Disclosure: Author Sean Howe interviewed me for this; and he interviewed everyone else. Coming from Harper in October, an exceedingly well researched history of Marvel from Timely on to the first Spider-Man movie, Marvel Comics: The Untold Story Howe’s previous comics exploits include the anthology of essays Give Our Regards to the Atomsmashers!: Writers on Comics
From a tiny office on Madison Avenue in the early 1960s, a struggling company named “Marvel Comics” introduced a series of bright-costumed superhero 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 imagination of pop artists, public intellectuals, and campus radicals. Over the course of half a 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. Interweaving history, anecdotes, and analysis, Sean Howe traces Marvel’s decades – long rise to a multi-billion-dollar enterprise, revealing how it weathered “Wall Street” machinations, Hollywood failures, legal battles, and the collapse of the comic book market. He shows how Marvel’s identity has continually shifted, careening between scrappy underdog and corporate behemoth. He also introduces the men behind the magic, including self-made publisher Martin Goodman, energetic editor Stan Lee, and Jack Kirby, the WWII veteran and co-creator of many of the company’s marquee characters. A story of fertile imaginations, lifelong friendships, action-packed fistfights, reformed criminals, unlikely alliances, and third-act betrayals that incorporates more than one hundred original interviews with Marvel insiders then and now, “Marvel Comics: The Untold Story” is a gripping narrative of one of the most dominant pop cultural forces in contemporary America.
I have a galley of the book. The last page is a photo of Kirby and toupee-less Stan Lee from the ’60s together. There are chapters on the early Timely days right up to the Ike adventures of no lightbulbs. I know what I’m reading on the plane to San Diego!
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.