After two big books on DC Comics, Taschen presents a heavy, heavy book on the other major name in comic publishing: Marvel Comics. Both publishers together dominate the US comic book market, approximately up to 80 percent of all superhero comics sold come from these two big players.
The book on 720(!) pages commemorates not only the artistry of superhero inventors such as Steve Ditko, Jack Kirby, John Buscema, Marie Severin and legendary Stan Lee, inventor/co-inventor of Thor, The Incredible Hulk and other heroes, but tells the entire history of the publisher.
Originally the founder of Marvel, Martin Goodman, experimented with different pulp genres in the 1930s, before he saw the best opportunities on the market for comic books in 1939, when Marvel Comics #1 featuring superheroes was issued by his company Timely Publications.
Beforehand, romance, funny animals, Westerns and monsters were the major attractions of his publications.
The war helped the company to flourish (when Captain America sold in high numbers), but in the mid-50’s the sales of most Marvel titles were declining. Then in 1961 editor Stan Lee and Steve Ditko decided it was time for an orphaned youngster, a teenager to enter the league of crime fighters, and they hit gold with the invention of Spiderman.
For never before were teenagers with super powers the protagonists; furthermore, Peter Parker had to deal with all sorts of evil entirely by himself and was not equipped with a sidekick. Thus he quickly became not exactly a role model for American teenagers, but a character young audiences could identify with.
The rest is history and subject of 75 Years of Marvel Comics. From the Golden Age to the Silver Screen.
Not only are many rare sketches, split screens and unpublished art at display here, but also many movie stills, a number of collectibles and many behind-the-scenes pictures.
Furthermore, there is a four-foot pull out time line securely stored inside and the biographies of more than 300 comic book artists working for Marvel then and now.
There are about 2.000 pictures in excellent print quality to explore here, including rare originals of the Sub-Mariner, Iron Man, The Avengers and the Fantastic Four, to name only a few famous superheroes calling Marvel their home.
The volume is edited by Roy Thomas, himself a comic artist, writer (mostly known for his contribution to Conan The Barbarian) and comic book historian, who was Marvel’s editor for several years. He provides the fans with many inside stories, facts, rejected ideas and comic lore.
Additional editorial content comes from (art director) Josh Baker of Taschen, who was also responsible for 75 Years of DC Comics.
The volume is available in four individual editions (English, German, Italian and French).
Review by Dr. A. Ebert © 2014
Roy Thomas and Josh Baker. 75 Years of Marvel Comics. From the Golden Age to the Silver Screen. Taschen, 2014, 720 p., ISBN 978-3836548458.