Saturday, November 8, 2008

Issue #38: Comic Book Books Part 2

Comic books for the week of Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Adventure Comics Special Guardian #1 (New Krypton #3) (DC)
Justice Society of America #20 (DC)
Sgt. Rock: The Lost Batallion #1 (DC)
Top 10 Season 2 #2 (of 4) (Wildstorm / DC)

I didn't have a chance to go to my local comic book store, Acme Comics, this week. We are budgeting for our vacation in about another week and a half, so I wasn't able to budget any money for comics this week. I'm not sure if I will be able to get to the comic store until after we get back from vacation.I hope it won't be that long, but we'll see. Until then I thought I would continue sharing nonfiction books about comic book history.

Stan Lee and the Rise and Fall of the American Comic Book by Jordan Raphael and Tom Spurgeon, published by Chicago Review Press in 2003, looks at Stan's career. Despite what a casual glance may suggest, the book doesn't blame Stan for the fall of the American comic book. It is a thorough review of his many collaborations, and who created or co-created what. It does delve into Stan's various claims about the characters he co-created, which have not always been consistent over the years. It does take him to task over some of his claims about creating the Marvel Universe, but it does not paint him as a villain. It delves into the unique collaboration known as the "Marvel Method" and how sometimes it is not clear who did what. The book echos Mark Evanier, Kirby historian who has criticized Stan over some of his statements, yet does not paint him as another Mort Weisinger.

Will Eisner: A Spirited Life was written by Bob Andelman and published by M Press in 2005. I saw Andelman do a presentation about his biography at MegaCon in 2006. I finally bought it last year and was not disappointed. The book provides a window into the early years of the comic book industry. If you would like to learn about his creation The Spirit, the subject of Frank Miller's movie adaption due to be released in theaters on Christmas of this year, this is the book to check out. The book follows Eisner's varied career, both in and out of comics. Beginning just before the comic book scare of the 1950's, Eisner left comics to produce P. S., the Army maintenance magazine, which contained a comic book insert that would illustrate a different equipment maintenance procedure each month. And it explores Eisner's contribution to the evolution of the graphic novel. This book is a must for any library about comic book history.

Another book that features a comic book artist is Mythology: The DC Comics Art of Alex Ross by Chip Kidd and Geoff Spear, published by Pantheon Books in 2003. this book is not a complete exploration of all of Ross' career, but his DC Comics work is prolific enough to fill this volue. There are some samples of his art growing up, as well as a brief review of the influence of his mother's own artistic career and a short biography of his life. The book explores the many projects Ross has produced for DC, with many samples of his development sketches. Some comic book readers may not be fans of his realistic style, thinking it is too posed and lacks a sense of action. For myself, his style adds to a story, not subtract from it. For an in-depth look at some of the best stories DC Comics has ever published, this is the book for you.

For an inside look of DC Comics through forty years, from the 1940's to the 1980's, check out Man of Two Worlds: My Life in Science Fiction and Comics by Julius Schwartz with Brian M. Thomsen, with an Afterword by Harlan Ellison. It was published by Harper Collins in 2000. This book may not be in print. In fact, I bought my copy from an vendor. Another possibility may be to search used book stores. Schwartz had a full career, beginning with sci-fi fandom in its infancy of the 1930's, to becoming an agent for sci-fi writers and finally an editor at DC Comics. Readers interested in the history of DC Comics will be interested in Schwartz's reminisces, especially his observations about his friend and notorious DC editor Mort Weisinger. He also writes about the many characters and creators he worked with, and some of the conflicts he had. This book is an excellent window into another view of comic book history.

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