1963 was an important year in world history: President John F Kennedy was assassinated, The Beatles released their first album, and Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space.
But, this isn’t all. Today, Gizmodo UK can reveal that according to our data-driven analysis, 1963 was also the most important year in the Marvel Universe.
Read on to find out why.
But first, how do we define most important? Back in March we worked out who was the most important character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe by comparing the numbers of connections between each character, based on data from the utterly exhaustive Marvel Wikia. The more connections to other characters (based on links to other characters from a given character’s page), suggests they are more influential. Let’s call this each character’s impact score.
What’s great about the wiki too is that it is so detailed that multiple iterations of the same character have their own pages so that, for example, there are separate pages for Captain America in the Earth-616 continuity, and the Captain America played by Chris Evans in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
One other thing that the Marvel Wikia tracks is the year that individual characters debuted. This means that if we take each year since the company that became known as Marvel started publishing in 1939 (it was previously known as Timely Publications and then Atlas Comics), we can count the number of new characters introduced, and also assign the year a “score”, to take into account that some characters (like, say, Wolverine) had a much bigger historical impact on Marvel canon (than, say, well, any of those thousands of obscure characters nobody normal has ever heard of).
So for each year, we’ve worked out the cumulative impact score. And this is what we present to you below.
And… here’s the resulting chart. The red line is the number of new character introduced in each year - and the blue line is the cumulative impact score.
And what’s interesting is that since around 1987, the number of new characters introduced every year has dramatically increased - with the year with most new character introductions being 2009. However, of the new characters who have been introduced, so far it appears that none have been quite as enduring as characters introduced in earlier decades - or at least, in one specific year: 1963.
1963, it turns out, by some distance is the year whose new characters have had the most out-sized impact on the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Why so dramatic? 1963 marked the first appearances of Spider-Man, the Avengers (as a team)... and a little group of heroes known as the X-Men. Professor X, Beast, Storm, Cyclops and Magneto all debuted that year. Nick Fury also made his first appearance, albeit in his role as Sgt Fury, leader of the Howling Commandos in a comic of the same name.
What’s sort of amazing too is that the years around 1963 were also influential years: 1961 introduced the Fantastic Four, 1962 saw the debut of the Incredible Hulk, and 1964 was when we first met Daredevil.
The second most influential year by this measure was 2005 - though looking at the data, there’s no single character introduction that would have meant the year made such an impact - it was simply in terms of the quantity of new character introductions, particularly in Marvel’s alternative zombie universe, which was apparently a thing. More conventionally, however, we also got the first appearance of SHIELD agent Maria Hill.
In fact, it appears that creating a new universe is a good way of making an impact on Marvel: 1995 was also an important year on these metrics, largely due to the creation of Earth-295, a part of the comics Age of Apocalypse storyline, that nerdier people than me will explain had nothing to do with the disappointing X-Men film.
But what’s clear from this data is one thing: Whatever the hell Stan Lee was doing back in 1963 was clearly working: In just one year, he debuted so many major characters that would continue to have an enormous influence on the Marvel Universe (let alone our popular culture) for the next half century.
James O'Malley is the Interim Editor of Gizmodo UK and tweets as @Psythor.