Marvel Comics is an American comic book and related media company owned by Marvel Publishing, Inc., a subsidiary of Marvel Entertainment, Inc. Marvel counts among as its characters such well-known properties as Captain America, the Fantastic Four, the Hulk, Iron Man, Spider-Man, the X-Men, and many others. Most of Marvel's fictional characters operate in one single reality; this is known as the Marvel Universe.
The comic book arm of the company started in 1939 as Timely Publications, and by the 1950s was generally known as Atlas Comics. Marvel's modern incarnation dates from 1961, with the launching of Fantastic Four and other superhero titles created by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, and others. Marvel has since become the largest American comic book publisher over long time competitor DC Comics.