Comic Book Club: Marvel Comics – The Untold Story (Part 5)

Welcome to week five of Comic Book Club! Each week, we will be covering a section of Sean Howe’s novel Marvel Comics: The Untold Story. This week, we are discussing Part V: A New Marvel (p. 377-434).

Highlights from this section include:

  • Several key Marvel creators work at the company for the last time, including the Buscemas, Steve Gerber, and Mark Gruenwald – the latter individual dying shortly after bringing home a copy of Rob Liefeld’s Captain America #1.
  • A power struggle plays out over ownership of the company including figures like Ron Perelman, Carl Icahn, and Toy Biz’s Isaac Perlmutter. The much deplorable Perlmutter is the ultimate victor, as he cuts corners and rules over the offices like a penny-pinching dictator.
  • Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti are up-and-coming third party publishers who are excellent at networking with Hollywood and comics talent. They are hired to lead the Marvel Knights imprint with a few key titles like a Daredevil relaunch from writer/director Kevin Smith.
  • Bob Harras is blamed by many for the poor decisions made under his watch, but in truth he appears to inherited most of the problems and his true fault was in having no spine as the go-between for the creators and the rotating door of ephemeral higher executives.
  • A new president is appointed in Bill Jemas, a former Fleer executive with an outsider view on comics. Jemas becomes the most strong-willed person over editorial since Jim Shooter. He leans on Joe Quesada for expertise and makes him Editor-in-Chief. The two of them push for radical ideas like the Ultimate Universe, the hiring of Brian Michael Bendis, the dropping of the Comics Code, and even the elimination of reorders for retailers.
  • Eventually, Jemas grows an ego the size of Shooter’s and starts pushing his lowest common denominator ideas like Marville and moving the Fantastic Four to the suburbs. Over time, Jemas clashes heavily with Marvel Studios head Avi Arad. By the time he starts clashing with staff members, he announces his departure. Arad is later given his exit package too. Joe Quesada sticks around.
  • Stan Lee goes through two different failed start-up companies and becomes a mockery to Perlmutter and the other higher-ups at Marvel. Marvel Studios eventually takes off and fulfill Lee’s dream of breaking into Hollywood. This brings us to where we are today with the Disney ownership and the MCU mega franchise.

Here are some possible starter questions for our discussion: 

What stands out to you about this era of comics? What behind-the-scenes stories shock you to this day? Of the comics covered here, what are your personal favorites? What supplemental media would you recommend from this era?

Upcoming Discussions:

  • February 12th – Sean Howe’s Marvel Comics: The Untold Story Post Mortem
  • February 19th – Nominations for Next Round