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Thursday, December 03, 2020 

Does the First 80 Years give any clear picture how Marvel lost so much quality in the last decade?

Laughing Place wrote a book review of Marvel Comics: The First 80 Years from Titan Publishing, which I'd assume covers as much history as possible leading up to at least a year ago. But I wouldn't be surprised if it avoids objectivity on certain subjects, like company wide crossovers:
Not only does the book share information on the lives and world of some of the greatest comic creators in Marvel history – like Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and many more – but it also details some of the most popular characters and stories of the past 80 years. From the creation of Captain America and Spider-Man to the debuts of the “Infinity Gauntlet” and “Civil War” arcs, this book covers it all.
So Civil War has mention in this history book. But why do I get the disappointed feeling there'll be no mention of how needlessly political the 2006 crossover was, nor any objective view of what it served as catalyst for: ridding the MCU of the Spider-marriage, at the time Joe Quesada's pet project, he being somebody who couldn't tell the difference between a fictional character and real life persons. And that was a move that effectively drove many Marvel fans out of the market, bringing us to the point we're at now.
If there’s one negative to this book, it’s simply that it isn’t long enough. Obviously 80 years is a lot of time to cover and this book simply isn’t thick enough to get to all of it. While it touches on some of the most popular characters and stories, there are so many more that go unmentioned. Plus, while the focus of this book is on Marvel Comics, it feels like at least some attention should have been paid to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Still, this book is loaded with Marvel history. It just could have a little more.
Assuming it's lacking objectivity, it could have a little more of that, but I'm well aware these would-be biographers may ask no pointed questions, taking everything they're told by modern interviewees at face value, and offering no serious opinions of their own on how things were handled over the years. What is it they don't mention in the book? How company wide crossovers ruined comicdom in the long run, along with the heavy handed politics and pandering to the same? There probably isn't any of that, nor does Quesada face any critical moments in the book for the reprehensible steps he took, which easily began with his hostility to Mary Jane. Something for which Marvel should've been boycotted as early as the time he became their EIC, following the departure of Bob Harras, who made for a pretty mediocre editor himself. Indeed, you could argue that any editor who's going to be that blatant with what they think about a fictional character - and impose petty editorial mandates - poses a serious problem in the long run, and cases should be made against them for why to avoid their output. Obviously, Bill Jemas also has to shoulder some blame, even if he left earlier by 2004, and Dan Buckley, who succeeded him as CEO, proved just as awful. On which note, they likely don't get criticized here either, if at all.

I won't say a biography like this doesn't have enjoyable moments. But if nobody's willing to hold all contributors involved accountable for their mistakes, then what good do these history books do in the long run? I'm also wondering why I rarely notice biographies like these about DC and smaller publishers like Dark Horse or Image, since there's doubtless plenty you could say about their operations, for better or worse (and at this point, the latter word perfectly describes DC's conduct in modern times). And even if there were more on the market, chances are they'd be just as lenient in their approach to the company executives' mistakes. That's why future audiences and publishers could be hard pressed to find something objective that'd give them an idea how to avoid making the same errors as their predecessors. Is it any wonder then that the medium is collapsing?

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