A smart, blow-by-blow narrative of the sometimes-friendly, often bitter rivalry between corporate comic-book behemoths.
When Superman debuted in 1938, no one could have predicted that he and his underwear-on-the-outside brethren would eventually come to dominate the entertainment landscape. Journalist Tucker (co-author: Duke Sucks: A Completely Evenhanded, Unbiased Investigation into the Most Evil Team on Planet Earth, 2012) makes a compelling case that the rise of the superhero in popular culture is perhaps best understood by exploring the evolution of the two companies that created and proliferated those heroes: DC Comics, the upright and staid publishers of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, and Marvel Comics, the hipper, edgier purveyors of Spider-Man, the Avengers, and the X-Men. The author provides an essential primer on how these companies’ comics evolved from four-color funny books for kids to complicated, carefully curated content aimed at an aging comics cognoscenti to intellectual property laboratories for multinational entertainment conglomerates. Comic-book fans will revel in the minutiae of Tucker’s account, from stories of artists using pen names in the early days of the rivalry to collect a paycheck from both sides without incurring the wrath of their primary employer to alleged acts of spying in the wake of both companies simultaneously publishing stories of startling similarity (on multiple occasions, no less). Comics neophytes will undoubtedly get lost in the voluminous list of creators cited throughout the book and be astonished by the lack of business acumen displayed by various editorial regimes. However, even they will be able to appreciate the salacious significance of DC’s secret overtures to Stan Lee at the height of his Marvel fame and the way in which each company’s corporate culture, not to mention the machinations of their parent companies and investors, contributed to the current state of superhero ubiquity—even as the comic publishing industry itself dwindles.
A wild haymaker for the masses, perhaps, but a knockout read for capes-and-cowls aficionados.