cover image COMIC WARS: How Two Tycoons Battled over the Marvel Comics Empire—and Both Lost

COMIC WARS: How Two Tycoons Battled over the Marvel Comics Empire—and Both Lost

Dan Raviv, . . Broadway, $24.95 (320pp) ISBN 978-0-7679-0830-6

Raviv, coauthor of several books on Israeli politics (Every Spy a Prince; Behind the Uprising), turns to high-stakes finance for his first solo effort, a feisty account of Marvel Comics' meltdown in the 1990s (and slow resurrection, thanks to the success of the movie X-Men and the buzz over this summer's Spider-Man flick). When Ron Perelman bought Marvel in 1989, he described the company, home to heroes like Captain America and the Fantastic Four, as "a mini-Disney in terms of intellectual property." His junk bonds and grandiose expansion plans swiftly raised Marvel's market value to over $3 billion, but also brought its debt past $600 million, at which point corporate raider Carl Icahn smelled blood. He managed to wrest control of the company from Perelman, but the takeover process dragged Marvel through bankruptcy court for years. Raviv's depiction of this clash of the titans is rooted in the perspective of Marvel investors Ike Perlmutter and Avi Arad, whose other company, Toy Biz, made action figures based on Marvel heroes. Their underdog efforts to rescue the company from the Perelman-Icahn conflict, then get movies made to sell comics and action figures, are viewed with sympathy—perhaps, in fact, too much sympathy; outlandish claims like Spider-Man is "maybe the best known intellectual property character, on a worldwide basis" routinely pass unchallenged. Fans of the cutthroat finance genre will find much to enjoy in the boardroom confrontations, but those unfamiliar with Marvel may wonder what all the fuss is about, as Raviv's overview of the comics and the characters tends to treat their popularity as a given without exploring the nuances of their success. (On sale Apr. 30)