Book Review: Marvelous Mythology by Todd Frye

Article written by:
Mark Navarro
Author: Mark NavarroWebsite: http://awesomeburgerguru.blogspot.com/
Mark Navarro loves literature, film, sports, and writing. His comic books, video games, and his dog are his prized possessions.He is currently studying Alchemy and taking a minor in waterbending.

Details

In Marvelous Mythology, Todd Frye attempts to take his readers down the 75-year history of Marvel. He starts by zooming in on arguably the most beloved era of comics, the “Marvel age of comics” beginning with the publication of Fantastic Four #1.

Frye posits FF #1 as the catalyst of the entire Marvel Universe that we know and love today. And his argument is rock solid as he takes an extensive look at how Stan Lee and Jack Kirby built an entire pantheon of myths and superheroes starting from that one comic book. He juxtaposes summaries of landmark Silver Age issues with the history of Marvel and the lives of the creators that built its foundation.

Actually, Todd Frye is a huge geek who really knows his stuff. He gives a thorough account of the infant years of the Marvel Universe, switching between the real-world history of Marvel and comic issue plots of Fantastic Four, the Amazing Spider-Man, Tales of Suspense, etc. All the early highs and lows of each character are fleshed out with an analysis of the themes that would define the Marvel books up to this day.

This discussion style benefited me as it didn’t feel like I was reading a history textbook. Even if the subject matter was a company and its products that I’ve known and loved my whole life, a scholarly history of both aspects of Marvel’s history runs the risk of getting cumbersome. The tone and writing style felt like I was listening to a geek friend who knew the company’s history and would casually digress to specific comics in the past. Furthermore, the method he used had a parallelism to the Marvel story as "idea brick" by "idea brick", the "House of Ideas" was being built.

Frye does a wonderful job of illustrating the similarities of the beginning of the comic universe then and the cinematic universe that we’ve witnessed born and grown in recent years. I won’t spoil the details for you, but know this; Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Steve Ditko are world-building geniuses.

All the book’s merits are results of Frye’s encyclopaedic knowledge of the Marvel universe; however, it buckles under the extreme weight of 75 years of characters and stories. The author spends too much time detailing the Silver Age of comics – which is right as this was the era when all the pieces of the larger Marvel universe was created and put together; however, with a time limit to tell his story, the pace of the book is rushed towards the end as he suddenly jumps to the Bronze Age to touch on the new X-Men roster, and then abruptly skips forward to the Modern Age to talk about Guardians of the Galaxy, as if he was obligated to do so because of the team’s recent surge in popularity. The end product is imbalanced as a result of the uneven pacing. If Frye had 2 more books worth of pages to tell the story, I’m sure it would have been very beneficial for every Marvel fan.

Marvelous Mythology is a detailed and sequential history of the Silver Age of Marvel Comics, that’s it. Don’t get me wrong. It’s still interesting to read and if you’re a new fan of the company, then by all means pick this up and drop some knowledge on your friends and go win some trivia nights. For longtime fans though, you can do a lot better. There’s no extra content to be found here like interviews with the creators, or photos of the old Marvel offices, or even old clippings and illustrations and that’s a shame. A book about a company well known for its colorful characters and imaginative universe could’ve been more enriching if it was as equally decorated.

I’d like to thank Todd Frye for giving us this book to review. Attempting such a herculean task as detailing the history of Marvel is a feat in itself, so kudos from me and Geekout.ph.

   

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