Companion books for PBS documentaries are often utilized more as decorative pieces for a coffee table rather than books to be read cover-to-cover. I remember a friend whose parents had the companion book for Ken Burns' The Civil War and thumbing through it when I was in high school. It was a beautiful book with great pictures but I don't think I ever read an entire page of the text.
I'm glad I took the plunge with this companion book. Maslon and Kantor have done a great job presenting a concise overview of the history of comics publishing in the United States. Both informative and entertaining, the book tells the story of superhero comics from their antecedents in the pulps of the early 1930's all the way through the current DC and Marvel Universes and the creator owned imprints.
As some have stated in Amazon reviews, there are a few discrepancies concerning the exact dates of origin for some creations. And no, it does not delve into all the smaller publishing houses that have produced superhero comics. This really doesn't detract from the book's overall effect though. You can't cover every aspect of the history of superhero comics in 300 pages and that is not what the authors intended to do.
For someone with Ph.D. level knowledge of comic history, "Superheroes!" will not offer any information you do not already know. For fans whose experience only stretches as far back as when they began reading comics, and for those with little to no knowledge of comic books at all though, it provides a great overview in an entertaining fashion that will hopefully spark further investigation of this thoroughly fascinating literary form.
I have been a comic book reader since 1985 and while I've always been more in the DC camp, I enjoyed reading this history of the "House of Ideas." The narrator was engaging which is a must with non-fiction books like this.
Going in, I feared that this would be a one-sided story portraying Marvel in glorious, technicolor beauty. The author did a good job of highlighting both the high and low-lights of the publishing giant's 70+ year history. Most importantly, he didn't gloss over the image of Stan Lee, Marvel's ambassador and editor emeritus.
Lee seems is too often portrayed as a genius who single-handedly saved superhero comics from certain demise in the early 1960's while Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, the true geniuses behind Marvel's core characters, get lost in the dust bin of history. Admittedly, Lee certainly contributed much to the rise of Marvel comics in the 1960's but his tireless self-promotion has gained him some undeserved credit in my opinion.
This book covers the history of Marvel from its founding as Timely Comics in 1939 through the first decade of the 21st century and does so "marvelously." I would highly recommend it to comics fans and those who wouldn't know Batman from Christian Bale.