Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Monday, October 08, 2012

Sean Howe showcases the real superheroes behind Marvel Comics:The Untold Story

When it comes to the world of comic books and superheroes,two of the giants of that pop culture industry are DC and Marvel,the latter of which is the main focus of writer Sean Howe's new book,Marvel Comics:The Untold Story. He chronicles the growth of the company from it's early days as one of the subdivisions of small scale magazine publisher Martin Goodman back in the days before WWII to the changing times of the 1950s and 60s leading into the modern era.

Marvel was always known for it's eager engagement with the fans,with lively descriptions of the artists and writers in the "Marvel Bullpen" and fan clubs dubbed the "Merry Marching Marvel Society" that painted a picture of happy-go-lucky fellas bringing to life such celebrated heroes as Captain America, the Hulk,Spiderman and the Fantastic Four for the sheer bliss of it all:

The reality,however,was not as bright and shiny. While artists and writers did collaborate to mold and further define their characters beyond their powers and costumes,battles for creative control and financial compensation were waged just as heavily as any challenges faced by the Avengers or the X-Men.

Pivotal artists such as Steve Ditko and John Romita,along with writers like Steve Gerber and Jim Starlin often fought with editors and management to advance their story lines and keep up with the changing times in order to be in step with their readership. One of the most outspoken of them was Jack Kirby,whose genius was taken for granted at times and in his later years,he publicly criticized Marvel for taking advantage of his talents:

Yet,despite the office politics and personal turmoil,Marvel did elevate the playing field for comic books by persisting in emotional development for it's characters, introducing such subjects as drug addiction and racial prejudice into the fictional fray and connecting as many series as they could to one another to maintain a strong sense of continuity.

One of the reasons for some of those achievements is Stan Lee,who has as many friends and foes as any Marvel creation. His early hands-on approach to the business has taken him beyond the editor's desk to his current role as the spokesman for the entire Marvel universe,something which has not always benefited him money wise.

Nonetheless,Stan Lee's position in the growth of Marvel as a media force to be reckoned with can not be denied,even if many would prefer to write him off as just a charismatic pitchman for the company. For better or for worse,Stan Lee is the man who continues to be an idol for comic book fans of past and future generations to come:

Sean Howe tells this tale in an engaging narrative that is candid about the hits and misses on both sides of the drawing desk. His detailed research regarding the various struggles between artist and employer,along with the brainstorming sessions that shaped such story lines as The Dark Phoenix Saga and the death of Elektra really give you a true insider's perspective.

He also highlights the numerous artists who made their mark with Marvel over the years like Chris Claremont whose redevelopment of the X-Men brought that series back to life and Frank Miller's run on Daredevil that made even the most casual comic book reader sit up and take notice. Howe not only knows his stuff but is able to make it accessible to readers who may not be fully familiar with the comic book world,a rather formidable super power indeed.

Marvel Comics:The Untold Story will be released on October 9 and yes, while it does sound like the perfect pick for any fanboy or girl,even non-true believers will enjoy this truly never ending adventure. This book is also ideal for DC comics folk as well who may stick to the JLA but can't deny the cleverness of Marvel's mindset that makes the realm of comic book lore a universal delight for all:

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