Marvel Comics: The Untold Story by Sean Howe
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Marvel Comics: The Untold Story is the story of Marvel Comics, from its beginnings in the late thirties until fairly recently, with all the highs and lows in between.
Confession Time: For most of my life, I've been a comic book fan. I've got around 2000 of them in boxes in my nerd cave and have numerous super hero shirts.
Marvel Comics: The Untold Story was a very gripping read for me. I read the sanitized version of some of the events in Marvel: Five Fabulous Decades of the World's Greatest Comics but I wasn't completely prepared for some of the things I learned.
The story starts with Martin Goodman cashing in on the comic book craze but really gets interesting when he hires his nephew, a kid named Stan Lee, to do some editing. Once Joe Simon and Jack Kirby create Captain America, things kick into high gear until the 50's, when Seduction of the Innocent nearly kills the industry. Things circle the drain until a fateful golf game with the head of DC comics prompts Goodman to order Lee to create a team of superheroes. The Fantastic Four is created and the Marvel Age of comics kicks into full swing.
The book covers a lot of behind the scenes info, like creators getting fucked out of royalties and original art. Anyone who's into comics has probably heard about that. The things I didn't know about, like a bunch of guys being into drugs, DC and Marvel negotiating for Marvel to license some DC characters, and what a tyrant Jim Shooter was, were much more interesting. It must have been maddening to work with Shooter after Secret Wars.
While it might be boring for some, I found the inner workings of Marvel when it was being bought and sold several times in rapid succession to be fascinating. In a lot of ways, it reminded me of The Death of WCW. How could people be handed the golden ticket only to wipe their asses with it?
Jim Shooter seemed like a dictator but I think Tom DeFalco's throw everything against the wall and see what sticks strategy played a bigger part to the near death experience the comics industry suffered in the 90's. Also, Stan Lee seems even more like a hack and a tool than he did before I read the book.
Speaking of the 1990s, Todd McFarlane and Rob Liefield come of as huge pieces of crap. I think we're all quite lucky Marvel survived the black hole of the 1990's comic market. It's crazy to think how many half-brain dead tyrants Marvel had at the helm before Quesada and Palmiotti finally turned things around.
For a lifelong comic nerd, this book was one hell of a read. 4 out of 5 stars.
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