Once More With Feeling
Last year, I contributed a column highlighting some of the works on comics
history from my collection. The piece turned out to be one of the most popular Nexus Graphica
installments. As promised then, I've returned with another selection of books. And don't worry, I still
have plenty more for yet another installment next year.
The Comics Go To Hell: A Visual History of the Devil in Comics by Fredrik Strömberg (Fantagraphics)
Strömberg, editor for Bild & Bubbla, the world's second oldest and Scandinavia's largest
magazine devoted to comics, compiled perhaps the only book of its kind. The Comics Go To Hell
successfully traces the varied depictions of Satan, et al. from 16th century onward. The nine chapters discuss
the different aspects and interpretations of the devil with a combination of images and insightful text that
looks at each picture through the lenses of pop culture, history, and religion. Strömberg offers both
well-known incarnations such as Hellboy and Hot Stuff as well more obscure
selections as the Finnish story Sofia and Osamu Tezuka's 1953 Princess Knight. An index and a list of
sources round out the unusual and entertaining The Comics Go To Hell.
Star Trek: A Comics History by Alan J. Porter (Hermes Press)
The lavishly illustrated tome chronicles the extensive history of English-language Star Trek
comic books and strips. Porter, author of James Bond: The History of the Illustrated 007, smartly
divides the entries by publisher, and includes insightful annotations and accounts of the publisher's
interactions with the Trek universe. He summarizes each illustrated adventure along with the stardate,
publication date, and a list of the creators. Star Trek: A Comics History culminates in a
fascinating interview with several writers who worked on various incarnations of this storied franchise.
Man of Two Worlds: My Life in Science Fiction and Comics by Julius Schwartz with Brian Thomsen (Harper)
This entertaining book successfully defines the legacy of Julius Schwartz in a light and friendly
fashion. Placing Schwartz within the context of SF literary history, the memories of his involvement
with the first World Science Fiction Convention (1939 New York) and the ensuing happenings offer a
rare insider's glimpse of one of the seminal events in SF fandom. A fitting encapsulation of the
beloved legend's sixty-year career, Man of Two Worlds cements Schwartz's vital place in
both science fiction and comics.
Was Superman A Spy? by Brian Cronin (Plume)
Required reading for all comic book geeks, Brian Cronin's weekly column Comic Book Legends
Revealed educates and enlightens on the trivial aspects of comic book
history. Was Superman A Spy? collects 65 of Cronin's columns plus an additional 65 pieces written
for this book. Dividing the book into three parts (DC, Marvel, and Other Companies), Cronin introduces
and demystifies legends involving many of the industry's giants -- both creations and
creators. Sadly, Was Superman A Spy? lacks a much needed index. Often missing notations, the
picture reproductions are of poor quality. Inexcusable for a publishing house the size of Plume, the
book is littered with misspellings and typos. Despite these flaws, Was Superman A Spy? stands
as a unique book for the comic book fan and will be enjoyed by anyone with an even passing interest in the medium.
Superman: The High-Flying History of America's Most Enduring Hero by Larry Tye (Random House)
In his unusual history of the iconic character, Larry Tye delivers an insightful biographical
account from the perspective of the creators, publishers, and stars behind Superman. Beginning
with Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel in Cleveland through the character's re-birth as part
of DC's recent 52 remake, Tye analyzes and reveals many fascinating behind-the-scene aspects such as why
Superman didn't fight oversees during World War II, the complex origins of kryptonite, and the stories
behind the various radio, cartoon, television, and movie incarnations. The comprehensive volume includes
numerous interviews and accounts, copious endnotes, and an all-too-short collection of images. The
even-handed, thoughtful, and thorough accounting of the muddy and controversial relationship between
Siegel and DC delivers one of the best explanations of the whole sordid affair. Though Tye's literary
paint-by-numbers styling lacks any zing, he successfully maintains interest throughout the compulsive
and highly recommended Superman: The High-Flying History of America's Most Enduring Hero.
The Comic Book Heroes by Gerard Jones and Will Jacobs (Prima)
The revised and updated edition of Jones and Jacobs 1985 work covers the history of American comics
from the 1956 ushering of the Silver Age through 1996. While the volume doesn't offer really any new
insights or information, the pair deliver an unflinching, unapologetic accounting. On Kirby near the
end of his 60s Marvel tenure: "Not only was he no longer giving anything new to Thor or
Fantastic Four, but by late 1969 his stories had even ceased to be fun in a purely simplistic,
action-packed way." Or how the radical, "alternative" Image turned out to be just like every other
publisher: "[They were] outbidding the competition in upfront money and stroking the vanities of artists by
telling them they that they were 'hot enough for Image,' but skimming all the long-term money and ownership
rights." Most importantly, The Comic Book Heroes furnishes a panoramic, chronological, and often
compelling snapshot of the creative and publishing aspects of the medium.
Copyright © 2013 Rick Klaw
Professional reviewer, geek maven, and optimistic curmudgeon, Rick Klaw has supplied
countless reviews, essays, and fiction for a variety of publications including
The Austin Chronicle, The San Antonio Current,
The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy,
Moving Pictures, RevolutionSF,
Conversations With Texas Writers, Electric Velocipede, Cross Plains Universe,
Steampunk, and The Steampunk Bible.
Coming in March 2013 from Tachyon, he is editing The Apes of Wrath, a survey of apes in literature
with contributions from Edgar Allan Poe, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Franz Kafka, Gustave Flaubert,
Joe R. Lansdale, Pat Murphy, Leigh Kennedy, James P. Blaylock, Clark Ashton Smith, Karen Joy Fowler,
Philip José Farmer, Robert E. Howard and others.
Klaw can often be found pontificating on Twitter
and over at The Geek Curmudgeon.