Saturday, January 19, 2013

Marvel Comics: The Untold Story by Sean Howe

 This is the book I've waited my whole life for.
I've been reading comic books in general, and Marvel Comics in particular, for 40 years. I started when my Dad bought me a few comics when I was two, and aside from a brief poverty-induced break from the medium in the mid-1980's, I've never really stopped. And aside from a self-imposed boycott in the 1990's (When Marvel bought their own distributor and was putting Comic Stores out of business left and right...), Marvel has always been my drug of choice. My image of Marvel has always been the happy, smiling Bullpen that Stan Lee used to describe: One big, happy family, sitting around the office, laughing and creating and bringing happiness to kids and adults everywhere.
Not so much, as it turns out.....
I've always been aware of the problems that Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko had with Stan Lee, the problems that Steve Gerber and Steve Englehart had with Marvel in general, the tension that Jim Shooter caused...but I never knew, until now, just how deep all of those wounds were. Lee is portrayed as a thoughtless ass, Kirby an old crab stewing in his resentments, Ditko as a strange, obsessive loon.....This is a truly heartbreaking read for a longtime fan, such as myself. These are people that I grew up idolizing, and to find out that they're so....human.....is a real shock. Howe keeps all of the involved parties on equal footing, and never skews the narrative to portray any one person as "The Bad Guy".I was, however, shocked to find that Jack Kirby, forever portrayed as the wronged party, threw his CAPTAIN AMERICA co-creator Joe Simon under the bus when Simon tried to regain ownership of the character. Not even Saint Jack was without sin......

 This is a phenomenal book, and I could easily talk about it for pages. If you're enough of a Marvel fan to know the names of the players, you're sure to love this book. I can't recommend it enough.