Comic books have always been somewhat of an underground culture primarily appreciated by boys and a few self-proclaimed "geeks." Other than some early success in serial shorts such as "Flash Gordon" and "Buck Rogers," movies based on comic books have mostly featured characters that have transcended the genre, such as Batman and Superman.
In recent years, this has changed, thanks in no small part to Marvel Studios. The production company as it is currently known was founded in 1993 by Israeli businessman Avi Arad. Marvel Studios was established to develop and produce projects featuring the characters co-created by comic book legend Stan Lee mostly in the 1960s. These characters include Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four and Iron Man, among many others.
Originally co-producing its projects with larger studios, the company first offered "Blade" in 1998 and "X-Men" in 2000. Both these films were very successful and proved the marketability of characters not well known to the general public. Marvel co-produced its first true blockbuster in 2002 with the release of "Spider-Man."