Posted by Bob Greenberger on November 19, 2012
Marvel’s corporate history is at least as compelling as the Earth-616 universe it has published since 1961. We’ve had some glimpses via the Les Daniels’ Marvel: Five Fabulous Decades of the World’s Greatest Comics and bits scattered in other works, notably Gerry Jones’ wonderful Men of Tomorrow. For the mass consumer, Sean Howe has offered up Marvel Comics The Untold Story but for those who grew up reading the comics, it is woefully short on analysis and perspective.
Martin Goodman built a publishing empire based on having a good gut, sensing when something was hot and flooding the market with titles that fed that interest. Once tastes changed, so did the magazines, building a successful company based entirely on short-term goals. That philosophy long outlasted Goodman, who cashed out in 1971 and the company really didn’t begin looking at a long-term game plan until it emerged from bankruptcy in 1997, firmly in the grip of miserly Ike Perlmutter.
Howe’s book breezily takes us from inception through the last year or so, but unevenly weights his sections so seems fascinated by the 1970s second generation of Marvel creators, which matches the first decade of his life. The first two decades is quickly dispatched in under 50 pages which means we learn little of how the company really worked and the personalities surrounding young Stan Lee. As a result, the great Al Jaffe’s tenure as an editor in the 1950s is missing and Vince Fago, who ran the shop while Lee served in World War II, is given barely more than a line. The brief superhero revival in the early 1950s barely gets a notice including that Sub-Mariner outlasted the others while Goodman held out to see if a television option would get picked up. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »