Avi Arad

As CEO and president of Marvel Studios, Avi Arad, a self-professed comic book fanatic, was largely responsible for the groundswell of interest in superheroes on both television and in film. Starting off as a toy designer, his successful track record - a line of X-Men action figures were massive bestsellers - allowed Arad to branch out into television animation, producing cartoon series such as "Spider-Man" (Fox, 1994-98). He put himself on the map as executive producer on successful feature film adaptations of "Blade" (1998), "X-Men" (2000), "Spider-Man" (2002) and "The Hulk" (2003). Aside from his filmmaking duties, the multi-talented Arad also oversaw the merchandising lines from these movies, in addition to those from the epic "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. While some efforts like "Elektra" (2005) proved less satisfactory, hits on the order of "Iron Man" (2008), bore out Arad's assertion that, if done right, comic book heroes provided nearly limitless franchise - and merchandizing - opportunities. It was Arad's passion and vision that not only placed him at the table of Hollywood's elite filmmakers, but also helped transform a company once perilously close to bankruptcy into an entertainment juggernaut at the forefront of pop culture evolution.