Years of Marvel Comics. From the Golden Age to the Silver Screen
Roy Thomas, Josh Baker
Hardcover with fold-out, ribbon bookmark, and four-foot accordion-fold timeline
11.4 x 15.6 in.
Years of DC Comics. The Art of Modern Mythmaking
with fold-out, ribbon bookmark
11.4 x 15.6 in.
If you take a look at the top 100 all-time highest worldwide
grossing movies, fifteen of them are either Marvel or DC comic adaptations.
According to Box Office Mojo the third highest grossing film of all time is The
Avengers (2012) at over a billion and a half dollars. Comics, it would
seem, are major players in the world of entertainment.
Seventy-five years ago it was all very different. Comics were
for children and were disregarded as both an entertainment medium and as an art
form. Comics were disposable. Because of their ephemeral nature surviving early
copies now trade hands for vast sums. Buying the first appearance of Superman
or Batman will set you back a cool $1-2 million. Thankfully, if you want to
hold the history of these comics in your hands without having to cash in your
life insurance, Taschen have released huge and lavish tributes that, once
opened, will send you whirling back through time to your own childhood and
Four years ago Taschen published 75
Years of DC Comics. The Art of Modern Mythmaking, and
it was one of the biggest books this writer had ever seen. So heavy it comes in
a cardboard carrying case with handle, it is crammed with fantastic full-size
reproductions and blown up panels from classic comics and long-forgotten
strips. The dating used here suggests that DC began in 1935, with a comic
called New Fun. DC's most famous sons, Superman and Batman, did not make their
first appearances until 1938 and 1939 respectively. The book is divided into
sections; The Stone Age, The Golden Age, The Silver Age, The Bronze Age, The
Dark Age and The Modern Age, and each begins with shiny toughened pages. By
discussing some of the things that were going on in the comic industry outside
of DC, one can look at their development in context. There are also fold-out detailed
timelines in each section with a year-by-year breakdown including major world
The book is also a reminder that DC weren't always about
superheroes. Alongside our spandex-wearing favourites were western comics,
science fiction, military comics, funny animals, exotic adventurers, gangsters
and detectives. There are other big names which have been somewhat forgotten by
now, such as Captain Marvel, Will Eisner's The Spirit (despite an ill-advised
attempt to being him back in a 2008 movie), Plastic Man, Starman and The
Spectre. Even supporting characters occasionally got their own comics, such as Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen
("See Jimmy turn into The Giant Turtle Man!") and Superman's Girl Friend Lois
Lane, the latter demonstrating that comics could appeal to both boys and
Also honoured are the many writers and artists who have built up
the world of DC comics over the years, from Jerry Seigel and Joe Schuster, the
creators of Superman, through to more modern writers like Alan Moore, who with Watchmen
in 1986 changed the perception of what the comic book could achieve.
Of course DC has made a major impact beyond the comics, something
which is included here. It is fun to see some of the toys and games kids would
be desperate to collect, as well as imagery from the many movies and TV shows
they inspired, including serials The Adventures of Superman (1948) and Batman
and Robin (1949) as well as perhaps the greatest example of 1960s pop
culture, the televised Batman series starring Adam West and Burt Ward (recently
released on DVD and Blu-ray by Warner Brothers); a comic strip brought to life
in full technicolour.
75 Years of DC Comics. The Art of Modern Mythmaking is a book that will most-likely take you the rest of your life to
read and enjoy. For those who prefer something a little smaller to read,
Taschen has also released separate volumes titled The Golden Age of DC
Comics and The Silver Age of DC Comics.
It was only a matter of time before Taschen would give Marvel the
same treatment, and 2014 marks their seventy-fifth anniversary. In 1939 Marvel
really hit the ground running, publishing a comic featuring a collection of
tales featuring amongst others The Human Torch (in this version an android) and
Sub-mariner, both of whom are still popular today. Coinciding with the
beginnings of war in Europe, a conflict which would eventually spread around
the globe, Marvel's comics reflected the fears and ambitions of military
conflict. Sub-mariner became the first superhero to fight Nazis in 1940, and in
1941 Captain America leapt into the fight, literally. On the front cover of his
first issue he is proudly punching Hitler in the face, star-spangled shield to
the fore. This was so controversial at the time that protestors marched on the
Marvel headquarters in New York!
That same year Stanley Leiber was hired at Marvel as a general
assistant and gofer whilst still a teenager. Within two weeks he was
commissioned to write a Captain America story. Signing the story "Stan
Lee", within eight months he was an editor and he went on to become one of
the most important figures in the comic book world. Stan Lee is responsible for
the creation of dozens of classic comic characters including The Fantastic
Four, Spider-Man, Iron Man, The X-Men and many more. It is mostly his creations
that now dominate Hollywood, particularly since the creation of the Marvel film
studios in 1996 and their subsequent purchase by Disney in 2009 for a mere $4
Stan Lee was not the only genius working at Marvel, and the book covers
work by many of the fantastic writers and artists employed over the last
seventy-five years including Jack Kirby, John Romita and Steve Ditko. The
author of this Marvel history himself, Roy Thomas, served as a Marvel editor
from 1965-80 and had runs on The Avengers, The Incredible Hulk, Conan
the Barbarian and many more.
75 Years of Marvel Comics. From the Golden Age to the Silver
Screen gives us a thorough history of the company and their comics.
There is a detachable four-foot long double-sided timeline giving a
year-by-year history not only of Marvel but comic book development in general.
Obviously a lot of space in the book is devoted to their most beloved
characters, including Thor, Hulk, Silver Surfer, Daredevil and The Avengers
alongside those already mentioned. Like the DC book before it, it is also fun
to discover many other characters and stories that one may have missed, with
names like Werewolf By Night, Captain
Britain, Sgt. Fury and His Howling
Commandoes, Dr. Strange (recently announced as another Marvel movie) and
Luke Cage, the first black superhero. Marvel also published "girls
comics" such as My Love and Our Love Story and created female
superheroes like The Cat, Black Widow and Elektra.
late 1960s some of their comics went psychedelic, and in the 1970s Marvel began
to experiment with some fairly edgy material, such as the sleazy Howard the
Duck, the horror-enthused Tomb of Dracula
or the violent adventures of Conan the Barbarian. The artwork was always
excellent and is beautifully reproduced here.
an early Captain America movie serial
in 1944, Marvel's comics were not used as material for a theatrical movie again
until 1986, with the disastrous George Lucas-produced Howard the Duck. It was not until the movie version of Blade (1998) and X-Men (2000) that the real movie boom began. Perhaps
special-effects technology had finally caught up with the imaginations of
Marvel's writers and artists. However some of their characters had found
success on American television, most memorably with the Bill Bixby/ Lou
Ferrigno-starring The Incredible Hulk
(1978). This was produced by CBS who were also responsible for the TV movies of
Captain America (1979) and The Amazing Spider-Man (1977), imagery
from which can also be found in this book.
first appeared in a Marvel comic in 1962. Whether posing on the White House
lawn with First Lady Rosalynn Carter in 1980 or appearing alongside Barack
Obama in a 2009 issue of The Amazing
Spider-Man, the web-slinger has become closely associated with the real
world, and in particular the city of New York. His youth and quips have made
him one of Marvel's most popular heroes, and in a moving December 2001 issue he
was forced to confront the horrors of 9/11. Unlike DC characters who mainly live
in fictional cities or worlds, the Marvel universe exists amidst our own.
books are a fitting tribute to the worlds of DC and Marvel and the people who
brought these incredible worlds to life week after week. One can only hope that
both companies will continue producing comics and stories for at least another
seventy-five years each.