Very interesting. What you realize reading this is that there is Marvel Comics (the comics publishing side, with editors, writers, artists, and so on)...moreVery interesting. What you realize reading this is that there is Marvel Comics (the comics publishing side, with editors, writers, artists, and so on) and everything else--initially a magazine publishing venture, then licensing, then movies and media. What struck me is how the history of the comics side paralleled the Roman empire. Prior to the explosion of Marvel superheroes in the 60s, Marvel comics publishing was just another small kingdom/republic surrounded by other kingdoms--the magazines published by Martin Goodman. Then in the 60s, Marvel became this empire, pushing the magazines aside as it grew and grew. It was like the early empire.
But in the 70s, when editors-in-chief changed yearly and writer-editors were permitted to run their own books, it was like the "military anarchy" period of the Roman Empire, when multiple generals proclaimed themselves emperor and Rome nearly collapsed.
The Jim Shooter comes in as emperor and restores the strong emperor model, ala Constantine. No more writer-editors. In the meantime, the Goodmans have some the company and it has become part of a conglomerate. Licensing becomes more important. It's like the growing power of the German tribes.
There is a period of multiple editors in chief, which made me think of the Tetrarchs. And as the shifting period of ownership, when Ron Perelman purchases the company with debt, goes public, then looses an amazing battle for the company with Marvel's chief licensee, ToyBiz, we have the equivalent of Valens letting the German tribes settle in the empire, followed by the battle of Adrianople. At this point, the empire of Marvel Comics publishing has become a small adjunct to licensing and ultimately film production. The Marvel Comics of today is like Constantinople of the 1100s, controlling only a small fraction of what it did at its peak, while "barbarian" tribes (Germans) and Muslims have taken over its former empire.
This is a self-published Kindle book, and it could have used a good copy-editor. But between the whiff of vanity publication and the amateurish editin...moreThis is a self-published Kindle book, and it could have used a good copy-editor. But between the whiff of vanity publication and the amateurish editing, it's actually great! Skip Williamson is a funny writer--he writes as if he's telling you a longish shaggy-dog story in a bar, and his use of language (as anyone who has read his comics knows) is interestingly florid. I wish it had been organized a little better, and hadn't been so episodic--there are spaces between the anecdotes he shares that I would like to have heard more about. At the very least, I'd like to see the trajectories of his career at Playboy, his various relations, his life in Chicago (and why he moved to Atlanta), etc. As it is, we get glimpses of these things. Spontaneous Combustion comes off, then, as a bit of a "greatest hits" collection. And the hits are indeed great reading! But short of a more detailed autobiography, this is an entirely enjoyable read.(less)