Unlike most comics-related trade paperbacks I read these days, CLASSIC MARVEL SUPER HEROES isn’t a reprint collection of stories I first read ‘way back when. Instead, it’s an examination of four iconic Marvel characters: Captain America, Spider-Man, The Hulk, and Wolverine. Author Peter Sanderson summarizes the origin of each character and also tells the back-story of how the character came to be created, including material on the writers and artists involved. It’s heavily illustrated with panels from the original comics, of course, nearly all of which I remember reading when they were new or almost new. (The exception being the Captain America stories from the Forties, before I was born, but even those I read in reprints in the Sixties and Seventies.)
From there Sanderson follows the fictional careers of all four characters up until 2005, when this book was published. Even though it was produced by Marvel for Barnes & Noble Books and written by a Marvel staffer, it’s not wholly a puff piece. Sanderson doesn’t shy away from discussing some of the creative missteps taken along the way by various writers (and there were a bunch of them in the Nineties, in this curmudgeon’s opinion, enough to drive me away from comics for a long time).
I didn’t really learn anything new in this book, but it was a lot of fun revisiting the early days of these characters. I don’t know if there have been similar books done about some of Marvel’s other characters, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea. If you’re a long-time comics fan like me, you’d probably enjoy this one.