Sunday, April 16, 2017

Recently Read: The Secret History of Marvel Comics

Blake Bell and Dr. Michael Vassallo's exhaustively researched and meticulously compiled record of the transition between Martin Goodman's publishing of pulp magazines and what were (for all intents and purposes) the earliest Marvel comics makes for fascinating reading and is an important document.

For those like me interested in the history of 20th century magazine publishing, pulp magazines and the earliest comic books, The Secret History of Marvel Comics is pure gold. It details the complex and convoluted relationships between the earliest publishers of what became DC Comics, Archie Comics and Marvel, and breaks down Goodman's cynical but effective business strategies publishing books and magazines of all stripes, of which comics were only a part.

Goodman's lack of interest, bordering on contempt, of most of his creative teams had echoes which still reverberate today (such as in the Jack Kirby heir's recent legal battle with Disney over Kirby's creations for Marvel).

Half the book is given over to illustrations drawn by Goodman's employees for his pulp magazines, including much work by Kirby, Joe Simon, Alex Schomburg, Bill Everett, Syd Shores and many more.

A few anecdotes and facts are given too many times, and I wish the book had given more information on Goodman's later days (especially his involvement in the '70s Atlas comics). I understand that, given the title of the book, that was probably out of the scope of the project. And yet, how many books are written about Martin Goodman? This would have been a perfect opportunity for that.
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