Great Books About Comics
Summer Reading Club 2015 has begun and this year’s theme is “Every Hero Has a Story!” In honor of this theme the library is having a number of programs about all types of heroes, both real and super. There are many great superhero comics, but there are many great books about comics you should check out.
These are some of my favorites:
Super Graphic: A Visual Guide to the Comic Book Universe by Tim Leong
This awesome infographic book is both a comic book geek’s dream and a perfect introduction to a novice seeking an engaging introduction to comic book history. (Even though many pages may not make sense to all novices, at least they’re fun to look at!) The visuals Leong has created are bright, colorful, sometimes useful and sometimes hilarious.
Did you know that Green Arrow had a boxing glove arrow and that Hawkeye had a putty arrow? Did you know that Scrooge McDuck has more money than Tony Stark, Bruce Wayne and Richie Rich combined? You will learn so much comic book lore in this excellent book! My favorite infographics are A Venn Diagram of Superhero Comic Tropes, Joker’s Utility Belt (1952), How Long Characters Stayed Dead, and 70 Years of Wonder Woman’s Legs.
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
This novel, the winner of the Pulitzer Prize, tells an expansive and riveting story of American romance and possibility. The Escapist is a Golden Age comic book hero created by Joe Kavalier, a young Jewish artist, and his Brooklyn cousin, writer Sammy Clay. The Escapist and his adventures are formed by the personal experiences of these two young men: Joe is trained in art of escape like his distant relative, Houdini, and Sammy is hiding a dangerous personal secret. While Joe struggles to smuggle his family out of Nazi Germany while falling in love and Sammy struggles to survive his secret and achieve happiness, we reflect upon the real lives of iconic comic book hero creators Jack Kirby, Will Eisner, Jerry Siegel, and Joe Schuster, among many others.
Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art by Scott McCloud
Scott McCloud is the creator of Zot! and The Sculptor, two critically acclaimed works of graphic literature. In this comic book about comics, McCloud explores and explains how the art form works by drawing it through history. Drawing himself as the narrator leading you through the panels, you will see how a 900-year-old French tapestry can be read just like a comic, you will understand how “space does for comics what time does for film,” and you will appreciate the art form in a brand new light. After absorbing the contents, you will read your favorite comics in a new way, understanding how they truly work as a unique form of storytelling.
Supergods by Grant Morrison
This book is both a comic history and part insanely personal autobiography of Grant Morrison, writer of stellar comics such as Doom Patrol, Animal Man, All-Star Superman, and Batman: Arkham Asylum. Morrison goes into great detail about all the ages of comics from Golden to Dark; the significance of the design and art of the Action Comics #1 cover; how creating The Fantastic Four prevented Stan Lee from quitting comics in 1961; the greatness of Jack Kirby’s unfinished biblical techno-cosmic Fourth World cycle, and how his hallucination of “Alpha Centauri angels” while in Kathmandu became characters in All-Star Superman. Morrison is a grade-A weirdo in the best sense, and this book, while really goes in deep into his eccentricity, perfect encompasses its super-long subtitle: "What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, and a Sun God from Smallville Can Teach Us About Being Human."
The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore
The portrayal of women in comic books has been a very buzz-worthy topic these past few years, whether we’re commenting on the improbable representation of Spider-Woman’s figure or the new female Thor on nerdy blogs io9 or The Mary Sue. So the secret history of the most feminist comic book heroine comes at the perfect time!
Wonder Woman’s creator, William Moulton Marston, was a psychologist who created the lie detector test (inspiration for the Lasso of Truth), and who was greatly influenced growing up by the suffragist and feminist movement. He also had the big personality of a charlatan, often organized public stunts to go along his psychological tests, and was generally discredited in his psychological academic endeavors. His wife, Sadie Elizabeth Holloway, was the breadwinner for many years, until Marston got a job writing Wonder Woman -- due to his reputation as a one-time screenwriter and brief stint as a psychologist for Universal Studios.
All of these things together, plus his unconventional lifestyle with his wife and their companion Olive Byrne (niece of influential feminist Margaret Sanger and wearer of thick bracelets that inspired Wonder Woman’s own), lead to the creation of one of the longest-lasting comic book heroes.