Saturday, June 22, 2013

Recently Read: Marvel Comics: the Untold Story, by Sean Howe

I recommend this compelling and well-researched overview of Marvel Comics' history. It wisely doesn't dwell on Marvel's earliest days, which is being covered in Michael Vassello and Blake Bell's The Secret History of Marvel Comics: Jack Kirby and the Moonlighting Artists at Martin Goodman's Empire. Nor does it dwell on the story of the Silver Age of the '60s, a period which has been described and dissected in numerous books and countless essays and articles.

Instead, Howe's book concentrates on the '70s when, after Stan Lee left the helm, a blur of editorships allowed for a brief flourishing of artistic freedom and experimentation, followed by what you might call the corporatization of the company, starting with the micro-managing of Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter. There's then a succession of corporate mergers and acquisitions, leading to comics that literally became less readable, if not unreadable, as the decades rolled on (though Marvel has pulled itself out of artistic purgatory over the last eight years or so).

Marvel Comics: the Untold Story is informed by a wealth of interviews with writers, artists, office personnel, editors and the like. If you lived through this era, as I did, and care about the rise and downfall of a great publishing company, you'll find this book hard to set down.

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