My introduction to comics in general, let alone Marvel comics, has been relatively new. I think like a lot of people, I was introduced through the movies. Iron Man to be specific. Before Iron Man, I could have probably named a few superheroes, but ask me which publisher they belonged to? Fuggedaboutit. Then came Iron Man with Robert Downey Jr., an actor who I had been a fan of way back in his Less Than Zero days. I knew absolutely nothing about the character, but man, that movie was good. I didn’t jump right into the comics, but I did start paying more attention to all the different comic characters. Either reading Wiki pages or what not. Anything but reading the source material because man, that stuff was still overwhelming. Marvel Comics: The Untold Story by Sean Howe as an audiobook was a great find for the information as well as I really prefer my audiobooks to be nonfiction.
I now have read a few Marvel comics, even subscribing to Marvel Unlimited, a digital comics subscription and have Storm, Black Widow, and Elektra on my pull list (I had X-Men, but once they ended up in space decided to take a break). When I saw there was an audiobook talking about the history of the company I jumped on board. Aside from a short special they showed in place of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. last year, I knew Stan Lee as that guy who cameos in the movies and maybe he wrote a bit for them and that was it. So that being said, cut me some slack on this one.
I’m having a hard time processing the history Howe describes. Part of me, the fan wants to think he pulled a lot of disgruntled employees and DC lovers and had them tear up Marvel, but the rational side of me realizes that Marvel isn’t the rainbows and hearts company that we are presented with now. There were some things that stood out to me.
Starting at the beginning comics were considered frivolous. In the thirties when money was tight due to the Great Depression and then the rationing of the Second World War, they just weren’t a priority. Writers like Stan Lee, who even created the pseudonym we all know him by so his comics work wouldn’t get in the way of ‘his real writing,’ weren’t exactly proud to be apart of the industry. I learned about the different ways Marvel reinvented not only itself as a company, but its characters and comics as a whole. Howe also talks about the creators/artists/writers of some of our favorite characters and their ginormous egos. That really shouldn’t have come as quite the surprise as it did. I think that there is a certain quality that most people attribute to people of a creative nature. Then when you have a company that wants to make the most money possible, things start to get interesting. I had no idea how comics worked in the ownership sense. How the artists/writers who came up with Iron Man, the X-Men, The Fantastic Four, etc. didn’t actually own their creations which created a lot of trouble for everyone involved.
In light of the recent Spider-woman debacle, I was pretty unsurprised to see how women and diverse characters were treated. It’s gotten better, but man we have a long way to go. Also how comics served as PSAs for drug use and other messages the government wanted delivered to kids.
I need to go back and do some research into the specific comics Howe talks about. See that epic issue where Gwen Stacy dies, read Civil Wars where Cap and Iron Man are pitted against each other, and find the issue where Dark Phoenix destroys whole planets.
What audiobook did you pick for this challenge? Do you prefer fiction or nonfiction?