Marvel Comics: The Untold Story

Sean Howe, Author
Sean Howe. HarperCollins, $25.99 (496p) ISBN 978-0-06-199210-0
Reviewed on: 08/13/2012
Release date: 10/01/2012
Paperback - 496 pages - 978-0-06-199211-7
Book - 978-0-06-227228-7
Ebook - 496 pages - 978-0-06-221811-7
Ebook - 496 pages - 978-0-06-231469-7
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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.)
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