Underrated: The History Of Comics
This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: The History Of Comics.
The history of the modern comic book is often overlooked, and in many cases under appreciated. Now I’m not arrogant enough to pretend that in a 700-odd word column I’ll be able to give the subject the depth it deserves, but what I will do is tell you why you should give the history of the medium we love so much more thought that the typical “what issue did this happen in?”
While I am far from be an expert in the history of the medium, it does fascinate me, and it should fascinate you as well.
Learning about the struggles of the early comic book publishers, writers, and artists, has lead me to realize that their story is something that could very easily be retold in a comic. From the way Batman was created and tale of Bill Finger – the Legend That Should Be, to Stan Lee having to fire the entire Timely Comics bullpen (Timely would later have a name change to Marvel) twice, to the industry devastation of the book Seduction of the Innocent by Fredrick Wertham in 1954, and the senate hearings that resulted from the book that eventually gave birth to the Comics Code.
There have been numerous books written about the subject of comic history, and I’ve been trying to build a collection of them – a personal library if you will – to help me learn more than what can be found on Wikipedia about something that has over the past few years become of more and more interest to me. Books such as Sean Howe’s The Untold Story of Marvel Comics, Marc Tyler Nobleman’s Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman, and Brad Ricca’s Super Boys: The Amazing Adventures of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster – the Creators of Superman are only a handful that sit on my bookshelf.
Over the past two years I’ve amassed books that contain the year by year visual history of Batman, DC, and Marvel; a history of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; as well as an X-Universe history. I also recently acquired Superheroes!: Capes, Cowls, and the Creation of Comic Book Culture by Laurence Maslon and Micheal Kantor .There are many, many great books out there to delve into; far more than I have listed here, more than I currently have on my book shelf, and more than I think I can ever expect to own.
I’ve found a few documentaries out there that are worth the time – Turtle Power: Definitive History of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle, and Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope. The three listed above are by no means an inclusive list of documentaries and I encourage you to hunt others down, whether from an online store or your own choice of online streaming service.
And then there’s the utterly brilliant Batman & Bill that, technically, you can currently only find on Hulu that details the aforementioned creation of Batman.
The point I am failing to make is that there is a book out there to get you started no matter which publishing company holds your interest, all you have to do is look.
However you choose to learn about the history of the medium, about the creators and publishers that are such a huge part of our lives now, I encourage you to do it. Because I think not only does it help us appreciate where comics have come from, and what they have gone through, but that the creators of days gone by deserve to be remembered. What went before is just as important now as it ever was. One could argue even more so.
We just need to remember that.
Next week’s Underrated will look at some of those books I mentioned above.