Marvel Comics in the 1960s
written by Pierre Comtois
How well do you know your comics history? You’ll know it better after Marvel Comics in the 1960s, a retrospective look back at the “House of Ideas” in their burgeoning heyday.
After the dark days of Wertham’s Seduction of the Innocent, the ’60s brought forth a new kind of comic story, and it came from the very best of the industry’s legends: Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, John Romita, John Buscema, Dick Ayers, and many more. Writer Pierre Comtois attempts (and largely succeeds—a hefty accomplishment) at walking us through not only the content but the significance of each issue published in the decade.
The major problem is the layout of the book, which doesn’t invite casual reading. Granted, the book should be read from beginning to end—the author has gone to great pains to research the work and establish a timeline of how it all was produced, and reading out of order defeats that purpose—but still, these are comics we’re talking about. Readers want to jump in and then jump around, and I want to easily and quickly find my favorites. Better indexing would help, and so would year-by-year separators and looser page layouts.
Comtois does a good job of keeping tabs on what the other guys (DC Comics, of course, but also the other smaller publishers) were doing at the time too and how all of their actions affected the industry. In that sense, the book is an overview of the industry at large in the ’60s, an astute guide for any student of the history of comics.
It bears repeating just how impressive the work that Marvel was doing at the time really was. It truly changed the way comics were made and read, and these comic books led to the company’s quick ascendancy to the top publishing spot.
Alongside the issue-by-issue look through the decade, Comtois presents brief biographies of the top Marvel creators whose work inspired his own book. The entries are short, but they provide a snapshot into the creative forces that were at play at the time. To make it even more complete, the book includes brief looks at Marvel moments, which encompasses Marvel’s grand attempts to build and retain its fan base (the Merry Marvel Marching Society, for example). And even though FOOM (Friends of Ol’ Marvel) didn’t actually come about until the ’70s, it makes an appearance here as well…if you’re a longtime comics reader, one of these will probably ring a bell.