Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Marvel Chronicles celebrate 70 years of Marvel Comics year by year.

As I mentioned in my first Blog I will be reviewing not just books but either books related to comics or comics themselves.

So for my first review of all things comic related it seems right to review Marvel Chronicles: A Year by Year History by Tom Brevoort, Tom DeFalco, Matthew Manning, Dorling Kindersley Publishing Staff, Joe Quesada (Afterword).

Originally known as Timely Comics(1939-1950) then Atlas Comics(1951-1961) and of course finally Marvel Comics(1962 to Present) Chronicles tells the story of how Publisher Martin Goodwin saw the how popular comics, in particular superheroes, were becoming especially with the with the introduction of Superman in Action Comics #1 in 1938 by Detective Comics(who later be known simply as DC Comics).

Already known as a publisher of pulp magazines(pulp magazines were so named for the cheap paper they were printed on. The were pulps were monthly magazine that would serialize stories in several parts. Many of famous characters got there beginnings in the pulps such as The Shadow, Tarzan, Zorro and many more) Goodwin knew when he saw a good thing. So he started to publish his own superheroes stories. It was in 1939 that we saw Timely's introduce it's first two characters, The Human Torch and Namor the Sub-Mariner(who was both hero and villain. He would often attack the surface world and during WWII would then defend it) and in 1940 the introduction of Captain America.

From there Marvel would produce comics of all kinds comics including westerns(there would be three versions of the Two-Gun Kid), romance, science fiction, horror and humor(do to Disney and Warner Brother funny animals were popular). If Goodman saw something catch at another publishers or in the movies and later TV it wouldn't be long before he would publish something similar.

Of course it wasn't until Stan Lee and Jack Kirby changed the comic industry in 1961 with the introduction of the Fantastic Four that Marvel Comics really became at the time to the forefront of the industry. With the FF Lee and Kirby changed the landscape of superhero comics forever by introducing heroes that were flawed. Up till then heroes were good looking, had a secret identity, never fought among themselves, always saved the day, were loved and trusted by the public and authorities and never had problems. But here were heroes that fought among themselves, had problems(not just money problems but with girlfriends and wives, how the public perceived them and more). Though there most famous of these flawed heroes was to come in 1962 with the introduction of The Amazing Spider-Man.

Chronicles does a year by year highlights major events in the 70 year history of the company(1939-2008). Along with showcasing art work from comics of the period. Some of which hasn't been seen in years. Along with each years events within the company there is a highlight of actual historical events of each year(for example did you know that in 1978 Charlie Chaplin's coffin containing his remains were stolen and was held for ransom only to found 11 weeks later in a field not far from his family home in Switzerland).

This 352 page book is a must for any fan of comics especially of Marvel Comics. Now I consider myself quite the knowledgeable person concerning the history of comics and in particular Marvel Comics but there facts upon fact in Chronicles that I did not know. For Example that before Marvel made it big with the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, The Hulk and others it lost it's distributor and for a few years DC Comics actual distributed their comics. It facts like these that fill this book that any comic fan will enjoy.

DK Publisher has out done themselves with the design of the book. The book's cover it self is "M" shaped with a black and white version of the color cover. The book nestles in a beautiful box that either would look great on a coffee table or on a book shelf. There is a red ribbon which lies under the book to use for easy removal. Also inside the box are two small lithos of the cover penciled and inked by Jim Cheung and colored by Jason Ponsor. One litho is in color and the other just the penciled and ink one. Both signed by artists.

This is has to be one of my favorite books about the history of Marvel. Between the first and last page this books showcases the history of one the most important contributors of the comic industry and American Pop Culture. Marvels impact in the industry can not be denied as much as DC's impact can not be denied. And with Chronicles that impact is clearly shown. Here is looking forward to a DC Chronicles some day.


  1. So pulp fiction does not mean fiction lacking quality as some would have us believe.

    I am curious to know who - DC or Marvel - have more quality works under their belt. They are sort of pioneers even though there are many sequential art publishers of late.

    Most beautiful thing to me is that these characters as times change being penned by various authors and artists.

    Good post. Keep it up.

  2. It's hard to say who has more work under their belts. Since both have been publishing since the early or late 30s.

    I also love that the characters have been penned by so many authors and artists. Though early on in the business it was rare for writers and artist to get credit. For example Bob Kane had so many ghost writers and artist early on that we don't know who did what on some of the work. It was the same with Superman. Shuster had a few ghost artists especially even then with his bad eye sight.

    Though I believe Timely/Atlas before becoming Marvel was better at giving writer/artist credit.