Thanks to the box office domination of superhero movies like “The Avengers,” “Iron-Man,” “Spider-Man” and “The X-Men,” Marvel Entertainment has become as widely recognizable as Disney, its parent company. What you may be less familiar with, however, are Marvel’s comics.
Decades before the movies and TV shows and fast-food tie-ins, before the lunchboxes and the Halloween costumes, a tiny, understaffed and restlessly creative magazine publisher began churning out pages and pages of comic book art. Whereas comics had once been characterized by junky kids’ titles, repetitive genre pieces and stiff, wearyingly noble superhero archetypes, Marvel characters were a revelation. Marked by humor, pathos and bold artwork, they were refreshingly complicated creations.
Perhaps the most complicated creation of all, however, was Marvel itself. As Sean Howe details in his exhaustively researched and extraordinarily compelling “Marvel Comics: The Untold Story,” the company behind the creative onslaught was as contradictory and capricious as any of its characters. In the “Merry Marvel Bullpen,” friendships were wrecked, careers were destroyed and hearts were routinely broken. Peter Parker’s stint at the arachnophobic Daily Bugle was, in comparison, like working at Google