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Book: Marvel Avengers Comics PDF Free Download
Type: Marvel Comics
Super-heroes have gotten darker and more violent over the years, but compared to some of the people in charge of Marvel during that time Wolverine and the Punisher seem about as threatening as a glass of non-fat milk. Killers with razor sharp unbreakable claws and large guns are no match for the carnage a corporate executive worried about the stock price can create.
Sean Howe gives a comprehensive history of how the pulp publishing company founded by a Depression-era hobo named Martin Goodman eventually became a comic book empire that was bought by Disney for $4 billion in 2009.
The book tells the familiar story of how Goodman’s nephew Stan Lee working with artists Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko saved the struggling company in 1961 by coming up with a line of new characters like the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, the Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, X-Men, and others that you can see at your local movie theater on a regular basis today. Then it details the many trials, tribulations and triumphs the company would have as its characters became iconic parts of pop culture.
As a perpetually cheerful and energetic editor and spokesman, Stan Lee built a myth via the Bullpen Bulletin and Stan’s Soapbox column that appeared in the comics that Marvel was a wacky wonderful place where the writers and artists worked in a happy state of constant brainstorming about their stories.
In reality during these early years, Lee worked with a small staff in cramped offices while Jack Kirby drew in the basement of his home, and things were never as merry as Stan portrayed them to the fans. After Goodman sold the company Marvel would be bought and sold to various corporations and business people most of who had no interest in doing anything other than squeezing every dime possible out of the characters while denying any kind of ownership or royalties to the people who created them.
The stories of how creators were screwed out of rights have become legendary, and the constant law suits and bickering over who actually created the characters have become so common place as to not even be newsworthy any more. (A fun fact that I learned in this is that at one time Marvel put a boilerplate waiver on the backs of paychecks so that signing it to get the money became a forfeiture of potential royalties.)
The battles over the rights between the company and the creative people would pale in comparison to the many financial and legal fiascos Marvel would get into over the years due to the many buy-outs and chronic mismanagement.
Howe does a nice job of showing how all the behind the scenes turmoil impacted the stories being churned out. The Secret Wars mini-series started out as a promotional tie-in for a new line of toys, but became the prototype for the crossovers that are all too frequent events today.
The surprise success of rolling out a specialty cover on Todd McFarlane’s new Spider-Man book had the corporate execs and Wall Street demanding sales increases every year and forced the editors to come up with a parade of gimmick covers and new #1 issues constantly to hit those numbers. This led to the speculator bubble of the early ‘90s that nearly destroyed the industry when disgruntled fans stopped buying.
With the sale to Disney and huge success of movies like The Avengers, you might think this story has a happy ending, but Marvel still faces challenges today.
In the digital age, the idea of buying pricey paper comics that can be read in minutes is a tough sell, and many question whether the money made in movies and merchandising has made the comic book obsolete. Aging fan boys grumble over the constant character deaths and crossovers, yet those remain the top-selling books.
Balancing the continuity demanded by long-time fans while still being accessible to new readers has become a nearly impossible task. (Dan and I have some great ideas on how to resolve this issue if anyone from DC or Marvel reads this and would like to pay us a consulting fee.)
Many of these individual stories have been told before, but Howe gives not only a history, but a detailed picture of the ways that all the creative, business and legal issues have had a profound impact on the characters and the industry. That’s what really makes it an informative and interesting read.