When I first began reading, I was pleasantly surprised that this was more than just an expanded checklist of Marvel comics published in the 1970's. The author, before providing a synopsis of the issue(s) of the relevant comic book, often gives background on what might have motivated the publisher, editors, writers and artists to explore a particular theme or choose to go with a certain storyline.
Most of the background appears to be the author's opinions and conclusions, only occasionally based on quotes from the creators, apparently sourced from published interviews (sources are generally not quoted). From what I've read, there is little evidence of attempts to contact surviving creators or other professionals who might have personal knowledge of the circumstances - something that could have transformed and deepened this into a publication with a credible historical perspective.
If however, the publication's objective was simply to document the author's personal remembrances and opinions of the comic books and creators, for readers' enjoyment, then the manner of expressing those opinions is often so insensitive that it negates anything positive that the author might later say about the creator. Here are some examples:
GEORGE TUSKA / ARCHIE GOODWIN:
"...Tuska's style would later become even more bland than it already was...Like Tuska, Goodwin would never generate too much excitement with fans, but he did manage to ape Lee's writing styles sufficiently well..."
"Not that his drawing was bad, it was just...dull. Sal also had maybe two facial expressions in his repertoire: grim and agonized." The author also comments that Sal arrived at Marvel on the `coattails' of his brother, John Buscema.
"...at DC (Neal Adams) was seldom served by the best scripts or inkers... the serviceable but lackluster work of Dick Giordano..."
By far the most pervasive criticism is of Mr. Kirby (the `Kirby bashing' referred to by another reviewer). Jack's drawing style in the years leading up to his departure from Marvel is characterized as outdated and uninspired; his Fourth World titles at DC are casually dismissed - even `though this is a book dealing with Marvel comics; he is criticized for sourcing story ideas from other popular media at the time (something that his contemporaries were also doing); and at one point, Jack is summarily dismissed by the comment that: "...as the years passed, Kirby became all but irrelevant."
Other creators so unfavorably categorized include Marie Severin, Herb Trimpe, Gil Kane and Jim Mooney.
For anyone who might be unfamiliar with the work of the above gentlemen, please allow me to add a few of my own comments and opinions:
-George Tuska: Roy Thomas has said that at Marvel in the 70's, George was one of two artists who could draw any book and it would sell (the other was John Romita). I can clearly remember George's work on Iron Man #104, published in 1977. I would have been about 16 years old at the time, and even now, can still remember the atmosphere that George brought to this issue - the tenderness between Iron Man and Madame Masque, the frustration of Jasper Sitwell, the inevitability of the approaching conflict, and some well-choreographed and dynamic action sequences. And this is just one example of George's immense body of work in the field.
-Archie Goodwin was, simply put, one of the most respected and talented editors and writers in comics. His work at Warren, Marvel, the Epic Line, and DC, speaks for itself.
-Sal Buscema: The issue of The Incredible Hulk in which Jarella dies is one of only 2 comic books that almost brought a tear to my eye. And it's Len Wein, Sal Buscema and Joe Staton combining words and pictures to show the Defenders comforting a grief-stricken Hulk that did it. Sal and Joe's depiction of Valkyrie putting her arms around Hulk to comfort him, is heartbreaking.
-Dick Giordano is generally acknowledged as one of the finest inkers to have worked in comics. This is in addition to his countless contributions to the field as an editor, a developer of new talent (like Archie Goodwin), a proponent of creators' rights, and a founding member of Continuity Associates with, yes, Neal Adams.
-Jack Kirby was perhaps one of the 2 most creative forces to ever work in comics (the other, IMHO, being Will Eisner). Dozens, if not hundreds, of his creations and co-creations continue to live on in comics, animation, and films.
Like another reviewer, I had difficulty getting past the first sixty or so pages of this book. I really believe that creators who contributed so much to so many readers' enjoyment of comics deserve more courtesy. I eventually made it past the first hundred pages, and decided that I would stop (the text is not broken up into paragraphs, which also makes the print physically difficult to read). It's hard to believe that this is a TwoMorrows Publication, since their books are usually so professionally done.
Why did I still rate it 3 stars? Well...
-It was a very ambitious and I believe, well-intentioned, project.
-Despite the harsh criticisms leveled at several creators, I don't get a sense that the remarks were intended to be cruel. It seemed more like an inherent insensitivity in the author's writing style.
- Creators such as Stan Lee, Steranko, Neal Adams, Barry Smith, etc., come in for high praise from the author.
-Finally, as stated by another reviewer, the author has a right to his opinions; I simply choose to disagree with some of them and to not read his work further.
Having not actually purchased this book (a friend shared their copy with me), I initially hesitated about posting this review - my first online review, by the way. Still, I felt strongly enough about it to at least alert others going in about the aspects with which I disagreed. For anyone who might have read this, thanks.