Marvel Comics The Untold Story, written by Sean Howe and published in 2012, is a history of Marvel Comics, from its start as Timely Comics back in 1941 all the way through 2011. I finally blocked some time aside to read this last week and pretty easily clocked through its 430 pages (keeping up with new comics and graphic novels doesn't leave me much time for novels generally).
I've been reading comics since 1975 and have always been fascinated at the behind the scenes aspects of this medium, so I'd read anything I'd find that would shed some light on the creative people that produced these comics that I loved so much. So a lot of Marvel Comics The Untold Story recounted episodes that I'd read / heard about, but Sean Howe talked to 150 people who worked at Marvel throughout these years, imparting information that I'd never heard before.
Some of the interesting things I learned from Marvel Comics The Untold Story (these could be regarded as spoilers to some people, but I'm presenting them here to give people a better idea of what this book is like). The Black Panther was originally going to be called the Coal Tiger! Many of my favorite writers and artists experimented with LSD in the early 1970s (I shouldn't really be surprised learning this, having read the comics they worked on - grin!). Actually, Sean Howe devotes a good portion of The Untold Story on Marvel in the 1970s, like how for the longest time, Marvel had constantly changing editor in chiefs (like Roy Thomas, Len Wein, Marv Wolfman, and Gerry Conway - I didn't know that Marv and Len didn't like Gerry Conway back then). Also interesting was how Marvel Comics almost published several DC titles like Superman, Batman, and Green Lantern (I'd heard about that but until reading this book, didn't know why they ended up not doing that)! The crazy days of the 1990s with cover gimmicks and the superstar artists and how Marvel tried to be its own distributor was also a fascinating read, because even though I'd lived and known about a lot of that, the way Sean Howe connects this part of the mediums history was really engaging.
I highly recommend Marvel The Untold Story to anyone, in fact, I'll leave my copy at Alternate Reality Comics so anyone can borrow it (meaning you can take it home - just please actually read it and return it so that others can borrow it)!