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: Books On The History Of Comics.
Last week we looked at why comic book history was Underrated. This week, we’ll look at some books that, should you be interested, will help shed some light on the stories behind the stories.
Marvel Comics: The Untold Story by Sean Howe was published in 2012. Howe decided to write the book because the stories comic creators told in fanzine interview always seemed different from the official narrative. Starting with the comics published during the golden age, and the characters created by Jack Kirby, Joe Simon and Stan Lee, the book follows the publisher’s story to the new millennium up until the creation of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with upwards of 150 interviews conducted by the author. GQ’s Joshua Rivera described the book as “one of the most comprehensive and well-researched accounts” of Marvel.
Bill The Boy Wonder written by Marc Tyler Nobleman with art by Ty Templeton. Presented as a childrens book, Bill The Boy Wonder tells the untold tale of Batman’s creation. By shining a light on who Bill Finger was, Nobleman’s extensive research led to Finger finally getting a byline credit whenever Batman appears. The book’s presentation is designed to allow as many people, of any age, to learn about Bill Finger – and it works.
Superheroes!: Capes, Cowls, and the Creation of Comic Book Culture by Laurence Maslon and Michael Kantor. Assembled as a companion piece to the three part PBS documentary series Superheroes, this volume chronicles the effect of superheroes on American culture through the various mediums they appear in, and conversely the effect of America culture on superheroes. Featuring more than 500 full-color comic book panels, covers, sketches, photographs of both essential and rare artwork, Superheroes is an in-depth look at this powerful presence in pop culture.
Super Boys: The Amazing Adventures of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster – the Creators of Superman by Brad Ricca. Published in time for the 75th anniversary of the Man of Steel, comes the first comprehensive literary biography of Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel, the co-creators of Superman. Brad Ricca’s Super Boys is the first ever full biography about Superman’s creators, and with more than ten years of research he made some interesting discoveries; the book reveals the first stories and pictures ever published by the Siegel and Shuster, where the first Superman story really came from, the template for Superman’s costume, and more than will be listed in this blurb.
The Art of the Simon and Kirby Studio by Joe Simon, Mark Evanier, Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. At nearly four hundred pages, this historical look at the art produced by the Simon and Kirby studio is a must for any fan of either artist. The reproduced comics allow you to actually see the corrections done to the artwork such as drawings over areas of white-out, the faint lines used as reference for writing the text, portions of the panels being pasted over with bigger pieces of paper with bigger corrected drawings, the yellowing clear tape… The look into the creative process of these men is captivating.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Visual History by Andrew Farago. Detailing the story of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles from their humble beginnings in black-and-white comics to where they stand now as four of the most recognizable in animation and comics, this book features interviews with the characters creators and other key figures in the Turtle’s ascendancy. With reproduction artifacts from the Turtle’s history, including their debut, this hardcover book is worth looking into for any fan of the pizza loving teenagers.
This is by no means a definitive list of books to look up, but merely a selection to get you started, and there are obviously many, many more great books out there to delve into; far more than I have listed here (you’ll find a few purely from Amazon’s suggested list after looking these up). But that doesn’t mean we should stop learning about the medium’s history, eh?
Next week’s Underrated will look at some other aspect of the comic book world.