Operating out of a tiny office on Madison Avenue in the early 1960s, a struggling company called Marvel Comics introduced a series of superhero characters with eye-catching bright costumes, smart banter, and compellingly human flaws that thrilled not just children but also pop artists, public intellectuals, and campus radicals: The Fantastic Four. Spider-Man. The Hulk. The X-Men. Iron Man. Thor. Daredevil. All of them interacted in the same epic universe, weaving a tapestry of stories that, taken together, would become the most elaborate fictional narrative in history and serve as a modern American mythology for millions of readers.
Throughout the decades-long journey to a multi-billion-dollar enterprise -- as Marvel weathered Wall Street machinations, Hollywood failures, and the collapse of the comic book market -- the Marvel Universe characters have been passed along among generations of editors, artists, and writers. Marvel's identity has continually shifted, careening between scrappy underdog and corporate behemoth. Entrusted to carry on tradition, its contributors -- impoverished child prodigies, hallucinating peaceniks, and mercenary careerists among them -- struggled with commercial mandates, a fickle audience, and, over matters of credit and control, one another.
For the first time, Marvel Comics tells the stories of these men, including Martin Goodman, the self-made publisher who forayed into comics after a get-rich-quick tip in 1939; Stan Lee, the energetic editor who would shepherd the company through thick and thin for decades; Jack Kirby, the WWII veteran who'd co-created Captain America in 1940 and, twenty years later, developed with Lee the bulk of the company's marquee characters in a three-year frenzy of creativity that would be the grounds for future legal battles and endless debate. Incorporating more than one hundred original interviews with those who worked behind the scenes at Marvel over a seventy-year-span, Marvel Comics packs anecdotes and analysis into a gripping narrative of how a small group of people on the cusp of failure created one of the most dominant pop cultural forces in contemporary America.