Years ago, I read two stories about Nintendo in the 1980s: Blake Harris’s Console Wars and Jeff Ryan’s Super Mario. The first was a deeply researched book with extensive inside knowledge from multiple perspectives in which the heroics of our console characters were made infinitely more visit by understanding the personal drama from the bottom to the top of the great competitive brands of “Nintendo,” “Sega,” and “Sony.” The second was basically a collection of reminiscences, mostly from the perspective of present-day fans, of what struck them as cool over time.
Reed Tucker’s Slugfest is more like the latter than the former.
I appreciated learning some more of the basics. I had almost no knowledge of Jack Kirby, the importance of the Fantastic Four in comics history, the suspicions of widespread intellectual theft of DC ideas by Marvel in the 1960s, and so on. I did not realize there were distinct eras of the comic businesses, where at times DC Comics was a more prestigious employer, and in between Marvel was the high-ranking employer. I did not realize that Mario Puzo was a comic book writer at DC, or how this explains the mythic storytelling and easy screen adaptation of his book, The Godfather. All of this was fascinating, and I have more understanding of this important part of our popular culture.
But I feel like I just know the surface. Executives come and go in the story, but we only hear a few anecdotes or statements, we never see the story from their perspective. Tucker mentions off-handed at one point that DC Comics was operating at a loss because the revenue from merchandising made up for that. What did this mean to how “independent” the comics book division was? Stan Lee appears to be in Hollywood working on “movie deals” for more than a decade. Was he? What was happening there? We don’t know.
Slugfest is a fast-moving book that competently provides a surface-level understanding of the comics industry. It’s not especially insightful, but if you want to learn something of the Comics Book industry, and won’t be frustrated if most of it is superficial brand drama, Slugfest is fine.
I read Slugfest: Inside the Epic, 50-year Battle Between Marvel and DC in the Audible edition.