The defining, behind-the-scenes chronicle of one of the most extraordinary, beloved, and dominant pop cultural entities in America’s history -- Marvel Comics – and the outsized personalities who made Marvel including Martin Goodman, Stan Lee, and Jack Kirby.
“Sean Howe’s history of Marvel makes a compulsively readable, riotous and heartbreaking version of my favorite story, that of how a bunch of weirdoes changed the world…That it’s all true is just frosting on the cake.” —Jonathan Lethem
For the first time, Marvel Comics tells the stories of the men who made Marvel: 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 WWII veteran who would co-create Captain America in 1940 and, twenty years later, developed with Lee the bulk of the company’s marquee characters in a three-year frenzy. Incorporating more than one hundred original interviews with those who worked behind the scenes at Marvel over a seventy-year-span, Marvel Comics packs anecdotes and analysis into a gripping narrative of how a small group of people on the cusp of failure created one of the most enduring pop cultural forces in contemporary America.
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.