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Marvel Comics: The Untold Story (Englisch) Gebundene Ausgabe – 9. Oktober 2012

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  • Gebundene Ausgabe: 496 Seiten
  • Verlag: Harper (9. Oktober 2012)
  • Sprache: Englisch
  • ISBN-10: 0061992100
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061992100
  • Größe und/oder Gewicht: 15,2 x 3,8 x 22,9 cm
  • Durchschnittliche Kundenbewertung: 4.5 von 5 Sternen  Alle Rezensionen anzeigen (4 Kundenrezensionen)
  • Amazon Bestseller-Rang: Nr. 21.226 in Fremdsprachige Bücher (Siehe Top 100 in Fremdsprachige Bücher)

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“Sean Howe’s history of Marvel makes a compulsively readable, riotous and heartbreaking version of my favorite story, that of how a bunch of weirdos changed the world. That it’s all true is just frosting on the cake.” (Jonathan Lethem)

“A warts-and-all, nail-biting mini-epic about the low-paid, unsung ‘funnybook men’ who were unwittingly creating twenty-first century pop culture. If you thought the fisticuffs were bare and bloody on the four-color page, wait ‘til you hear about what went down in the Marvel bullpen.” (Patton Oswalt)

“Exhaustively researched and artfully assembled, Marvel Comics is a historical exploration, a labor of love, and a living illustration of how the weirdest corners of the counterculture can sometimes become the culture-at-large.” (Chuck Klosterman)

“Page after page, Sean Howe’s Marvel Comics manages to be enchantingly told, emotionally suspenseful and totally revelatory. If I knew more about superpowers, I’d be able to explain how he did it.” (Sloane Crosley)

“Sean Howe is to Marvel Comics what Procopius was to the Byzantine Empire: a court gossip of breathtaking thoroughness and exactitude, and a sly and nuanced writer. It is imperative that this work not fall into the hands of alien species, or we’re done for.” (Luc Sante)

“A jittery, hilarious, anecdotal, and exhaustive history of the company. . . . If you’re a comics fan, this is essential reading. If you’re not, then it’s merely fascinating. Howe has written a biographical history of modern America’s id.” (GQ)

“Sean Howe’s gripping new history lays out five decades of Marvel adventures and insanity, and will make you believe that comic-book creators have even weirder lives than their mutant creations.” (Rolling Stone)

Marvel Comics is a meticulous chronicle of the real secret origins of the superhero, a tragic love story about the relationship between a long parade of passionate, talented superhero devotees and the company that didn’t love them back.” (The Los Angeles Times)

“It’s about time somebody wrote Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, and it looks like Sean Howe was the right guy for the job. Howe’s clear-eyed history. . . is as full of colorful characters, tragic reversals and unlikely plot twists as any book in the Marvel canon.” (Newsday)

“Exhaustively researched and extraordinarily compelling. . . . A quasi-Shakespearean portrayal of Marvel as it moves from spirited upstart to ruthless corporate colossus.” (Salon)

“A superpowered must-read for anyone hooked on comics, as well as a gripping story for someone merely enlightened by a genre that’s always had to fight for respect. It’s much more about ordinary, flawed humans than super men and women, and therein lies its excellence.” (USA Today)

“Howe, a widely published critic with a real knack, rare for his field, for reporting, gets farther inside the company than anyone else has. . . .An essential read for anyone who loves comics, but civilians with a taste for gossip will enjoy it too.” (The Daily Beast)

“A corporate biography of America’s most significant comic-book publisher and a definitive portrait of comics in American culture. . . . Howe offers vivid reporting and enticing detail. . . . The result is a book both authoritative and charmingly readable.” (The Wall Street Journal)

“Fascinating, compelling reading. . . . Exhaustively researched. . . . What ultimately propels you to keep turning the pages of this fat, enjoyable book are the endless anecdotes about how the Marvel Universe was shaped.” (The Miami Herald)

“A vivid account. . . . Comics have proven an enduring art form, gaining new fans without losing the old ones. Howe’s exhaustively researched love letter to Marvel should find grateful readers among both groups.” (The Boston Globe)

“Hugely entertaining.” (The New Republic)


An unvarnished, unauthorized, behind-the-scenes account of one of the most dominant pop cultural forces in contemporary America

Operating out of a tiny office on Madison Avenue in the early 1960s, a struggling company called Marvel Comics presented a cast of brightly costumed characters distinguished by smart banter and compellingly human flaws. Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, Captain America, the Incredible Hulk, the Avengers, Iron Man, Thor, the X-Men, Daredevil—these superheroes quickly won children's hearts and sparked the imaginations of pop artists, public intellectuals, and campus radicals. Over the course of a half century, Marvel's epic universe would become the most elaborate fictional narrative in history and serve as a modern American mythology for millions of readers.

Throughout this decades-long journey to becoming a multibillion-dollar enterprise, Marvel's identity has continually shifted, careening between scrappy underdog and corporate behemoth. As the company has weathered Wall Street machinations, Hollywood failures, and the collapse of the comic book market, its characters have been passed along among generations of editors, artists, and writers—also known as the celebrated Marvel "Bullpen." Entrusted to carry on tradition, Marvel's contributors—impoverished child prodigies, hallucinating peaceniks, and mercenary careerists among them—struggled with commercial mandates, a fickle audience, and, over matters of credit and control, one another.

For the first time, Marvel Comics reveals the outsized personalities behind the scenes, including Martin Goodman, the self-made publisher who forayed into comics after a get-rich-quick tip in 1939; Stan Lee, the energetic editor who would shepherd the company through thick and thin for decades; and Jack Kirby, the World War II veteran who'd co-created Captain America in 1940 and, twenty years later, developed with Lee the bulk of the company's marquee characters in a three-year frenzy of creativity that would be the grounds for future legal battles and endless debates.

Drawing on more than one hundred original interviews with Marvel insiders then and now, Marvel Comics is a story of fertile imaginations, lifelong friendships, action-packed fistfights, reformed criminals, unlikely alliances, and third-act betrayals— a narrative of one of the most extraordinary, beloved, and beleaguered pop cultural entities in America's history.

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4 von 4 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich Von Boris am 26. November 2012
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe Verifizierter Kauf
If you read this book, you must acknowledge several things: This book does not contain pictures (ok, there is one photo of Lee and Kirby from 1965, but not a single comic panel). And you will not enjoy this book, if you are not a Marvel aficionado. So if you want to know the basics about Marvel Comics, there are other books (Les Daniels, Marvel: Five Fabulous Decades of the World's Greatest Comics, or Matthew Manning, Marvel Chronicle). You will learn nothing about the characters here and you will not get biographical details of single creatives. What you get here is the story of the Bullpen, the story of those guys (and oh so few gals) that were employees of the various companies that published comics today known as Marvel since the thirties. And the story of how complicated their life was during all those decades of creating what would become the world's most successful Comic Book franchise.
In some way the book that reads like a novel is a cynical history of carnivore capitalism, and there is no doubt where the sympathies of the author lie. For me it was painful to learn that some of the heroes of my childhood that were responsible for delivering us Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four and the Hulk lacked in character what they had in creativity in spades. And to learn that the so-called Editors-in-Chief whom we readers argued with when we did not like the decision of a penciller to leave or a character to die were not Generals, but Sergeants at best, working with the troops, the editors and freelancers, while other people, who did not even read those comics, made a lot of money with it. If you have read the novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon you might guess what I mean. So with these premises I can only recommend this interesting book.
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2 von 2 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich Von Big-red-cheese am 18. April 2013
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Autor Sean Howe erzählt hier die Geschichte des heutigen Marvel-Verlags anhand von teilweise sehr witzigen Anekdoten zwar nicht neu, aber doch mehr als unterhaltsam. Nach der Lektüre dieses Buch wird man den Verlag, seine Galleonsfigur Stan Lee und die ganze Geschichte mit anderen Augen sehen. Aber nicht mehr ganz so positiv!
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1 von 1 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich Von Szigetvári Csaba am 27. August 2013
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Die Hintergrundgeschichte von Marvel hat teilweise mehr Dramatik als alles was dort geschrieben/gezeichnet wurde. Der Werdegang der Firma und das Zusammentreffen der Egos ist fesselnd und ernüchternd zugleich. Man muss kein Marvel oder Comic-Fan sein um das Buch zu geniessen - die Fülle an Intrigen und Bürokämpfe lässt meistens ohnehin vergessen das bei Marvel als Hauptprodukt Comics verkauft werden. Auch interessant zu viele, wieviele Jahrzehnte es gedauert hat, bis Stan Lee endlich einen starken Fuss in Hollywood fassen konnte.
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0 von 1 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich Von Michael Collin am 22. Oktober 2014
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Sean Howe legt hier eine, nein, die Geschichte der Marvelcomics und die dahinter stehende Verlagsgeschichte des größten Comicimperiums vor.
Minutiös berichtet er von den idealistischen Anfängen unter dem legendären Trio Stan Lee, Jack Kirby und Steve Ditko. Wer hätte zu Beginn der 60er Jahre geglaubt, dass sich Marvels Comicbooks über die Jahrzehnte nicht nur halten, sondern zum größten und verzweigtesten Universum der Popgeschichte mausern würden?

Wie wechselhaft diese Geschichte verlief, die ungezählten Höhen und Tiefen, Liebe und Hass, Erfolg und Krise, das alles kann kaum detaillierter dargestellt werden. Merken kann sich die Fülle an Details wohl kein Leser, und nicht alle Infos sind bemerkenswert, aber das Buch kann ja auch einfach als lexikalisches Nachschlagewerk benutzt werden.

Von den Anfängen bis zum Börsengang, vom skandalösen Umgang mit den Mitarbeitern, Größenwahn und Abhängigkeiten, Merchandising und Filmprojekten berichtet Howe; Von den Konflikten zwischen Herausgebern, Schreibern und Zeichnern und der nie zu klärenden Frage, wer der Schöpfer ist von Spider-Man, den Fantastic Four und zahlreichen anderen Helden. Eine Geschichte von Freundschaften und Loyalität, aber auch von bitterster Enttäuschung und menschlichen Schweinereien. Je mehr sich das Marvelversum ausdehnt, umso mehr geht es um die Millionen und später Milliarden Dollar, die Marvel schwer ist; Kontinuität, Authentizität und künstlerische Ansprüche werden unter Firmeninhabern, die sich für Comics überhaupt nicht interessieren, zeitweise komplett zurück geschraubt, und dann wechseln sich wieder Erfolge mit existenzbedrohlichen Krisen ab.
Lesen Sie weiter... ›
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Marketing and Mayhem in the Mighty Marvel Manner! 9. Oktober 2012
Von Roochak - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
By 1971, there was clearly no future in working for Marvel Comics. Jack Kirby had jumped ship for DC, sales were declining and Marvel's new owners, a New Jersey outfit called Perfect Film & Chemical, had installed a CEO who was making life so difficult for management that even Stan Lee was looking for the nearest exit. It was part of the boom and bust cycle that had plagued the comics industry (and Timely/Atlas/Marvel in particular) since the late 1940s, but when Marvel came back from its latest downturn -- as it would keep coming back from the brink of a series of disasters to come -- it was as a more resilient and ambitious company than ever.

Sean Howe's tale of the second-rate comics company that turned itself into the gold standard of superhero geekdom is a fascinating business book about the rising value of intellectual property in the late 20th/early 21st centuries, and a sweeping narrative history of the people and the work environment behind Marvel's best-remembered comics. Howe is enough of a fanboy to write knowledgeably about the great story arcs of past decades: the coming of Galactus, the Kree/Skrull War, the Dark Phoenix saga, the deaths of Elektra and Gwen Stacy. His critical eye is acute, as in his wonderful observation that "to a dedicated readership of gearheads, pot smokers, and art students, [Steranko's] 'Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.' was the apex of an art form."

A savvy journalist, Howe identifies the crux of Marvel's early history as the Stan Lee - Jack Kirby partnership, a dynamic machine built on fault lines of ego. They co-created most of the company's iconic characters, changed the way comics were drawn and written, and wound up feuding in public until Kirby's death in 1994. Money and story credits had a lot to do with the problem, but it seems also to have come down to bruised egos on both sides.

Howe's five-decade history of creative, editorial, and marketing imbroglios practically screams a moral at us: relatively few artists are good businessmen. In the divide between labor, management, and owners, those who remained incorrigibly labor, like Kirby (or Chris Claremont), could never win. Those who became management, or free agents, like Neal Adams, Jim Steranko, Frank Miller, Todd McFarlane, and Jim Lee, more often than not acquired the bargaining power to get what they wanted.

The history of Marvel reads like a series of epic story arcs. There's the Big Bang of the 'sixties; the rudderless 'seventies; the Jim Shooter era, with an editor-in-chief seemingly dedicated to sabotaging Marvel's entire line of books; the boom and bust years of the early to mid 'nineties, in which the Heroes World distribution debacle and the mass defection of artists from Marvel to Image (who, once there, were incapable of releasing their books on time) helped to put thousands of comic shops out of business, just as Marvel, the former industry leader, declared bankruptcy. The book ends with Disney's acquisition of the company in a four billion dollar deal that validates an edict Stan Lee had handed down decades earlier: fans don't want change, but the illusion of change. Not bad for a faltering line of bug-eyed monster comics and Archie knock-offs, where a new type of creative team was about to give their readers what they hadn't known they'd wanted all along.
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Entertaining Insider's View of Marvel 17. Oktober 2012
Von Luke Martinez - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
This book is a history of Marvel Comics, which is to say that it is an institutional history and not the history of the comics themselves. It is less worried worth a critical look at the work, the art form, or the philosophy of comics, and is really a story of the business of comics, and the history of the company in question and its employees. In focusing on Marvel, Sean Howe is able to illuminate wider trends and movements in the industry, using one of the "Big Two" to do so.

This is not to imply it is boring; quite the contrary, this was a fun read for me. Even better than its insightful narrative is the author's willingness to cut through the company line, the public stories, the versions offered from official sources and legends to find out what really and truly went on. Stan Lee is still the merry, happy man at the top, but in this book is a much more nuanced character; he perpetually longs to escape the art form that he is synonymous with, and his changing relationship with the company is a common focal point for the book's wider story. Jack Kirby remains the persecuted genius, but Howe is careful to probe at the edges of the image, analyzing how Kirby's own approach and feelings about his characters changed over the years. Again and again Howe dissects the gossip, shop talk, and official news to find the more complicated story below it all. No writer comes off as persistently good or consistently right, but all the characters are complex and flawed - which actually serves to humanize the whole history and make you look differently at your favorite funny books.

Running throughout the book are consistent themes, themes which might be a diatribe from the blog of a disgruntled comic fan if Howe was not so eloquent and well-versed in the sources, and if his prose were not as consistently entertaining. One theme is the problems of management. Repeatedly, businessmen and corporate raiders disinterested in the form and the field came into Marvel, trying to leverage it into great profitability and make a killing in a new way with comics, all the while denigrating the books and dismissing them. An endless parade of magazine moguls, entertainment lawyers and venture capitalists manage to foul up the industry at every opportunity, yet it persists on the strength of those devoted to it. A second theme is the boom and bust cycle of the business, which almost reads like a perpetual ant and the grasshopper morality tale. People get fired, laid off, or pushed out in bust periods, and then new people rush back in for the boom and don't prepare for the inevitable bust. A third theme is the persistence of comics; born in an age of pulps and dime novels, this form somehow manages to adapt, change and move with the items to now coexist with video games and interactive media. As I said above, it is not a history of the characters or books themselves, but you can feel the power of the character radiate off the page simply because they manage to keep so many fans. Yet another recurring theme is the power of intellectual property rights, which chain so many men and women to the success or failure of this enterprise, far after their day in the sun has passed.

I think the theme that I came away most convinced of, perhaps erroneously, was that comic creators as a group were both dysfunctional and key to the form's success. The best parts of Howe's book borders on gossipy tales of office melodrama, but with an air of importance and seriousness key to the overall structure of the book and coupled with a keen exploration of the key tensions. Namely, many of these artists felt so strongly about their form, their characters, and their work that it became a struggle born of love and frustration. Reading of the conflicts between Shooter and his staff, Claremont and Byrne, and others often reads like children arguing over who loves their mother more. These people are so intimately tied up in the world they have created and the jobs they do that you can't help but admire them. The righteous anger of Steve Gerber and quiet defiance of Roy Thomas and the doomed nobility of Mark Gruenwald all leap off the page, men who, quite frankly, give a damn about these comics and what they mean. They cared so deeply that they would develop rivalries and alliances, cut each other's throats and make realpolitik moves - all in the name of the characters and world they care about. A more cynical reader may see this as base workplace Machiavellianism, but the author's depiction of the authors turns them into a group of tortured artists and genuinely invested caretakers competing and cooperating in turn, all bound up in what is, in truth, a rather strange enterprise. As a comic fan, I could not help but feel kinship with the writers, editors and artists who get engaged in furious quarrels over imaginary people, as I often have. But this is where one almost gains a feeling of hamartia, that the fatal flaw of these creators is their deep entwinement with the characters, the form, the imaginary world, the field, the industry, which leads to the aforementioned problems in earlier themes and the disastrous consequences for many of them. Simultaneously, their success is both the result of this flaw and a source of legitimization; their passion and involvement produces work that produces sales and critical response, meaning that the same ambitions and excitement that make their professional lives so melodramatic are also key to the success and power of the form.

My own strong feelings stirred up by this book would suggest I should award it five stars, but it has two significant drawbacks that restrict me from bestowing such a rating. One issue is that the first chapter, covering the creation of the company, is a little light on the drama and excitement of later chapters and is mostly a re-hash of previous histories, offering little in the way of new insights, at least for a long time comic fan such as myself. Similarly, the book begins to seriously thin into the early 2000s, and important developments that would be important in framing the long term story of certain creators is missing. For example, Frank Miller ends up as a firebrand and critical success in the book, which largely overlooks his transformation in the last 10 or so years into what some would call self-parody, a descent into jingoism and old forms that has left many fans cold. Very important industry developments that have ramifications for Marvel seem to be lost because of this truncated recent period as well; the discussion of Marvel Knights and the rise of Quesada leaves out the pressures exerted by DC's critically successful Vertigo imprint as a motivating factor. Because it only hints at the success of Bendis, Brubaker, et al, it misses out on an important renaissance of sorts occurring now in the industry, one driven by people who have to make their reputations in the creator owned world before making it to the big leagues. Overall, the rehashed early period and the truncated post-90s bust period seem to pale in comparison to the lively discussion of especially the 70s and 80s. The book feels like it begins to tail off as it approaches the 2000s, which is a problem.

My second issue with this book is that it occasionally smooths over important points. For example, Rob Liefeld's loss of Captain America during the Heroes Reborn fiasco is mostly indicated to be a result of inside politics at Image and deadline problems, overlooking the critical drubbing it took and Liefeld's generally poor work on the titles. The rivalry with DC is essentially a flat, distant thing, a source for jobs when people leave and a competitor, but never an influence. Wizard magazine is brough up as a player, but its incredibly power and influence in the market is only hinted at, and its interplay with Marvel seems limited. The power of the internet is gestured at, but the rise of instant news sites and forums as arenas of opinion formation and comics discourse never seems to come alive. This is not by any means frequent; it is a typically accurate book that pulls no punches with its subjects.

Overall, I greatly enjoyed this book. I do not think it is a book for a beginner to the world of comics, however. If you are a former fan, a lapsed fan, or a current fan you will find it very, very entertaining, especially if you know the big names of yesteryear and want to see the conflicts you always heard rumors of brought to life. But it does presume a sort of understanding of the prevailing narrative that Marvel sells of itself and the traditional story. Watching a cable program on the history of comics first might be a good way to see how effectively this book undermines some the myths we hold about the Marvel world. I had just finished reading Grant Morrison's Supergods before this book, and I think it is a good companion piece. Morrison focuses on the art and the critical side of comics, while this focuses on the business and institutions, and together provide a very nice insight into the last 50 years of comics.
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An adult look at a childhood hobby... 15. Oktober 2012
Von tim - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe Verifizierter Kauf
First, let me say that my title doesn't mean the hobby isn't for adults. I wrote that in perspective to my own collecting (I'm 33 now) that started when i was 12. That childhood "innocence" resonated throughout this whole book for me.

This is a very dark book. Not dark as in scary, or dangerous, per se; dark as shady. The comic world behind the scenes was a very cut throat and competitive world. Marvel, from its inception, was about the business and Howe hits on this point early and often. As readers we are led from the beginnings of Timely through the superhero renaissance of the Silver Age and into the modern era, never letting go of the fact that the bottom line is the motivating factor. There is no more fantasy.

Another key thread that weaves its way in and out of the narrative, though never too far out of reach, is Stan Lee's idea of "illusion of change". It hits hard, but many of the people who read this book will be long time collectors, lovers of the medium, and will probably understand this wether they know it or not. I still find it, in an artistic sense, to be shallow and really throw an ugly light on the medium.

You'll get a very even, outside, perspective of the Lee/Kirby/Ditko arguments which have been fought over the years, and though I do ultimately believe Stan took and was rewarded for, way more credit than he deserved, this book adds a bit of depth to the discussion. None of those guys were entirely saints.

There is a couple of bright spots to the book that shine particularly bright.
Reading about the Bronze Age and the expression of guys like Starlin, Englehart, Gerber, and Steranko, really provide inspiration and evidence that there are creators out there who truly love the work they do. I also got this impression when he finally hits the Quesada era at the end. Say what you will of Quesada's methods and ideas, and though he did adhere greatly to the bottom line, his love of comics also drove him to (in my opinion) bring the Marvel Universe out of a completely lackluster 90s.
Another piece of light Howe focuses on is the Marvels series from Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross. As a teen that was probably the first work to truly blow my mind and now, older, reading it again, really helps to appreciate the S.A. books I've been able to comb back through over the years. In five issues those two truly were able to capture the Marvel Age.

In the end; I think this is a book that every comic fan should read. Especially relevant in the times of the New 52 and Marvel Now, the "illusion of change" line hangs heavy. Howe keeps things short but important so reads really well if you're in the mood to sit down and crush a hundred pages a pop.
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Telling the Untold Story 17. Dezember 2012
Von Nicholas Nahat - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
This is the most delightful book I've read all year. As Luc Sante remarked, Sean Howe is to Marvel Comics what Procopius was the Byzantine Empire, which is apt considering the Byzantine creative processes at the company. Marvel in its three major phases of development--early with Lee/Kirby, the middle years culminating in the Shooterverse, and the later years of boom/bust and resurrection as Marvel Films, are all covered in a loving, if bland, telling. Maybe blandness is what passes for objectivity, as the history is told from different perspectives, and memories change over the years.

While context and history are alluded to from time to time, like Marvel heroes and Vietnam, or the Comic Code Authority, a more general treatment of the company in publishing/media would have helped. For example, we may know an issue was a blockbuster selling a couple hundred thousand copies, but how does that compare to other magazines, or rivals? What about profit margins? What about the economics of contracts, or reprints? To be fair, many of these issues are touched upon, though anecdotally only, which is a source of charm, and a book thoroughly covering all these matters would have been immense. As it is, this is clearly the work of a dedicated fan, and surveys the topics of concerns to fans, but necessarily limits the audience for the book somewhat for good or ill.

The author has done a great job at this writing of continuing the journey of the book in social media like facebook, with updates, further or more elaborate anecdotes, and artwork--sort of like releasing a 'director's cut' over time of additional material and art, which is something that other books could do more to promote themselves and build their audience.

The Untold Story is essential and recommended as a 'glimpse behind the curtain' for anybody who might have regarded themselves a fan of the Marvel Universe at any point in its history.
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Worthwhile though not brilliant 23. November 2012
Von William Henley - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Kindle Edition Verifizierter Kauf
As a longtime comics fan with an interest in comics history, I found this book a good read, worth the purchasing and reading, but not the last word on the subject. The strongest element is the coverage of Marvel history from the 1970's through the 90's. The accounting of the pre-Fantastic Four period 1939 through 1961 is relatively thin, perhaps because of the lack of primary sources still around, and/or because most of the material produced by Timely/Atlas/Marvel during the early period was not of much current fan interest (except for a hard core of collector aficionados). During that first couple of decades, the policy of publisher Martin Goodman was to see what was selling for other comics publishers and jump on the bandwagon-- first superheroes, then horror, crime, romance, teen humor, etc.-- with competently produced but often uninspired knockoffs. Indeed, "Fantastic Four" itself was another knockoff, a jump back onto the superhero bandwagon started by DC, except that Stan Lee (by his own admission pretty much a hack writer up until then) and Jack Kirby decided to try doing superheroes in a different way.

The story of Marvel's "Silver Age" glory days from FF #1 through about 1971 is a many-times-told tale. It is told here competently but with a bit of a "you had to be there" feel... if you didn't already know what the early stories of the FF, Spider-Man and the rest were like, and how they were different from what DC and other publishers were producing at the time, you might not get a clear idea from this book. And even though this is not a history of DC comics, the book might have gained from looking further at how the rise of Marvel was a response to a previous resurgence at DC, and how Marvel in turn influenced-- and was influenced by-- DC. (By the 1970's and beyond, writers, artists and editors were all jumping back and forth between the two companies, and DC's handling of its classic characters was thoroughly "Marvelized"..which I'm not saying was a bad thing.)

As I said, the freshest information in the book for me was the look at behind-the-scenes goings-on at Marvel during the 1970's, when the wave of fans turned creators that started with Roy Thomas took over the store... a development that definitely had its up and down sides. Again, here, the author is maybe a bit thin of descriptions of the actual comics being produced and their significance.

A comment of my own not so much about the book as some previous reviews... as a reader of the comics, I'll defend Stan Lee from charges that he was a mere hack stealing credit from Kirby, Ditko and others. Looking at the comics produced during those few years of the 60's-- and comparing them to the comics produced by Kirby and Ditko before and after that period, on their own or with other collaborators-- it seems clear to me that for a while there was a genuine synergy between Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, and between Lee and Ditko, enabling them to produce work that was "more than the sum of its parts".

From the standpoint of a reader, again, I'll make somewhat of a defense of the infamous Jim Shooter. He may not have been a fun guy to work for, but I've always liked Shooter's own writing, and from my reader's standpoint, when Shooter became Marvel editor-in-chief, the effect, at least at first, was to "get the trains running on time" without snuffing out creativity. The Marvel Comics produced under Shooter's early editorship, I thought at the time and still do, were part of a kind of "Third Golden Age" of the late 70's through mid '80's... along with comics produced by DC and by the burgeoning independent publishers of the time. (I'd like to see a good overall history concentrating on this period of the 1980's.)
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