The comic book publisher that spawned roughly half of Hollywood’s summer franchises roils with its own melodrama in this scintillating history. Journalist Howe, editor of Give Our Regards to the Atomsmashers, recounts the saga of Stan Lee and the other auteurs who broke the square-jawed-and-earnest mold to create quirky, neurotic, rough-edged superheroes with a Pop Art look, including Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk, and the X-Men. Howe’s exploration of the vast Marvel fictive universe, with its crazily grandiose plots and thousands of bizarre characters—the psychedelic 1970s birthed Angarr, a hippie supervillain who “blasted people with bad trips and primal screams”—is affectionate and incisive. But he focuses on the battle between the forces of art and commerce at the Marvel offices, where writers, artists, and editors wrestle for control of story arcs, titanic egos clash over copyrights, and creative oddballs confront the heartless, power-mad suits from marketing. Adroitly deploying zillions of interviews, Howe pens a colorful panorama of the comics industry and its tense mix of formulaic hackwork, cutthroat economics and poignant aesthetic pretense. Like comic books, his narrative often goes in circles; the same antagonisms keep churning away on successively grander platforms. Still, Howe paints an indelible portrait of the crass, juvenile, soulful business that captured the world’s imagination. Photos. Agent: Daniel Greenberg, Levine Greenberg Literary Agency. (Oct.)
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.
Exhaustively researched and extraordinarily compelling. . . . A quasi-Shakespearean portrayal of Marvel as it moves from spirited upstart to ruthless corporate colossus.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In the early 1960s, minor-player Marvel Comics introduced a host of brightly bedecked and brave but sometimes humanly fallible superheroes like Spiderman; now it's the No. 1 comics company in the world. Here's an unauthorized history from former Entertainment Weekly editor Howe; the 35,000-copy first printing seems small.
An impeccably researched, authoritative history of Marvel Comics. Former Entertainment Weekly editor Howe (editor: Give Our Regards to the Atomsmashers!: Writers on Comics, 2004) interviewed more than 150 former Marvel employees, freelancers and family members to weave together a tapestry of creative genius, bad business decisions and petty back-stabbing. Progenitors of Spider-Man, the Avengers and the X-Men, Marvel's rocky road to merchandising success is as epic as any of the company's four-color adventures. Howe pulls no punches as he details the fledgling enterprise's slow rise from Timely Publications in 1939 to its official emergence as Marvel Comics in 1961, when the groundbreaking brilliance of writer Stan Lee and artists Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko led to the creation of the company's most iconic characters. In an era before movie-making technology facilitated lucrative cross-merchandising, however, Marvel struggled financially while its editors massaged the bruised egos of freelancers who poured their lifeblood into creations in which they didn't retain an ownership stake. Kirby, bitter over what he perceived as Lee's efforts to take undue credit for his stories, ultimately left, becoming a rallying point in the struggle for the rights and compensation of writers and artists. Lee relocated to Hollywood in an effort to bring Marvel's characters to the big screen, a frustrating endeavor that would take decades and a procession of other individuals to come to fruition. Compared to the thorough account of Marvel's formative years, Howe gives relatively short shrift to recent corporate machinations--including only a brief mention of Disney's $4 billion purchase of Marvel in 2009--and the work of current superstars, but that's a minor quibble in what is otherwise a nuanced and engrossing narrative of a company whose story deserves its own blockbuster film. Brilliantly juxtaposes Marvel with its best characters: flawed and imperfect, but capable of achieving miraculous feats.