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Marvel Comics: The Untold Story (Book Review)

I’m not sure exactly what I expected from this book. I hardly gave a thought to the team of artist and writers who produced my favorite comics as a child.

As a kid, you have a narrow view of the world. I only saw the material presented to me; the brightly colored panels, the action unfolding upon the pages. I didn’t care who wrote what, who drew that, or how the people who created these amazing things actually got their start in the industry.

As I grew older, my view of the world slowly widened and as a lifelong fan of Marvel, I finally took an interest in the company’s storied past. Perhaps I imagined Marvel as its own contained world, where creatives fed into each other for the benefit of all involved and had the freedom to do what they do best: create. I don’t know what I expected from this book. However, whatever my naive expectations were, they were peeled away and left to rot on the ground with the rest of my childhood.

That is not to say this is a bad book. On the contrary, this a well-researched presentation of Marvel’s inner workings from its beginning. It is not a book about the eclectic cast of characters within the Marvel universe, though they certainly play a role in the greater narrative of the book.
This is a look at the personalities and creatives who fathered Marvel’s impressive roster, warts and all. As you read this book, you are reminded with every turn of the page that Marvel is a company, that comic books are both a business and an industry, and that people, in general, are flawed.

I felt my childhood naivety melt away as I read about egos clashing in the Marvel bullpen, the jealousies and politics as certain people ascended through the ranks and others fell from grace, and about the way Marvel decided to handle the people under their employ.

Marvel Comics: The Untold story is both a heartbreaking and compelling read to those fans willing to do so. I have a newfound appreciation for the artists whose talent Marvel built a multimedia juggernaut upon and a respect for the author, Sean Howe. This book was clearly a labor of love and I look forward to reading more of his work.

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