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As a Marvel fan from the mid 1960's onwards I thought I knew a fair bit about the writers and artists and the arguments that led to several renowned departures especially in the earlier phase those of Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko and the "creative differences" they had with Stan Lee as to who actually created major characters. There was so much more intrigue behind the scenes though. This 400 plus page book adds lots more meat to the bones spanning the birth of Marvel up to the start of the recent spate of blockbuster movies. If you are a Marvel fan it's a great read and includes tales of all the great creative minds that have made Marvel what it is today and some sad tales of former Marvel bullpen members who fell on really hard times after leaving the company for whatever reason. There's lots on the creative arrival and departures as well as the rivalry with DC Comics and the growth of some renowned independent comic groups. I remember the very brief interlude with Atlas Comics as I bought almost all of their titles. If you are not a Marvel fan you may be grabbed by the recent problems caused by unmitigated corporate greed as a series of one track minded money grabbing executives with absolutely no interest in the comics themselves, they got rich off the backs of those who actually did the work with gimmicks like collectable variant overs solely designed to tempt comic buyers to splash out more money buying several copies of the same book rather than just buying something to read and enjoy. The only reason it gets just 4 stars is the lack of illustrations, just one small picture of Stan & Jack at the end of the book, it could have done with more images of the bullpen and maybe some short biographies of the Marvel greats. That aside it's a great read.
This is a very good account of what was going on behind the scenes at Marvel Comics ... during the 1980s. I was fascinated by this because I worked at the UK office of Marvel during that same period and made the pilgrimage to Marvel US (around 1982). But as a casual visitor, I had no idea what was going on with the editors on a day-to-day basis. This book explained it all completely.
Sean Howe's untold history of Marvel Comics really comes to life detailing the shenanigans during the period 1972 to around 1986. Sadly, the coverage of the golden years of Marvel (1961-1971) and the later period (post-1995) is a good deal thinner. Sparse, actually. This makes me wonder if Howe had planned just to concentrate on the Shooter years, but his publishers reconsidered and asked him to add material on the earlier and later periods.
There are other books that cover the earlier years better than this. "Tales to Astonish" does a very good job on Marvel of the 1960s. "Men of Tomorrow" also sheds some much-needed light on those years. Even Stan Lee's own "Excelsior" does a better job on the 1960s than "Untold Story" does.
And the corporate raider years of the mid 90s is far better covered in Dan Raviv's "Comic Wars".
The material on Marvel's fortunes during the late 1990s and onwards is positively spartan ... so cursory that it might as well have been left out.
Someday, someone will write a complete history of Marvel ... but this isn't it. Don't get me wrong ... if you want a thorough and balanced account of how Marvel fared under the leadership of Jim Shooter, "Untold Story" does a very fair job. It's just not the whole story.
Many of the reviews already written more than adequately address the strengths and failures of this book. It is an incredibly well-researched and written book that goes behind the scenes to provide a more detailed picture of the people behind Marvel than ever before. However, two problems with this are: First it moves from being about comics and creation to commercialism and financial propriety in the last few chapters - a subject that whilst interesting to note how much the direction of characters and comics is dictated by how much they can be exploited - is not what I bought the book for. Secondly, the last couple of chapters appear rushed and only skim over the surface of how Marvel has found itself again and how this has been successfully linked to the movies. That said, this is an absolutely excellent account of the heyday of Marvel comics but undoubtedly a niche market ?
I read these comics in the 60’s and kept in touch. This book provides the background and it’s not the bullpen Stan imagined for us. From small things grew massive movie franchises, but there was a lot that wasn’t so happy along the road.
Very interesting account of the history of one of America's prime comic book publishers. Ideal for people who don't know much about Marvel Comics.
However, for the more knowledgeable fans, some aspects of Marvel's history are sadly forgotten, or quickly brushed away, whereas it appears that the author was mostly interested in the seventies and eighties. Still, a solid read.