Marvel Comics The Untold Story
by Sean Howe
This book is an absolute must read for any fan of Marvel Comics. These days, Marvel Entertainment is definitely the giant of the comics industry, but it's interesting to note that they built their cult of personality around the concept of being the underdog.
Sean Howe gives us an oral history of Marvel Comics culled from personal interviews, published articles, and pretty much any other source available. This books starts at the very beginning, starting in 1940 when magazine publisher Martin Goodman decided to move into comics because it was easy money, right up to the recent purchase by Disney.
The book is framed around the tragic relationship of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. The two of them struck creative gold together throughout the 60's and it nearly destroyed both of them. Anybody who grew up reading Marvel comic books is more than familiar with Smilin Stan Lee's mustache and glasses caricature, as well as his boisterous, self aggrandizing personality. In this book, the veil is lifted and we see Stan the Man for the man he really is, a man who never really wanted to be in comics in the first place and desperately craved critic approval. Likewise, we see Jack as we largely always knew him, a guy who was overwhelmed by responsibility, who put his family first, and preferred to work instead of making waves.
I was completely engrossed by this book. It tells the story of the age old struggle between art and corporate interests and the people that get caught in between.