When I was a kid I was enthralled with Marvel. We all went through the DC phase: the secret identity thing was way cool, and the camaraderie of having super friends really was appealing. Still, when I started leaving my pre-pube and hitting my pube years, Marvel supplied the all drama and anxiety I could handle, and every month I was thrilled by Sgt. Fury, and really felt for the Fantastic Four (one of my first Marvel favorites). Captain America really got to me: the big lummox was having a hard time dealing with the 60s and couldn't move on after Bucky, as a way to visit happier times, I bought all the old Kirby and Simon reprints of the WWII Captain America.
I didn't join the fan club, the Merry Marvel Marching Society, because they wanted a whole buck. Forget that! I could buy more comics with a dollar. I won an authentic Marvel No-Prize (those who have one won't tell, those who tell don't have one). I even sent in a drawing I did of Captain America, and one of the editors sent it back, with "Nice lap drawing!" written on it. This pleased me no end. I got my mother to draw a poster of Captain American in color. I can't remember when I quit sending letters, but I remember typing letters to Marvel before I finally found another hobby.
So here I am middle-aged and wondering if I should invest in Marvel Enterprises (probably won't, and for the same reason I didn't join the MMMS: too overpriced for me). I haven't opened a Marvel comic in years and have only been thinking about them since reading "Men of Tomorrow." I watched both Spider-Man movies, but passed on the Hulk, Daredevil, and Electra. I had one of the worst headaches in my life watching X-Men, but I still saw the sequel. DC always had a stronger franchise with Superman and Batman, but it looks like Marvel may finally catch up (Marvel Enterprises pulled in a half billion in revenue last year). Wonder what the Fantastic Four will look like.
The most amazing thing is that Stan Lee soldiers on despite the collapse of Stan Lee Media. Salon did a nice write up: http://www.salon.com/people/bc/1999/08/17/lee/
There's a book about Marvel's recent up and downs:
Sad footnote: I was trying to get one of kids in fencing to riposte immediately after the parry, and said I wanted to see a riposte quicker than what the Flash could do. I got a blank look in response. Then it hit me: kids don't buy and read comic books. Their parents would never let them go to a seedy comic store run by a pathetic,pot smoking pudgeball with a goatee. I used to buy mine at the corner store, supermarket, and later at the newsstand, then at the Stars and Stripes Bookstore. Kids don't have that option any more.