It’s a good time to be a superhero. This summer, the silver screen debut of “The Avengers” broke box office records. Receipts for that team of super-powered champs who stepped from the pages of Marvel Comics even outmatched sales for an old rival. Batman, that iconic character from DC Comics, had to settle for second place in theaters this year.
An “Avengers” sequel is on the way, of course, and so are more sequels featuring the characters that make up the Marvel super team. It’s a brilliant, fan-pleasing bit of business: As a popcorn-eating moviegoer and parent, all I really need to know is the release date and a time to show up at the theater.
Marvel’s history, as chronicled in an exhaustive new book by Sean Howe, “Marvel Comics: The Untold Story,” isn’t exactly filled with examples of such corporate coordination. Sixteen years ago, the struggling publisher declared bankruptcy, and this was only the most public of embarrassments for an outfit that has reached success beyond comic books only after making every possible mistake.