|Comix- A History of Comic Books in America, by Les Daniels; graphics by Mad Peck Studios|
Redartz: Good day, everyone! Anyone for a history lesson? I always am, especially when it's comics history. Which brings us to today's topic: learning about comics and the creators behind them.
Shortly after I first got hooked by the comic bug, early in 1974, I found this book on sale in the 'cutout's section of a Walden Books (remember them?). I'd never heard of the author, and was at the time unaware of the alternative comics referred to by the title's term 'comix'. Nonetheless, a quick browse through the book convinced me to buy it. Imagine, a book ABOUT comics, illustrated with the actual comics! Yes, there had been other histories; Steranko had his "History of Comics". There was Jules Feiffer's "The Great Comic Book Heroes". But overall, there weren't that many books yet about the medium of comics, or the wide variety of subjects found therein. So, long story short, "Comix" became my first comics history lesson.
And it was a rich lesson indeed. Published in 1971, early in our illustrious Bronze Age, "Comix" reached waaaay back to Richard Outcault and his "Yellow Kid", and followed up with a fascinating tour of comics throughout the 20th. Century. Writer Daniels gives the prose a bit of a countercultural feel (certainly to be expected, given the pop cultural background of the late 60's/early 70's). Yet it also reads as an engaging , entertaining overview of comics history; filled with fascinating anecdotes. Consider some of the chapter headings: "The Birth of the Comic Book". "Dumb Animals". "The E.C. Revolution". "The Comics Code Controversy". "Mighty Marvel". "Underground Comics". Yes, Daniels touched all the bases here. And it was pure manna for this comics-starved kid.
|An example of a 40's "Crime" comic|
|Jack Cole. Amazing composition...|
This book was my first exposure to EC Comics, to Golden age comics, to crime comics, to underground comics. So many genres I'd never dreamed of. Here, for the first time, I was introduced to some of the towering figures behind some of the stories I'd enjoyed: Will Eisner, Carl Barks, Harvey Kurtzman, Basil Wolverton. Further on, Daniels revealed to me the work of later creators such as Trina Robbins, Robert Crumb, and Gilbert Shelton. The story of the Comics Code Authority, and Fredrick Wertham? All that was in there as well. Oh, so much to absorb...
And it was easy to swallow this informative medicine: Daniels sweetened it with a generous dose of actual comics. Not only individual panels and pages, but many entire stories; color and black/white! He included some excellent examples, well chosen to give the reader a dose of the very best comics have to offer. We find Jim Steranko's entire story "At the Stroke of Midnight"from Tower of Shadows #1 (only complaint; wish this had been a color selection).
"A Visit With the Fantastic Four" by Lee and Kirby. From EC- "A Little Stranger" by Graham Ingles. A complete Barks Uncle Scrooge story. An early Two-Face story from Batman. Several great horror tales from Warren publishing. A "Mad" story by Wally Wood. An EC war story by Kurtzman. A Jack Cole Plastic Man story. And much, much more. Truly, it was an embarassment of comic riches. I devoured every page.
Les Daniels, through this book, lit the spark of interest for the vast wonders of comics past and present. He showed me how much more there was besides superheros and funny animals. Daniels put the works of the masters before me, identified them, and through them fired a fascination that continues to this very day. For this, I owe him immensely. Les Daniels, years later, produced a fine book about Marvel Comics; if memory serves Doug and Karen once discussed that tome over at the BAB. As much as his first book affected me, his later one is something I also need to add to my library.
|Two DC 'funny animals'; Fox and Crow|
|A cool EC house ad|
|A last word from Robert Crumb...|
Before reading this book, I loved Spider-man and the Fantastic Four; Batman and Superman. After reading it, I loved Comics. So now I ask you; was there any book about comics that roused your interest? Where did you first learn of the early names and faces of the medium? How did you discover the early tales of our heroes, and their predecessors? Tell us all about your 'history texts'...