MARVEL COMICS by Sean Howe
Best of 2012
Kirkus Star

MARVEL COMICS

The Untold Story

KIRKUS REVIEW

An impeccably researched, authoritative history of Marvel Comics.

Former Entertainment Weekly editor Howe (editor: Give Our Regards to the Atomsmashers!: Writers on Comics, 2004) interviewed more than 150 former Marvel employees, freelancers and family members to weave together a tapestry of creative genius, bad business decisions and petty back-stabbing. Progenitors of Spider-Man, the Avengers and the X-Men, Marvel’s rocky road to merchandising success is as epic as any of the company’s four-color adventures. Howe pulls no punches as he details the fledgling enterprise’s slow rise from Timely Publications in 1939 to its official emergence as Marvel Comics in 1961, when the groundbreaking brilliance of writer Stan Lee and artists Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko led to the creation of the company’s most iconic characters. In an era before movie-making technology facilitated lucrative cross-merchandising, however, Marvel struggled financially while its editors massaged the bruised egos of freelancers who poured their lifeblood into creations in which they didn’t retain an ownership stake. Kirby, bitter over what he perceived as Lee’s efforts to take undue credit for his stories, ultimately left, becoming a rallying point in the struggle for the rights and compensation of writers and artists. Lee relocated to Hollywood in an effort to bring Marvel’s characters to the big screen, a frustrating endeavor that would take decades and a procession of other individuals to come to fruition. Compared to the thorough account of Marvel’s formative years, Howe gives relatively short shrift to recent corporate machinations—including only a brief mention of Disney’s $4 billion purchase of Marvel in 2009—and the work of current superstars, but that’s a minor quibble in what is otherwise a nuanced and engrossing narrative of a company whose story deserves its own blockbuster film.

Brilliantly juxtaposes Marvel with its best characters: flawed and imperfect, but capable of achieving miraculous feats.

Pub Date: Oct. 9th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-06-199210-0
Page count: 496pp
Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 2012




NEW & NOTABLE NONFICTION: OCTOBER 2012:

Nonfiction A FREE MAN by Aman Sethi
by Aman Sethi
Nonfiction EMPIRES, NATIONS, AND FAMILIES by Anne F. Hyde
by Anne F. Hyde
Nonfiction FORMER PEOPLE by Douglas Smith
by Douglas Smith
Nonfiction HELL-BENT by Benjamin Lorr
by Benjamin Lorr

SIMILAR BOOKS SUGGESTED BY OUR CRITICS:

NonfictionSUPERGODS by Grant Morrison
by Grant Morrison
FictionAVENGERS VS. X-MEN by Brian Michael Bendis
by Brian Michael Bendis
NonfictionSUPERHEROES! by Laurence Maslon
by Laurence Maslon