I got my advance copies of “75 Years of Marvel from the Golden Age to the Silver Screen” today and what an amazing book this is! Weighing in at a bit over 13 pounds this 713 page tome covers Marvel from its beginnings (as Timely Comics) in 1939, through the Atlas Era, and on into the Marvel Age of comics beginning in 1961 and continuing to today’s multi-media empire with comics, movies, TV, video games, and more. This book formally hits the streets Nov 26th with the hefty retail price of $200, but you can score a copy from Amazon for ~$116 as I write this. A lot of money, to be sure, but I consider this book the definitive chronicle of Marvel and a “must have” addition to the collection of any hard-core Marvel fan. Heck, Marvel got me started on my “collecting comics” thing that landed me in the Guinness Book this year, I’d say I like Marvel as much as just about anyone, especially in the context of their place in the history of comics.
So, why am I getting an advance peek at this tome? Well the fine folks at Taschen got ahold of me when they heard about the size of my collection and asked about borrowing comics to photograph for the making of this book. Would I help? I was honored to share my collection! The fact that the final book contains pictures of 100s of comics from my collection (I’d estimate it at about 25-30% of the pictorial content in the book) is super-cool in and of itself. Editor Josh Baker came down to my house and scoped out what I had (comics and ephemera) and decided I’d make a good resource for a decent chunk of what they needed from the Silver Age on forward.
While Josh was working on putting the book together I’d get regular e-mails with spreadsheets listing a anywhere from fifty to couple of hundred comics, some needed for cover shots, some because there was some interior page or panel he wanted for the book. I’d look the comics up in my database, annotate what box each one was in from my collection, and then have my son Stephen go root around in the boxes pulling the comics out (thanks, Stephen!) I’d alphabetize everything & Taschen would send an intern over to my place from their offices in Beverly Hills to pick up a big box of comics that they’d spirit away to be photographed, returning them a week or two later right around when they needed to pick up another batch. It was a test of the organizational accuracy of my comics database for sure. The one place it failed me was my “misplacing” of the entire Omega the Unknown series from the 1970s, and being unable to locate an issue of Howard the Duck (all of which have since been located, but not in time to loan out to Taschen). On the whole, though, I was able to find and loan them 516 comics and a variety of other items including my set of 60 Marvel Slurpee cups from 1975.
What about the book itself? I’ve just started looking at it, but on a preliminary look through it looks pretty sweet. Rascally Roy Thomas is writing this one, and he was around for a lot of the key years of Marvel (much as Paul Levitz was for DC). If you’re a Marvel scholar, there’s not going to be a lot of new revelations in this tome. Where this book shines is the 75 year coverage with numerous pictures, captions, and text as the connective tissue that ties it all together. This is history told visually (as opposed to other books that are more text heavy). That means it’s engaging in a very different way than books that paint the history verbally in a text-heavy presentation mode. Very appropriate for a primarily visual medium like comics.
Everyone will have their own favorite parts of this book. I go back and forth between loving the exploration of the “new to me” pictures and information from the Timely and Atlas eras (something that I’ve only scratched the surface on, so there are always new gems of information for me in these years of Marvel history) up to the Silver, Bronze, and modern ages where I had both a very personal ‘Where’s Waldo’ exploration of “Hey, that’s a picture from one of the comics in my collection!” to the equally fun “Wow! That’s a cool picture I’ve never seen before!” when it was something NOT from my collection (particularly pictures of original art, toys, or other ephemera).
The “cherry on top” of this loving examination of Marvel’s 75 years is a massive 5 panel fold-out, printed on both side for a total of 10 sheets that give a timeline of key events in Marvel’s evolution.
I love all kinds of comics. My current reading of new comics is only about 15% Marvel (it’s primarily indie books). Marvel only makes up about 30% of my 95,000+ comic collection. But Marvel will always have a cherished spot in this comic collector’s heart. It got me into comics and has created some of the most enduring characters that make up a modern American mythology. I’ve lived my entire life during the “Marvel Age of Comics”.
This book gets two hearty Thumbs Up and a 5/5 rating from me.
Happy 75th Anniversary! Make Mine Marvel!
Bob Bretall: firstname.lastname@example.org
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