comics or even the cartoon series.

Its a shame that in the west we don't view illustrated literature in the same way as, for example Japan, where it is read and enjoyed by everyone and covers a wide variety of subject matter.

In addition (for all the other posters), Stan Lee is a very genuinely nice guy who enjoys every outing of the characters he created. And yes there is due a Silver Surfer movie, as well as a number of other Marvel licences.
Simon, UK

Nothing wrong with a bit of escapism. And the recent X-Men and Spiderman films were well-made, well-written escapism.

Indeed Spiderman had what the recent Star Wars films completely lacked: Fantasy. You were right there with the characters. It's good stuff!

I would like to echo the comments as well about the awfulness of Batman and Robin. You can't make a good film just by putting a couple of decent actors in funny costumes and having big villains, the script has to be good. And that Batman script was really, truly, awful. Worse even than 102 Dalmatians, which I was forced to sit through a while back...
Mark Bailey, UK

The key to a truly successful superhero movie is for a producer to be allowed to deliver a much more accurate portrayal which is faithful to the character
Richard Porter, England
I've been a comic fan for years, but it's only in the past three or for when marvel released their Ultimate series I have started buy them again. It takes the charaters we've grown to love over the years and made them relevent to today's youth.

I have all the ultimate X-Men and with the release of the Origin of Wolverine comics Marvel are back on form.

Now I wouldn't mind a history of Profesor X comic - that'll be cool.
mark, UK

I've been interested in comics for the most part of 25 years and ever since superhero movies and TV shows were made, I hoped to see something that reflected the issues I read. Spider-Man delivered this in a way I couldn't have hoped would be done as Marvel finally allowed the story likeness to be shown on screen.

The key to a truly successful superhero movie is for a producer to be allowed to deliver a much more accurate portrayal which is faithful to the character and to the readers and not riddled with gaping holes as in previous adaptations.
Richard Porter, England

I have hundreds of Marvel up in my loft that brought me years of pleasure. I might even dig them out and rekindle that childhood joy.
Rick, UK
The people behind the recent Marvel character movies were part of the generation (like me) that grew up with the comics and they appreciated the characters from a fan's perspective rather than as just a franchise which is where the Batman films failed, Tim Burton excepted.

They also cleverly adapted the characters and their origins to a contemporary setting. Previous adaptions made the mistake of transferring the comic straight to the screen. The inspired casting of Toby Maguire also helped make Spider-Man a big success.

Toby made a superb Peter Parker and was the perfect choice for the role. The advances in CGI technology have also played their part in no small measure and the portrayal or realisation of 'superpowers' in the previous adaptions did them no favours with audiences.

All Marvel heroes have interesting personal issues and dilemmas togeter with great supporting characters, ingredients all successful TV shows have so in a sense, the Marvel Heroes were in a sense already three-dimensional and thereby ready for launch to new audiences on the big screen.
Simon J, UK

I have hundreds of Marvel up in my loft that brought me years of pleasure. I might even dig them out and rekindle that childhood joy.
Rick, UK

Hulk, Spider-Man and X-Men are the latest in a run of comic-originated films such as From Hell, Ghost World, League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Corto Maltese, Cowboy Bebop, The Road To Perdition and American Splendor - with the likes of Hellboy, Creature Tech and Hellblazer on the way. Marvel's just tend to have slightly bigger budgets...

Rich Johnston, UK

I have been a Marvel fan for decades in particular Spiderman. I am greatful that my heros (yes I may be in my 30s but they are my heros) have been treated so well in the movies (I can point to some errors but they cant do 40 years of history complete justice in only three hours). I feel that more people should read comics, especialy political leaders - they are not a childish past-time and I feel we would have better leaders if they were to have the mantra 'With great power comes great responability' than some of the current oaths of office.
Shaun, England

As a child, the biggest shock was the day we got a colour TV, when I discovering my big grey hero the Hulk was in fact green!
Andrew Fogg, Zambia
As a long-time comics reader (in my mid-40s now), I have seen the evolution of both Marvel and DC. Marvel was always known for its treatment of the "human" aspect, whilst DC was more panel-to-panel action, whilst compromising character development.

I guess (in hindsight) they could be viewed more as soap operas, but with superhuman characters! By and large, reading about the tribulations of Peter Parker where often more entertaining than the plots involving his alter-ego, Spider-Man. Today, the best Marvel comics are those more deliberately written for an adult audience, with the title, Alias as an outstanding example (no relation to the TV series of the same name).

Overall however, the mainstream titles are in decline quality-wise, whilse some of the second-rate titles of recent years are experiencing a resurgence. The movies have brought the genre into the more acceptable mainstream, but in trying to address the tastes of their new audience it looks like Marvel are sacrificing the elements that made them the best in the first place....
Gary B, UK

No doubt the best thing about Marvel is seeing the different take that artists and writers have on its characters. Like FrankMiller's DareDevil and McFarlane's Spiderman/Hulk.That's what keeps it's characters alive. Few of the movies capture the depth of the it's best comics.
James Phillips, Japan

I didn't read the comics, but The Incredible Hulk was the best TV series ever. As a child, the biggest shock was the day we got a colour TV, when I discovering my big grey hero was in fact green!
Andrew Fogg, Zambia

Comics have and always been great entertainment, and should only be seen as such, they are uniquely suited to film being both visual and literal. The people who pour scorn on them you usually find haven't actually read any... personally I wish I read Spider-Man comics in the 60s and 70s because I could retire now if I had...
scotty, UK

One of the main reasons for Marvel's success over the years - and its troubles in the 1990's - is the stability of its creative teams. Long-running series such as X-Men and Fantastic Four would be produced by the same writer and artist for five or more years, putting a personal stamp on characters that would claim a loyal fanbase.

In the 1990s Marvel started rotating writers and artists far too quickly, resulting in disjointed and directionless books that lacked character. Now that stability is beginning to return, things are improving again.
Rav Gera, UK

Wolverine (from X-Men) was always tormented by internal demons and constantly a search for his identity and place in the world
Giovanni Calzetti,
I still read Marvel Comics now which are still enjoyable to read after many years. They have a broad range of appeal to a wide age range from children discovering them now through to adults with fond memories of their own youth.

I do believe there are better comics out there from wildstorm and other companies such the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen for example. With a film release of League due out in the next few months we'll see how much the names of Marvel and their heros effects the sales figures.
Martin Randerson, England

Still read them. And always will. Its escapism at its best. As for the movies doing so well... And movie that has a lot of action in it is going to do well. But when you add them to the great Marvel story lines, you are guaranteed nothing but success.
Jeremy Cedenio, UK

I loved X-men, but more so Wolverine. The character in his own comic book showed that despite having an indestructible skeleton, an healing factor and sharp claws that made him virtually invincible, he was in fact a quite mentally frail person.

He was always tormented by internal demons and constantly a search for his identity and place in the world. It showed that you may be different and powerful and yet envy "normal people" for what they have.
Giovanni Calzetti,

Thing is, Stan Lee has always fought the conception that comic books are kids' stuff, saying that they are as legitimate a media as, for example, film.

And now when you go to the cinema, practically every movie is about someone with amazing powers who has to save the world from an evil menace. So he won... sort of.
Stu, Scotland

I'm 39 now and loving the movies - Marvel should do them all now that we have the technology
Steve Pullen, UK
I've read quite a lot of comics - both in childhood and as an adult - and I have some pretty strong opinions on this subject.

Film conversions are very difficult to achieve. This is because most film makers try to make the stories into movies, rather than attempting to transpose the look and feel of the best graphic novels/comics onto the screen. Unbreakable is perhaps the only movie to achieve this, and did so almost flawlessly.

As for Marvel movies, they are nearly all appalling. X Men was laughably bad: the script was dreadful, the plot was almost non-existent, the editing was sloppy and as for the acting, the less said the better. As a final insult, they took three of the strongest female characters in comic books - Rogue, Storm and Jean Grey - and made them into pathetic shadows of their former selves.

I still have hope for the Hulk movie because of Ang Lee. Sense and Sensibility and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon are near perfect (the latter is in fact my favourite film), and according to the reviews, Lee has done the film justice.
John Kearney, UK

I'm 39 now and loving the movies - Marvel should do them all now that we have the technology, do an interstellar Silver Surfer epic. I was very Marvel in my early teens, and thought I had to despise anything else, now much more liberal about it. There is something good in most comics, you cannot become a classic without a lot of soul.

I would like filmmakers to accept that they are not telling a very likely story, so that they tell it with more loyalty and go all out for it! Thank goodness Sam Raimi did not say "I'll do the film but, to make it more credible, he will not call himself Spider-Man, and he won't run about in a costume!" The original formula can work if the right guy is given the director's job and they already love the subject matter.
Steve Pullen, UK

The Hulk was the first superhero comic I bought. I still remember the exact day.
Krish, UK
I read a great deal of comics as a kid and young adult, including many Marvel series.

Comics have had to move with the times, becoming more "themed" and "current", rather than the "imaginary world" of the earlier days. Superheroes, in my day, never had girlfriends or relationship problems, or dealt with topical issues like drugs, violence or politics.

With the advancement of comic writing to include up-to-date topics and themes, I think we have lost some of the escapeism that they used to provide.
Ian Dennison, UK

The Hulk was the first superhero comic I bought. I still remember the exact day. The comic had Hulk fighting some underwater baddy and I was hooked and still am.

Comic books now have far deeper tones e.g. DC's Vertigo series has some very dark and moving undertones - I suggest The Sandman and Hellblazer as a start for anyone who wishes to experience the darker side of comics. Good luck Marvel!
Krish, UK

I have read Marvel comics or stories of their characters in various comics since a child (I'm 41) and feel the recent re-invention of their origins/circumstances as necessary to revitalise them for the modern audience. Some would complain the films change these again, but what the hey, 'Marvelites' should be used to alternative universes.

I feel the current films are popular for several reasons - adults can take children to films they know about and the kids get introduced to something they can continue with after the film is over.

The standard of special effects is finally up to the job of portraying the various requirements of different characters (web shooting, teleporting, swinging/acrobatics around the city).

Marvel characters always had appeal because of their human frailty, a trait that was a legacy of its previous horror stories
Asif, UK
The producers/directors etc don't just treat them as a funny book, and make them as close to the originals as timing etc allows. Let's not lose sight that they are pure escapism and, though I hate to moralise like American TV, people like to see their hero/favorite come through. 'Nuff said.
Adrian Clarke, England

Marvel characters always had appeal because of their human frailty, a trait that was a legacy of its previous horror stories. Indeed The Hulk & Antman were first developed as one-issue horror stories. This streak of frailty gave the heroes motivation but also did the same for the villians. Marvels list of villians is some of the most impressive in the industry - Dr Doom (surfaced as Darth Vader in Star Wars), Magneto, The Green Goblin, Dr Octopus, Mysterio, Thanos, & the granddaddy of them all, Galactus - the planet-devouring entity above good & evil.

Not only Marvel fans but artists & writers have used these flawed characters to come up with ground-breaking stories and high-mark issues for nearly every major character. The film-makers who are turning out the hit films have latched onto the depth inherent in these stories and are making films which enhance the comics(Daredevil apart!).

The greatest comic however still awaits adaptation, The Fantastic Four is the foundation stone for Marvel. Stories, characters & concepts were developed here by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby which still resonate in the Marvel Universe. The true test for Marvel fans is a great FF movie.
Asif, UK

I think the reason for this genre's current popularity is the same as movie popularity during WW2. People want to totally abandon reality and hide in a make believe world with no President Bush, Saddam Hussein, SARS, AIDS etc. I know I do.
Mark, South Korea

I still believe that DC's line of superheroes are better
Marc, London
These are troubled times we live in, and escapism is always needed in such times. We want to believe in heroism and the goodness of human nature, but we do not see it in our leaders. Superheroes and fantasy epics are popular now because they offer us action and spectacle without consequence in our world: there is never a doubt in our mind that Spiderman is the good guy and the Green Goblin is the villian. At the same time, they allow us to look at human nature in a different way, the superpowers often reflecting the personality and personal demons of the hero.
Ben Bussey, UK

Oddly enough, I was never a fan of Marvel comics when I was younger. The dip in their sales in the late 80s and 90s was caused I believe by the fact they lost their way somewhat - and their main rivals (DC Comics) producing comics that were clearly better. It has only been lately that I have begun looking at the old (and new Marvel) comics range.

I still believe that DC's line of superheroes are better (DC quickly learned to make their heroes far more human), but I am very pleased that the huge success of the Marvel films have revived their fortunes. With the DC line having lost its way (the failure of the last Batman film to capitalise on the Tim Burton original) in the film world, I think Marvel will do well for the next few years... at least until the new, much vaulted Superman finally comes out. Well done Stan!!!
Marc, London, UK

I loved comics in my teen years and still pick up the occasional graphic novel. As a kid Uncanny X-Men was a regular monthly pocket money purchase. I bought it during the Byrne/Clairmont golden age when the comic lost its sixties kitschness and became modern and muscular. This was the period when Wolverine was introduced. Thrilling stuff. "Small American towns plus anger against his violent father" Lee depicted none of these things in the comics.
Leigh Nicholls, United Kingdom

I still have a huge pile of comics back home, and once in a while, on a lazy sunday afternoon, I still read through some of them.
Bart Maegh, Belgium
I've always been a big fan of Marvel Comics, my favourite series being The Punisher, 80's-90's Spiderman and the Avengers. I bought every issue of them, if I could find them of course. Only recently specialised comic book stores have begun to spring up in Belgian cities.

I quit reading Spiderman when the so-called "Clone Saga" began. Too far-fetched, and a massive alienation from the true "Spidey-sense". Nevertheless, I still have a huge pile of comics back home, and once in a while, on a lazy sunday afternoon, I still read through some of them.
Bart Maegh, Belgium

I bought my first marvel comics in the UK issue 1 in 1969 - were these the first? Do they have any value, as I still have issues 1-8, with Spiderman, the Hulk and the Fantastic Four all acquiring their powers by strange means of radiation etc. They were great at the time and still are - that's why the movies are still so popular!
Kevin Ward, UK

One of the main reasons for the success has been the quality of the directors and actors working on the films. With directors of the quality of Sam Raimi, Bryan Singer and Ang Lee, as well as the likes of Toby Maguire, William Defoe, Ian McKellen, Nick Nolte and Halle Berry, to name but a few, onscreen, it shows that Marvel are prepared to use the best people to bring their characters to life.
Al Haigh, UK

Yes, I still read the comics and collect them. To me they are just as good as the Western stories and the old black and white movie
Ciaran Lawlor, Ireland
Happy days...lost in a fantasy comic for hours outside in the August school holiday, sunshine. So true about the failings of the super heroes' "human" element, that's what made the comics relative to teenagers (Superman with exam problems!?!?!). I was told by the manger of the local newsagents (who I delivered papers for, then gave it all back, by buying the comics!) that the US colour comics were originally used as ballast on the Atlantic cargo ships? I think I still have a few hundred stuck in boxes in my parent's attic! Don't think my wife would want them in ours!!
Steve Talbot, England

Yes, I still read the comics and collect them. To me they are just as good as the Western stories and the old black and white movies. As for the movies, well now you can enjoy the films more because of the SFX and mainly they hold true to the story from Marvel.
Ciaran Lawlor, Ireland

I'm a DC comics fan and really don't like Marvel Comics in the same way that people who like Warner Bros cartoons tend not to like Disney animation; it's about the company's philosophies as well as their characters. But I've really enjoyed the films that have been made from Marvel comics, while the DC adaptations have all been a bit pants (need I remind anyone of Batman and Robin?). So I guess MC deserve the boost in sales; they've made a much better job of exposing a wider audience to their superhero universe.
Samantha, London, UK

I collected and read comics for over twelve years, I bought everything from special editions to graphic novels, premium editions to trading cards. But now I don't know whether i'm sitting on a goldmine or a pile waiting for recycling. Is there any worth in comics apart from reading time? The films are really just a glorification of SFX. Batman I and II, were perhaps the best adapations, Tim Burton knew what he was doing, he transferred the character better than any other director I have seen..why? Because he was a man in a bat radiation, no comic rays, no spider bites. We should in this age hold Batman as an icon, an image that through determination we can raise ourselves above inadequacies.
sam, UK

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