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Thread: Marvel Comics - The Still Untold Story?

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    Default Marvel Comics - The Still Untold Story?

    Bob Greenberger, long time editor DC, executive at Marvel and journalist for Comics Scene has been reading Sean Howe's?*Marvel Comics: The Untold Story and has a few issues. Blaming Sean's bias of interest in the seventies as missing out much in decades before and after, he specifically targets a lack of interest in what DC were doing at the time as a motivating force for much of Marvel's actions.

    A few choice cuts;
    Marvel?s publishing and licensing suffered for something close to thirty years from unqualified or disinterested people treating the company like a widget producer rather than an intellectual property company. New World?s Bob Rehme is shown to have ignored due diligence, thinking he bought Superman when he actually bought Spider-Man. Goodman sold it to a company that aspired to be Warner Communications but had no feel for its acquisitions, a situation repeated all the way up to Perlmutter, who finally recognized how valuable Spider-Man and his friends were.

    As he carefully chronicles the rise of the generation that formed Image, his research fails him time and again. For example, Rob Liefeld was drawing the Hawk & Dove miniseries for DC, as editor Mike Carlin tried to carefully art direct the enthusiastic and artistically limited young man. During this time, Bob Harras blew enough smoke up Rob?s ?? to lure him to Marvel where any attempt at training and improving him was abandoned. DC even offered at least one project to Todd McFarlane (who got his start there with Infinity Inc., where he cleverly decorated his pages to hide his drawing flaws) to write when it was clear he wanted to stretch as a creator. It was a movie adaptation, a chance to train him how to write before moving on to big projects but Marvel just gave him the keys to the Webslinger and lived to regret it.

    While Howe credits Marvel with innovating the cover gimmicks that were a hallmark of the 1990s, he avoids statistical analysis to demonstrate how the company was also working to strangle the smaller independent publishers.
    Marvel?s relationships with its talent has always been iffy, starting with stiffing Jack Kirby and Joe Simon on promised royalties on Captain America in the 1940s through today. They were rarely interested in treating them with dignity or respect, counting on Stan?s rah-rah relationships to keep things cordial. Jack?s increasingly sour attitudes towards Marvel and his collaborator shows the limitations of backslaps and nicknames. They were slow to return art, pay reprint fees, initiate incentives (aka royalties) and cut the talent in for credit. DC bent over backwards to compensate talent whenever characters from the comics were used in other media. Len Wein has lived off bonuses for Lucius Fox in Batman animated fare and feature films while he?s never gotten so much as a free movie ticket for creating Wolverine.

    As Perlmutter and Avi Arad finally got Marvel on the right track in media, Jemas and Quesada fixed the House that Stan, Jack, and Steve built. Systematically, they tackled one franchise, starting with Spidey, then another, X-Men. ?*He didn?t understand or like Tom Brevoort?s mainstream superhero titles but respected their sales and largely left him alone, making Brevoort nearly bulletproof. More should have been said about Tom?s growth into the keeper of the Flame, inherited in the wake of Mark Gruenwald?s tragic heart attack.
    Greenberger also confirms a story I ran back in the day about Bill Jemas;
    When he decided Marvel was withdrawing from the Comics Magazine Association of America in favor of an in-house ratings system, he packed the conference room with every former DC employee even though none had any business being in the room. It had to have been the most uncomfortable meeting Axel Alonso, Stuart Moore, Jenny Lee, or I ever attended.
    Though Greenberger doesn't make comment upon Mike Carlin's swivelling eyes...

    Much more here:

  2. #2
    Consultant of Cool m0rris0n's Avatar
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    I picked it up about a month ago and have been reading a chapter or two when I get a chance. I have caught a few errors along the way. Details about characters or story lines mostly. So it's not surprising that there could be more flaws in it. I think the net take of the rise and fall and rise and fall (and maybe rise and fall a few more times?) is handled decently though. I do find it helps having read people like Peter David, Jim Shooter, Christopher Priest and even John Byrne tell their side of things on their blogs. It adds a bit more background detail and nuance that is missing in this book. Which considering its size and scope isn't surprising really. You can only cover so much.

    I'd still love to read an in-depth book on the Shooter era. The sixties gets all the attention but the 80s had a lot of change and new energy and a creative peak that helped fuel things up until now and possibly beyond. Shame Shooter stopped doing blog entries. Those were really interesting to read. Ah well.

  3. #3
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    I'm about halfway through now, so I'm up to the Shooter era. It's almost entirely from the narrative of people who were in the Marvel offices at the time. Every quote or thought is directly attributed to someone from the Marvel office. I'm treating it less as an absolute history and more of a story told from inside perspectives, to be taken with as much credit as you'd give the speaker in person. I really like it so far.

    It paints anything but a rosy picture. There are plenty of instances were Marvel would begin a new initiative and Howe points out that DC was already using that program. I knew creator relations were bad, but I didn't know how often they went bad and exactly how bad. I would love to hear a DC perspective, because as unhappy as some Marvel creators would say they were, they would go to DC and come right back within a few years.

    The best part about this book is reading the critiques that creators would have about industry decisions in the 70s and how they sound exactly like what people say on the BC boards. The sky's been falling for decades, apparently.

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    Currently reading it and enjoying it, but it's true that the author missed a few tricks and i've noticed some errors in storylines. And I agree with Greenberger, there's a lot of things missing (purposefully or through ignorance. The book is well researched, but is lacking in many ways. Some royalties issues are explained, but some important authors and artists are overlooked.

    Still, an enjoyable book.

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    Captain Cool FilmBuffRich's Avatar
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    Len Wein has lived off bonuses for Lucius Fox in Batman animated fare and feature films while he's never gotten so much as a free movie ticket for creating Wolverine.
    Quoted for sad truth.

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    Wrote the Book on Cool cmichaelhall's Avatar
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    This is not directed at anyone I've seen posting on this thread; it's more of a general rant in response to sentiments I've seen expressed all over the 'Net.

    That said, this story kind of annoys me. Why? Because it's not really a "story."

    Of COURSE Howe's book is an incomplete picture; no one book could EVER be a complete picture. This is why historians don't stop researching and writing about a topic when one or two books have already been written about it: there's always more to the story. That fact, however, does not automatically negate the value of the already-published works on the subject. It just means there's a need to write more. I understand that those who were there may feel key parts of the story are missing, but a body of scholarly analysis isn't built in one go: it's built one brick at a time. And people in the US have been giving comics serious academic consideration for about 20 minutes now, so let's assume we're in the early days here, hmm?

    In academia, this would've amounted to a two-column book review in an academic journal, and everyone reading it would think, "Ah, that's probably where the next phase of research is headed," and gone about their day. In comics, we treat a story like this as if it were actual news, start picking sides, and (some of us) begin sniping at the initial work on message boards and blogs.

    Grow up, comics. For fuck's sake, grow up.

    Sorry. Too many years getting research methodology crammed down my throat. It gives one a weird collection of pet peeves.

    Writer/Cartoonist/Evil Mastermind
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    King of Cool Joe Kalicki's Avatar
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    Bob Greenberger is my kind of guy.

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    VP in Charge of Cool Tariq Leslie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Joe Kalicki View Post
    Bob Greenberger is my kind of guy.
    Have to agree - at least to read his comments on this book. He seems very even-handed.

    Also, though Rich seems to frame the quotes as being more divisive, and using them out of a broader context (as ever) helps sell this idea, if you go to Greenberger's own post that Rich culls from, it's pretty clear to anyone with a high-school level of comprehension, that Greenberger mostly likes the damn book.

    It's a straight up and fair review and nothing else. Framed in the context of Greenberger's full review these quotes are far more nuanced and merely aesthetic criticisms, about how the book missed opportunities to tell a more rich and interesting tale.

    There's also plenty of praise in for the book in Greenberger's review, and NOT backhanded praise either.

    Basically - and yet again, Rich - there is no 'there' THERE in the way you've chosen to frame this posting.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rich Johnston View Post
    Blaming Sean's bias of interest in the seventies as missing out much in decades before and after, he specifically targets a lack of interest in what DC were doing at the time as a motivating force for much of Marvel's actions.
    That's a confusing statement - does that mean the book shows a bias towards the 70s in terms of coverage or just preference? I think that time will prove the 70s to be one of the most creative eras in pop culture history (not just in comics, but in film and television).

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    Administrator Mark Seifert's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tariq Leslie View Post
    if you go to Greenberger's own post that Rich culls from, it's pretty clear to anyone with a high-school level of comprehension, that Greenberger mostly likes the damn book.
    Given the entirety of Greenberger's post, and his conclusion, "The Untold Story goes down easy for the mass market, its audience, but it falls far short from what the regular readers, those of us who toiled for the firm or have supported their titles for decades, would have preferred to read", I'd have to disagree with your conclusion.

    Falling far short of what he would have preferred to read seems pretty far from mostly liking it.
    Last edited by Mark Seifert; 11-27-2012 at 11:48 AM.
    This is another test.

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