The Marvel Universe is the shared fictional universe where most comic book titles published by Marvel Comics take place, including those featuring Marvel's most familiar characters, such as Spider-Man, the Hulk, the X-Men, and Captain America.
The Marvel Universe is further depicted as existing within a "multiverse" consisting of thousands of separate universes, all of which are the creations of Marvel Comics and all of which are, in a sense, "Marvel universes". In this context, "Marvel Universe" is taken to refer to the mainstream Marvel continuity, which is known as Earth-616.
Though the concept of a shared universe was not new or unique to comics in 1961, writer/editor Stan Lee , together with several artists including Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, created a series of titles where events in one book would have repercussions in another title and serialized stories would show characters' growth and change. Headline characters in one title would make cameo or guest appearances in other books. Eventually many of the leading heroes assembled into a team known as the Avengers. This was not the first time that Marvel's characters had interacted with one another—Namor the Sub-Mariner and the Original Human Torch had been rivals in Marvel's "Golden Age"—but it was the first time that the comic book publisher's characters seemed to share a world. The Marvel Universe was also notable for setting its central titles in New York City; by contrast, many DC heroes live in fictional cities. Care was taken to portray the city and the world as realistically as possible with the presence of superhumans affecting the common citizens in various ways.
Over time, a few Marvel Comics writers lobbied Marvel editors to incorporate the idea of a Multiverse resembling DC's parallel worlds; this plot device allows one to create several fictional universes which normally do not overlap (see below or Multiverse for more information). What happens on Earth in the main Marvel Universe would normally have no effect on what happens on a parallel Earth in another Marvel-created universe. However, storywriters would have the creative ability to write stories in which people from one such universe would visit this alternate universe.
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Official Site: Marvel Comics
Links: Wikipedia Marvel wiki Marvel Chronology Project