Sean Howe does an amazing job of providing an in-depth, yet subjective look at the history of Marvel Comics. For comic book rookies, Marvel is the force behind The Hulk, Spiderman, The Avengers, and The X-Men, among others.
I’ve never been a huge comic book fan, although I do enjoy the movies based on the comics. Sacrilege to the true-blue fans, I’m sure. Despite my lack of knowledge of even the base comic book industry, I still found this book enjoyable and incredibly well researched. Howe did something that most non-fiction often fail to do. He stayed on point. Not once did he tangent into a side story, or a side-rant that took away from the Marvel Comics company. His writing style was chatty, but informative. The chapters were just the right length. I never felt like he spent too much or too little time on any single aspect.
A lot of things were alarming to me about the comic book industry. Namely the blatant sexism in comic books as well as the mistreatment of the comic creators, ie Jack Kirby. Even Stan Lee was left out to dry after the company sold out to a giant corporate entity that had neither understanding nor any appreciation for comics.
What started initially as Timely Comics and went through a number of ups and downs as part of a burgeoning new entity in publishing. Despite a huge drop in sales in the 1960′s that resulted in massive layoffs, the founder’s wife’s cousin, Stan Lee, managed to keep his head afloat, as well as help revitalize and rejuvenate the fledgling company as a rival to DC comics. The entire history of Marvel Comics is a great example of how creativity, and enthusiasm for a topic can bloom, and how it can be shuffled, taken advantage of and ultimately destroyed when put into the wrong hands, ie Jim Shooter.
This is all from a superficial comic book fan. If you want to get a sense of this book from an avid comic book reader, go to Hardly Written for that review.