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Marvel Universe

The Marvel Universe is the fictional shared setting where most of the comic stories published by Marvel Comics takes place.

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 reprecussions in another title and serialized stories would show characters grow 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. In 1982 Marvel published the mini-series Contest of Champions where all of the major heroes in existence at the time were gathered together to deal with one threat. The Marvel Universe was also notable for setting its central titles in New York city. 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 the years as the number of titles published increased and the volume of past stories accumulated it became increasingly difficult to maintain internal consistency. In order to continue publishing stories of its most popular characters, maintaining the status quo became necessary. Change and growth for characters was replaced with the illusion of change. Unlike its main rival DC Comics Marvel has never engaged in a drastic reboot of their continuity. Minor attempts have been made in recent years to produce stories more accessible for neophyte readers such as the Heroes Reborn titles (occurring in a pocket universe where many of the major Marvel heroes were exiled) and the Ultimate titles (a self-contained universe unrelated to the main Marvel continuity).

In 2002 a study was done of the interactions between characters in the Marvel Universe (Alberich, R., Miro-Julia, J. & Rosselló, F. Marvel Universe looks almost like a real social network) which revealed that the Marvel Universe shares some non-random features with the social networks[?] of collaborating scientists or co-starring movie actors. This pattern developed without deliberate coordination among the various writers over the years. The most socially networked character in the universe is Captain America.

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