It's the time of the season again where we look back over the year that's coming to a close, and try to quantify it in all kinds of lists. One of the most prominent lists in this trend is no doubt Google's list of top searches throughout the year, and in 2018, Marvel cracked the top 10 not once, but twice.
And not in the way most fans might expect.
As you can see above, the Marvel Cinematic Universe gained Google prominence in 2018 thanks to the release of Black Panther in theaters. That groundbreaking film (Marvel's first black superhero movie) became a massive breakout success, earning over a billion dollars at the worldwide box office. The other big event that gained Marvel a top spot in Google searches was a tragic milestone: the death of Marvel Comics creator, Stan Lee.
Stepping back and looking at it, this seems like a pretty obvious point of analysis to reach. Black Panther wasn't a top search just because of the movie, but because of the larger cultural conversation that arose around the film - everything from discussions of cultural representation in the film, to buzz about it breakout stars (Michael B. Jordan, Letitia Wright, Danai Gurira, Winston Duke). The storyline of Black Panther's box office run was in itself a trending topic for months on end, only further proving that it was less a film than a cultural phenomenon.
Stan Lee was similarly a major cultural icon. His passing sparked a massive wave of worldwide news headlines, which ran for days on end; reactions to his death also sparked new controversies (see: Armie Hammer), which only amplified the amount of reach Lee's name generated in search engines. Sadly, another big factor boosting Stan Lee onto this list was the fact that Lee spent most of 2018 embroiled in controversies leading up to his death in the fall. There were headlines about everything from him being the subject of a massive elder abuse and identity scheme perpetrated by those close to him, to stories of Lee committing sexual misconduct on multiple occasions. Ironically enough, both of Marvel entries in Google's Top 10 for the year helped boost one another up, when it was reported that collectors were selling Black Panther comics that were signed in Lee's blood!
If you need further proves that both of these were the top Marvel cultural events of the year: just note that Avengers: Infinity War didn't even make the list. Being the biggest movie of the year just wasn't big enough, I guess.
Avengers: Infinity War is now available on home video. Upcoming Marvel Cinematic Universe movies include Captain Marvel on March 8, 2019, Avengers: Endgame on April 26, 2019, and Spider-Man: Far From Home on July 5, 2019.