Monday, October 8, 2012

Marvel Comics the Untold Story - A Review

Marvel Comics the Untold Story
by Sean Howe
Published by Harper 
October 2012

Marvel Comics the Untold Story is an entertaining and ambitious book that tells the story of the people behind the monolith known as Marvel Comics. It stands over 430 pages (over 150,000 words) and covers the early founding days of Marvel Comics and works its way through the decades up to last year when the company was acquired by Disney.

Of particular interest to me, being the Marvel 1980s guy, was part III of this book, "Trouble Shooter", which chronicled the rise and fall of Editor-In-Chief Jim Shooter. Howe doesn't take sides, he simply lets the story unfold in a historical flow and lets his research do its work. It's a compelling read on how Shooter rose to be one of the more successful Editors-In-Chief and how his style eventually grated on the talent he was the first to really respect.

Jim Shooter and Stan Lee circa 1986

Howe highlights the birth of the super star comic book creators, like Chris Claremont, John Byrne, and Frank Miller. Interestingly though it's like watching a car accident happen, as each of the creators responsible for making Shooter's reign so successfully left, like Steve Gerber, George Perez, Marv Wolfman, Doug Moench, JM DeMatteis, John Byrne, and Bob Layton.

The scope of the overall book is daunting as each of the eras covered could easily have warranted their own books. But Howe does hit all the major points along the way and really gives you a feeling of being in that era.

What's also nice about the book is that you don't necessarily have to read it from beginning to end. You can open up the book to any page and start reading. Howe's writing style allows you to jump into these stories and pull back the curtain on the magical process of making comics and see what really happened.

Marvel Comics the Untold Story is a meticulously researched book that gives a voice to all of those creators behind the scenes at Marvel Comics, some of whose contributions have been forgotten or buried. It will also forever change how you view the creative forces that produce the comics you enjoy every Wednesday.


  1. This book has been on my radar for awhile now...lots of publicity on Twitter and The Facebook....was slightly discouraged to discover all the pics they were using to promote it were not in the finished product....

  2. Hey MOCK! Thanks for the comment. I couldn't agree with you more. As comics are a visual medium, it would have certainly helped. Although from what I read from the book's Facebook page that including those images would have been cost prohibitive as Marvel would have received a significant share of the book's revenue.

  3. Since this book is recently published, I'll be very curious to read reactions from some of the primary people the book mentions--specifically, whether or not the book covers all the bases in their opinion and if the subject matter is covered objectively. It sounds very much as if that's the case with this book, which would make it a fascinating read indeed.

    I'll have to make a point of dropping in on Shooter's blog periodically to see if he's commented on it. From what I've occasionally read there, he tends to be very in depth when giving his side of things.

  4. Hey Comicsfan, thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment. Unfortunately, I have seen any update to Shooter's blog in a few months. The book presents ample points of view, including Shooter's own perspective. The opinions are titled against Shooter though, specifically near the end of his tenure.

  5. Got my copy yesterday—plan on devouring it thoroughly in the next few days. Thanks for the review.



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