Thursday, August 18, 2011

10 of a Kind: Books for the Comics HIstorian

Wow, I just realized that this is the only 10 of a Kind for August, so I figured I should try to make it a great one! So, instead of dipping into my pool of 10 of a Kind topics that I'd worked up a few months back, I decided to be inspired by my latest re-readings of books about comics from my own collection! So, without further ado (and in no particular order), here they are, after the jump!

1. and 2. Steranko's History of Comics, Vol. 1 & 2: Ah, what a great pair of books! I'll tell you a bit of a story here... back when these first came out, I have distinct memories of going to a local Tacoma store, Gov-Mart Bazaar, and seeing both of these volumes on the rack there, and wanting them desperately! If only my mother had seen her way clear to purchase these for me, they would've been my first books about comics ever... but sadly, that had to wait until about 1981, when I was in the Navy, and hit my first comic book shop in Indianapolis, IN (where the Journalism school for all branches of the military was conducted, at Fort Benjamin Harrison). I don't remember what price I paid for them (it was, after all, a LOOONG time ago!), but I know they were worth every penny to finally add these books to my collection! Recently re-reading these, two things struck me: 1) How great it was to have those articles interspersed with cover images (probably the first time many of the readers had seen all those different covers), and 2) How many topics covered in volume 2 were also covered in The Comic Book Book! I seem to recall the rumor going around some time ago that these were to be reissued, with the never-published third volume joining them, but apparently that never happened, sad to say! Anyway, from the gorgeous wraparound covers with just about every superhero you can imagine plastered on them (one of the volumes came with a guide to both covers, just in case there were some you couldn't identify) to the chapters covering a variety of comics and genres, this two-volume set really set a high benchmark for comics history!

3. and 4. All In Color For a Dime and The Comic Book Book: Yes, it's another pair of books, and why not? Both of these volumes were edited by Dick Lupoff and Don Thompson, and both featured chapters originally published in the fanzine Xero (as well as some all-new chapters written just for these books). The first volume, All in Color for a Dime, was one of the first two books on comics that I'd ever purchased, having done so when I was in junior high (I must've been 11 or 12 at the time, maybe 13?). I remember it well: I'd received some cash for my birthday that year, and I knew I wanted books about comics, so en route to Seattle to visit relatives, I talked my parents into stopping at the Tacoma Mall so I could hit Waldenbooks, and I walked out with AICFAD as well as #5 on this list! I immediately fell in love with that book, and read my paperback copy until it was literally falling apart! I used it as reference for at least one paper in high school, but somewhere along the way, I ended up losing the now-coverless copy that I had. The Comic Book Book followed years after the first volume in my collection... in the fall of 1981, I worked briefly at a bookstore (that no longer exists, but honestly, there's no connection here) that had a copy of this book in stock, which I think I purchased with my employee discount as soon as I got my first paycheck! I have no idea what happened to my original printing of that book, but fortunately, both of those volumes have been reprinted since then by Krause, and both of those reprintings are on my bookshelves, both having been read and re-read several times!
All in Color for a DimeAll in Color for a Dime (rev. ed.)Comic-Book Book

5. The Great Comic-Book Heroes: Ah, the second book I purchased in that fateful November, lo these many years ago... and my first exposure to reading actual stories of many characters! Sure, this book is pretty much divided up between Jules Feiffer's personal reminiscenses about comics and reprints of classic Golden Age stories, without really going into all that much history, but it's still a great book to own... just be aware that there's an edition without the golden age comics in it! My original copy was a hardbound version, although when I ended up selling it years later, the dust jacket was long lost... but a few years ago, I came across a paperback copy of it at a local used book store, and you know I had to snap it up!

6. The Comic-Book Makers: Steranko may have been the first comics artist to write about the history of comics, but he wasn't the only one by far! Joe Simon with his son, Jim Simon, added a classic book about the history of comics (focusing on the creators) with this volume, although to be honest, a lot of it revolves around Simon (as well as Simon and Kirby) -- not that there's a damn thing wrong with that! I think this'll be my next re-read!

7. Kirby: King of Comics: You had to know this one was going to be on the list, didn't you? Until Mark gets around to writing his follow-up book, this epic volume promises to be the greatest biography of any comic book creator, ever! Sadly, this is one I haven't got in my collection at this time... although I have read it courtesy of my local library!

8. The Comic Fandom Reader: This one may be the most obscure volume on this list, but it's earned its place if for no other reason than it includes the article "The Education of Victor Fox," one of the original All in Color for a Dime articles from Xero that didn't make it into the above-mentioned volumes! But that's far from all... there's other fanzine reprints in there, too! I've added some of Bill Schelly's other books below, because he's done some amazing work in this field!
Comic Fandom Reader

9. Man of Two Worlds: My Life in Science Fiction and Comics: This autobiography of Julie Schwartz is the only book on this list that I actually haven't read (yet... I know, for shame, for shame), but I figured it was important enough for me to include here sight unseen!

10. Excelsior! The Amazing Life of Stan Lee: On the list of "Books I Used to Have but Need to Replace" is this biography of Stan Lee... now, you know as well as I do that Stan's memory can be a fickle thing at times, but so far as I know, there's no better resource on the co-founder of the Marvel Universe!

So, there's my list of 10... and I could've probably gone on and made this list two or even three times as long! There were a lot of books about comics that I used to own, but had to sell off long ago (and never got around to repurchasing), probably some I'll never remember the titles of... so what books didn't I mention that YOU think should've been included?


  1. Jon,
    I'd recommend Trina Robbins' books "The Great Women Superheroes" (1996) and "The Great Women Cartoonists" (2001).
    Hope this helps!

  2. Darci, great reccomendations!


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