“Some of us are haunted by the memory of a childhood glimpse of some vast evocative dream; others exasperated by the slick iconography that has taken over our screens, wallets, and eyeballs. If you’re like me, it’s both. For all of us, Douglas Wolk’s naked dive into the Marvel source code is a revelation, a tour both electrifying in its weird charisma, and replenishing in its loving specificity. As an account of how a motley gang of accidental collaborators created a vernacular mythology out of the dodgiest of commercial occasions, it’s also a testament, and a tribute. Like Greil Marcus in Mystery Train or Manny Farber in Negative Space, Wolk pushes aside paraphrase to free up an encounter with what’s been there all along, homegrown art.” — Jonathan Lethem
The superhero comic books that Marvel Comics has published since 1961 are, as Douglas Wolk notes, the longest continuous, self-contained work of fiction ever created: over half a million pages to date, and still growing. The Marvel story is a gigantic mountain smack in the middle of contemporary culture. Thousands of writers and artists have contributed to it. Everyone recognizes its protagonists: Spider-Man, the Avengers, the X-Men. Eighteen of the hundred highest-grossing movies of all time are based on parts of it. Yet not even the people telling the story have read the whole thing–nobody’s supposed to. So, of course, that’s what Wolk did: he read all 27,000+ comics that make up the Marvel Universe thus far, from Alpha Flight to Omega the Unknown.
Douglas Wolk is the author of the Eisner Award-winning Reading Comics and the host of the podcast Voice of Latveria. A National Arts Journalism Program fellow, Wolk has written about comic books, graphic novels, pop music, and technology for The New York Times, Rolling Stone, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, The Believer, Slate, and Pitchfork. He lives in Portland, Oregon.
384 page hardcover
Penguin Press, 2021