Marvel comics’ history rivals it’s properties in terms of drama. Sean Howe, former editor at “Entertainment Weekly,” has mined this drama in Marvel Comics the Untold Story. What follows is a book that is hard to put down for comic fans and non-comics fans alike.
The Untold Story starts with the beginning of Marvel in the early parts of the 1900s, and goes right up to Civil War. Howe covers almost every major event that happened to the company, with an amazing amount of detail. Every person who somewhat influenced the company is mentioned and explained. While it can seem hard to keep track of all the people and what books they are writing, Howe always includes a footnote that catches the reader up on what that writer had been doing since the last time you read about them. I would have liked to see Howe right up to the release of The Avengers, as the comic market has changed quite a bit since Civil War. Instead we get a few blurbs about what the market needs to do since The Avengers was such a success. Understandable, as the movie was only released a few months ago, but still something that would have been interesting to read.
While a non-fiction book, it reads like a novel. The numerous people are written as characters, but never going against the facts Howe has researched. It’s amazing how he keeps the story focused on the writers/artists/editors while still talking extensively about the characters and their history as well. There are quite a few moments where Howe decides to analyze the proceedings, which is interesting, but almost deserves it’s own book. Howe keeps his opinion out of the proceedings, but can’t help but comment in a few sections. These comments come when almost everyone who knows about the topic feel the same way, like the comic boom of the 90s.
Howe’s level of research is amazing. When touchy topics like Kirby and his property come up, Howe won’t write a sentence unless he has an interview or document to back up what he is talking about. This book might change the “Merry Marvel Bullpen” idea that many grew up with, as Howe compares the problems the company had to it’s “supposed” public image.
Marvel Comics the Untold Story is a great book, and one that comic fans should check out. Even if you aren’t the biggest Marvel fan, it’s worth your money and time to look into the comic industry and how much it has changed.
Marvel Comics the Untold Story gets 4.5/5.