Review- Marvel Comics: The Untold Story

Marvel Comics: The Untold Storyby Sean Howe
Longtime fans of Marvel Comics are no strangers to the ups and downs the company has had over the years. Whispers of editorial interference, animosity towards Stan Lee, who spent years as the face of the company, and not to mention the startup of Image Comics in the 90s, which occurred when four Marvel artists grew weary with the politics of the industry. Though this did little to stop readership throughout the times, it did make for a tumultuous history. Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, a new book by Sean Howe, details the company’s history.

Howe holds back very little in his retelling of the history of Marvel, documenting nearly everything from the early years as Timely Comics straight through to the blockbuster 2012 release of The Avengers in theaters, and the whole gamut in between. He treads carefully to avoid interjecting his own opinion on certain events, choosing to merely report on things as they happened. Though he drops a few snarky comments into the mix, such as Marvel’s fanning of the speculation fire in the 90s “comics boom”, most of the book is an objective look back at how the company did business.

Like a good comic book, Marvel Comics manages to find a few villains throughout the years. From Stan Lee in the 50s, after having to layoff a number of high profile artists who vowed never to work for Marvel again, to Jim Shooter in the 80s, whose editorial pig-headedness led to more than a few unhappy employees, to marvel itself in the 80s and 90s, who continued to OK bad ideas like “collector’s editions” comics, ignoring the very idea that good stories will sell issues. (While it didn’t seem Howe’s intention to portray these villains as such, this was the impression I got from them.) What I like best is how Howe divides the book logically, group chapters by time periods or editorial reign, similar to the way Marvel now writes for trades with clear beginnings and endings of their series.

1983 photo of Stan Lee// Photo credit: Eliot R. Brown
From the moment I first heard about Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, I was excited to pick it up. As a self-professed Marvel Zombie, I wanted to know everything I could about the company. Though I had known a lot of what I read, like the fallout between Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, and Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, and…well, Stan Lee and almost anybody, I learned a few shocking tidbits. For example, the on-again, off-again relationship between Marvel and Howard the Duck creator Steve Gerber, including the legal embitterment that surround the Duck.

Much of the later years of Marvel are glossed over, with the last two decades being summarized in a few chapters. The incarnation of Image Comics is given little consideration, as is Marvel’s legal battles between Ron Perelman, who purchased Marvel in 1989, and business magnate, Carl Icahn, who had his sights set on taking over Marvel and its trademarks (however, the entirety of this story is covered thoroughly in the 2002 book Comic Wars by Dan Raviv).

From the opening page, Marvel Comics: The Untold Story is mesmerizing. Howe gets into great detail about the legacy Marvel has left behind, having interviewed a number of people who were involved with the company over the years. Even the most pain-filled moments are included, such as the lonesome death of production manager John Verpoorten in 1977. (Verpoorten’s role at Marvel wasn’t explored at length, but he made a lasting impression at the company and his death hit them hard.)

Marvel Comics: The Untold Story is a raw look at a business that has been the apple of many investor’s eyes and is known by a majority of the population. I recommend any comics fan to read this book to get a better sense of how Marvel came up through the years. I would also recommend many employees of Marvel and even DC Comics to read the book as a reminder of what worked and what didn’t. In a cyclical industry like comic books, companies are bound to make mistakes. Marvel has already made most of those mistakes and I’d hate for them to make them again. “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” goes the quote from George Santayana. We can only hope that Marvel’s mistakes can help future business leaders to succeed.  


Bad-Ass Pumpkin Line-Up 2012

October is back! Well, actually, it's more than half over so I suppose I'm a little late with this. But since it's been a bit of a tradition here at Caution: Idiot At Play, I needed to do a new Bad-Ass Pumpkin Line-Up.

There are always tons of creative people creating brand new pumpkins each year. Though many of them turn out to be pretty crappy, there are quite a few that kick all kinds of ass. Here are a few that I found on this great big internet. (Feel free to revisit our past BAPLUs for more face-melting awesomeness.)

Ghostbusters & Hunger Games
A couple of simply carved yet recognizable pumpkins here. I'm a huge fan of Ghostbusters so finding this was a joy. And with the popularity of Hunger Games, there's no doubt that the Mockingjay would be coveted by millions. (Unfortunately, I don't know the carver of the Ghostbusters pumpkin so if you know who did this, let me know!)

By Ramsey The Arab

Calvin And Hobbes
Bill Waterson wasn't the kind of guy to sell his soul to the devils of advertising which is why you don't see a lot of Calvin and Hobbes merchandise everywhere. But as it's one of the most recognizable comic strips of all time, it's got a ton of fans who want to pay tribute to the imaginative young boy and his pet stuffed tiger. While it's not the iconic image of Calvin pissing on Ford or Honda or the New York Yankees, this pumpkin is a lot classier.

By 50an6xy06r6n

Raccoon Mario
Remember Super Mario Bros 3 and the joy of flying through the air after collecting the feather as Raccoon Mario? Relive that moment with this sweet, highly-detailed pumpkin.

Found on Some Girl from Canada
Iron Man
Speaking of highly detailed, you can almost feel the heat coming from the lasers on the Iron Man pumpkin. If there was ever something that epitomized "bad-ass", it's this.

Found on Techeblog

Wonder Woman
This particular pattern seems to have been done over and over but it's a very striking image. Iconic in it's delivery, it is highly recognizable and very well done.

Found on I Heart Wonder Woman

Who doesn't love Gizmo? Even despite all the rules that need to be followed to keep a pet Mogwai, I wish I had one as a kid. This particular pumpkin is carved in a less traditional way, but that doesn't stop it from oozing bad-assity. 

By Villafane Studios

Though not the first Charizard pumpkin I've featured here at C:IaP, this one is jaw-dropping. The character pose is highly dynamic and the detail is stellar. I'm a sucker for Pokemon so this one is outrageous.

Found on Techeblog
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