Marvel Comics: The Untold Story

Front Cover
HarperCollins, Oct 9, 2012 - Business & Economics - 485 pages

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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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - Ron18 - LibraryThing

It's hard not to make this review about me, as annoying as that would be to read, because of how important comics - and Marvel Comics in particular - were to me (and still are, to some degree), but I ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - CSDaley - LibraryThing

A good book. It glossed over a few areas but was still quite well researched. It doesn't pull punches. It goes into creator rights and Marvel's bankruptcy (almost the end of them). Wish it head spent a little more time in each of the decades. Read full review

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About the author (2012)

Sean Howe is the editor of Give Our Regards to the Atomsmashers!: Writers on Comics and the Deep Focus series of film books. He is a former editor and critic at Entertainment Weekly, and his writing has appeared in New York, The Los Angeles Times, Slate, Spin, and The Village Voice. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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