Mantlo: A Life In Comics

By | Tuesday, July 31, 2007 Leave a Comment
I was never particularly aware of Bill Mantlo as a young comic fan. Mainly because he never worked on the couple of titles I bought with any regularity. I became aware of his name at some point, obviously, but it wasn't until after he had largely stopped writing comics in the late 1980s. So one of the reasons I picked up Mantlo: A Life in Comics was just to learn who he was.

The book charts Bill's comic book career in detail. It delineates what he worked on pretty meticulously and offers any number of insights from Mantlo himself (taken from an array of old interviews in various comics magazines), as well as retrospections from collaborators. The book breaks down fairly neatly into chunks, focusing on only one title at a time, with the whole thing bookended with a brief overview of his childhood and his short-lived career in law leading up to his debilitating accident.

Mantlo: A Life in Comics initially looked a bit light to me. That's probably due to it being printed more like a magazine than a "traditional" biography. But after I began reading, I soon realized that it is densely packed with information. It flows fairly smoothly, but there's simply a lot there to absorb. Clearly, author David Yurkovich did a lot of research in putting this together and it really is a impressive volume in that respect.

What I found interesting was how much of Mantlo's work I had actually read once upon a time. The vivid story descriptions repeatedly reminded me of many "one-off" comics I had as a child, long before I thought to actually bother reading the credits. So while I didn't know Mantlo's name, much of what he had written was still floating around in the back of my head and I kept having panels and sequences that he worked on popping to the forefront of my memory as I read. Images that he put there, without me consciously realizing it.

I did find one drawback with this book, though, and that was in the design itself. There were a number of places where it was, in my opinion, overly difficult to read because of how the page was laid out. Many of the background images seemed a little too dark/heavy to be running under the text. Some graphics accompanying the main text were treated similarly to the sidebars, which caused me some confusion. That sort of thing. Nothing that makes the book unreadable, certainly, but just enough to distract from the otherwise smooth-flowing text.

To be fair, it's a minor quibble and one that I noticed in particular because I've got a background in design. The text itself more than makes up for it, even if you're not lured by the prospect of all the book's proceeds going to benefit Bill Mantlo himself. The book shows a great deal of love and respect for Mantlo and his work, and I highly recommend it to anyone who has even the slightest interest in Bill or grew up reading marvel's comics in the 1970s or 80s.
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