Marvel Comics is one of the major publishing companies producing comic book properties today, rivaled primarily by DC Comics. Founded by Martin Goodman in 1939, five years after the establishment of DC, the company was initially known as Timely Comics, and later Atlas. By 1961, however, following experimentation with science fiction and funny animal characters, the line was relaunched as Marvel (taking its name from one of their earliest comic titles), and re-focused on superheroes. The company soon became DC's most notable rival, with such properties as Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, the Fantastic Four, and the X-Men, all of which, like their DC counterparts, have been adapted into animation, films, television, and video games. Stan Lee, whose history with the company goes back to its early days and who is credited with creating, or co-creating most of the iconic Marvel superheroes introduced in the 1960s (and featured in the current Marvel Cinematic Universe films) makes a cameo appearance in almost every single Marvel film project.
In 1994, following the closure of Disney Comics, Marvel acquired the license to publish comics based on then-modern Disney properties, such as Beauty and the Beast, Gargoyles, and Darkwing Duck. Although most of these were extensions to the original films and were original stories, they also did two official comic book adaptations of The Lion King and Pocahontas, both of which were published as graphic novels and two-issue mini-series, as well as in concurrent issues of Disney Adventures. Marvel's Disney comics were eventually condensed into one title, Disney Comic Hits!, in the summer of 1995. Unfortunately, due to Marvel filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in December 1996, Disney Comic Hits! was cancelled after 16 issues that very month, and the comic book license for Disney's modern properties was moved to Acclaim.