In 1991, Marvel Entertainment entered a new phase of its life, as a publicly- traded company. It issued shares of stock (which opened at around $21.00 a share, and over the course of some three years, the stock went to $60.00 a share then split, then went to $50.00 a share split again, and went to $40.00 a share, and split once more time. Eventually, the stock never fully recovered and the company became not only over-extended, but caught up in a corporate takeover war, which nearly wound up destroying the house that Stan, Jack and Steve built.
Still, while operating as a publicly traded company, Marvel was required to issue, not only quarterly statements, but Annual Reports as well. However, unlike most of the staid corporations that inhabited Wall Street, Marvel chose to issue their reports with the usual Marvel Flair.
Quarterly reports came in the form of card-stock, or gatefold reports emblazoned with the colorful Marvel heroes and villains, touting their comics, trading cards, stickers, toys, movies, and other endeavors for their investors and potential investors. Needless to say, the most interesting, and entertaining reports were the company's annual reports, which were either magazine- (1991) or comicbook-sized (all other years) booklets, where the first 32 pages were essentially comicbook stories staring several of their characters in a cobble-together story (usually told by fan favorite writers and artists) where readers would be treated to scenes of some Captain America, for example) delivering a roundhouse punch to some villain or other (Dr. Doom, perhaps), while pontificating on the financial standings of Marvel the company.
In the annual Reports, the 32-page comic section would be followed up by more detailed (and more traditionally-presented) financial information about the company.
Keeping in mind the intended audience of these reports are adult investors in the company, it interesting to note that the reports themselves became prized collectibles of the company's fanboy audience.
This first Annual Report had the Watcher directly addressing the reader about the giant gains of Marvel Comics, telling the specifics about the company, its various publishing ventures of the past year. He then went off into recounting some highlights of Marvel's 50-year history, as well as several of the highlights of the past few years of revitalization. Then he projects out into the future and tells of some of the upcoming events for the next year.
The two-page text section is followed by six pages of comicbook panels, and then followed by six more pages of text explaining further about Marvel's publishing, licensing and advertising ventures. It is after this section that the 20 pages of financial report part occur. Still, even here Marvel has chosen to pepper this part of the report with not only images of its various heroes, but often utilized them in presenting unique graphs and charts of the financial information.
The Watcher explains who he is then goes through some information about the relative value of Marvel's Stock Share value, and that Marvel comics are now being distributed at Wal-Mart, Ralph's and Walgreen's. He also talks about the interest generated by Wolverine's double-sized, die cut issue #50. Next he talks about new licensing opportunities, and the vast opportunities available to the company by tapping into the potential of its many characters, including X-Men, Spider-Man, and other heroes.
He tells about the deal with Carolco Pictures to produce a live-action, feature length film about Spider-Man, as well as a new Saturday morning animated TV show featuring the X-Men on Fox TV. He then cites that there are some 30 special-event books planned for '92 surrounding the various Marvel characters, including many connected to Spider-Man's 30th anniversary.
He then winds up by stating that the year is off to a great start as there was a 40% jump in first quarter earnings. Next, the report moves into its comicbook phase, as the Watcher talks a little bit about Marvel's glorious history, beginning with the launch of three of its oldest, core heroes; The Sub Mariner, The Human Torch, and Captain America. He then recounts about the '60s rebirth of the company including the creation of the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man.
Next up is the purchasing of the company by MacAndrews & Forbes, which (according to the Watcher) gave Marvel the financial clout to "...Unleash the power of Marvel Comics". Some of the special projects cited as landmark events for the year included the introduction of the ("adjectiveless") Spider-Man #1 (as the fifth, on-going, monthly Spider-Book (selling 3 million units); the re- launch of Silver Surfer and ghost Rider in a new on-going titles; and (of course) the appearance of Spider-Man on the floor of the New York Stock exchange and the introduction of Marvel as a publicly-traded company.
Other landmark events included X-Force #1 (4 Million units), and ("adjectiveless") X-Men #1 (8 million units); the publication of the coffee table book, Marvel: Five Fabulous Decades of the World's Greatest Comics; new Trading Card sets, a projected live-action movie staring Wolverine (which obviously never occurred), the launching of the Big Guns line, the 30th anniversaries of both Spidey and The Hulk, the 2099 line of comics, along with numerous other things.
This has to be one of the most unique Annual Reports ever presented, and it is this presentation that earns it its high grade.
This first Annual Report was different from the others in that not only was it the only magazine-sized report, it didn't actually tell a story as much as narrate information in a story-like fashion. Subsequent reports were actual comicbook stories of 32 pages.