Marvel Comics, which has created some of the world's most famous comic book characters, started in 1939. Originally founded by Martin Goodman as Timely Publications, it later became known as Atlas Comics in the 1950s. In its early years, Marvel Comics introduced several superhero characters such as the Human Torch, proving to be very successful and popular throughout the United States.
As the US entered World War II, Marvel Comics created Captain America, who together with his allies confronted Nazis and characters representing members of the axis such as Japan. The first issue of Captain America proved a major hit with a circulation one million. Famous antagonists such as Doctor Doom and the Green Goblin were also introduced shortly after.
Goodman hired his wife's cousin Stanley Lieber as a general office assistant in 1939, but by late 1941 Lieber got promoted as interim editor, writing under the pseudonym of Stan Lee. Stan Lee went on to create Spiderman, the Fantastic Four, X-Men, Hulk, Iron Man and Daredevil amongst many others, subsequently leading the expansion of Marvel Comics from a small division of a publishing house to the large pop-cultural multimedia corporation it is today.
The Marvel Universe is where all characters from Marvel comic books coexist and essentially all the superheroes, villains and storylines take place in the same place, where they weave between each other to create the theme of each comic book story. Marvel Comics' characters continue to grow in popularity and have found great success in television cartoon shows and getting regularly referenced in sitcoms such as The Big Bang Theory. There have also been several cinematic revivals in recent years, starring superheros played by Tobey Maguire, Eric Bana and Hugh Jackman.