All in Color for a Dime

Edited by Dick Lupoff and Don Thompson (Ace Books)
ISBN: 01625

(Krause Edition 1997 ISBN-13: 978-0873414982)

I tend to concentrate on the worth and validity of sequential graphic narrative, both as art-form and commercial medium, and only peripherally discuss its value as a tool of nostalgia. That’s not because it is of any lesser value, but simply a facet of the fact that nostalgia is an intensely personal and mostly subjective experience. Tintin may be a world classic but the size and feel of the oversized hardback album that instantly rockets me back to 1963 and swamps me in a sea of joyous re-sensations is something I can barely describe, let alone communicate.

But comic-books do have a shared culture: a communal history and geography, part internal landscape and continuity and part acquisition memory as thousands of dedicated fans simultaneously recall how they first joined our particular cult and culture.

This is the book that really kicked it all off for comics fandom and brought criticism of the art-form into a more professional arena. Professionally produced by fans for fans it dangled the dazzling prospect of getting involved and getting paid for it: of joining those people that made the comics. It said “It’s okay to love comics, and by the way have you seen these?”

It really began in 1965 with an industry insider: Jules Feiffer had published The Great Comicbook Heroes, a compendium and essay on historic characters of the early days of the industry, but this collection of recollections and reflections by a serious assemblage of fun-seeking writers spoke less to popular culture and more to the joy and wonder their vanished subjects had caused, and openly wished for their revival and return: these guys wanted to share the fun….

Complete with 16 pages of enticing full-colour cover reproductions and dotted with dozens of monochrome illustrations, it all starts with ‘The Spawn of M.C. Gaines’ an examination of the comic-book industry’s creation and its biggest stars Superman and Batman, from music critic, author and SF editor Ted White, whilst labour-leader, political activist and retired Military Intelligence officer Dick Ellington wrote compellingly of the innocent wonders to be found in Fiction House’s more adult oriented fare in ‘Take Me to Your Leader’, paying particular attention to the iconic Planet Comics.

Editor and author Dick Lupoff remembered the original Captain Marvel in ‘The Big Red Cheese’, Comics historian Bill Blackbeard described the glory days of Popeye in ‘The First (Arf Arf) Superhero of them All’ and journalist Don Thompson (who would dedicate decades of his life to the cause as editor of the industry’s greatest periodical The Comic Buyers Guide) conjured up magical moments with his recollections of Timely heroes evolution into Marvels in ‘OK Axis, Here We Come!’

Tom Fagan organised such successful comics-related Halloween pageants that he and his town of Rutland, Vermont became a part of four-color folklore themselves. In ‘One on All and All on One’ he outlines the history of the kids and kids gangs, writer editor Jim Harmon relates the history of the Justice Society of America in ‘A Swell Bunch of Guys’ and TV producer Chris Steinbrunner described the celluloid crossovers of comics characters in ‘The Four Panelled, Sock-Bang-Powie Saturday Afternoon Screen.’

Roy Thomas investigated the influence of Fawcett Comics legendary second stringers in ‘Captain Billy’s Whiz Gang’, writer and historian Ron Goulart explored the inexplicable appeal of ‘The Second Banana Superheroes’ and Harlan Ellison concluded the affair with paeans to surreal whimsy for the very young with an discussion of the incredible George Carlson and Jingle-Jangle Comics in ‘Comics of the Absurd’

This book opened the door for serious comics fandom, and possibly preserved what credibility the medium might have left after the painful over-exposure that came with the Camp Superheroes craze and Batmania. But it’s also a heartfelt and incisive examination of what we all love about comics and a book every fan and collector should read.
© 1970 Richard A. Lupoff and Don Thompson. All rights reserved.

The Adventurous Decade — Comic Strips in the Thirties


By Ron Goulart (Arlington House) ISBN: 0-87000-252-X
Softcover (Hermes Press) ISBN: 1-932563-70-9

Modern comics evolved from newspaper comic strips. These pictorial features were until very recently highly popular with the public and highly valued by publishers who used them as a powerful weapon to guarantee and even increase circulation – and profits. From the earliest times humour was paramount; hence the terms “Funnies” and of course, “Comics”.

Despite the odd ancestor or precedent like Roy Crane’s Wash Tubbs (comedic when it began in 1924, it gradually moved from mock-heroics to light-action and became a full-blown adventure with the introduction of Captain Easy in 1929), or Tarzan (which began on January 7th 1929) and Buck Rogers (also January 7th 1929) – both adaptations of pre-existing prose properties – the vast bulk of strips produced were generally feel-good humour strips with the occasional child-oriented fantasy.

This changed in the 1930s when an explosion of action and drama strips were launched with astounding rapidity. Not just strips but actual genres were created in that decade which still impact on not just today’s comic-books but all our popular fiction.

This superb book from author, historian and strip writer Ron Goulart is considered the definitive text on the decade. It outlines the development of the strips, the creators and the legacy of this most incredible creative period in the history of graphic narrative. Written with captivating enthusiasm Goulart describes the rise of Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon and many other science-fiction strips; aviation serials like Smilin’ Jack, Flying Jenny and all the rest; Westerns like Red Ryder and the Lone Ranger; Cops ‘n’ Robbers, Detectives and Spies (Dick Tracy, Charlie Chan, Secret Agent X-9, etc.) and straight adventure strips like Terry and the Pirates and all the wonderful rest.

The Adventurous Decade — Comic Strips in the Thirties

The Hermes Press paperback is produced in a landscape format with an addition 250 illustrations to supplement those in the hardback and highlights strips such as Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, Tarzan, Scorchy Smith, Dick Tracy, Terry and the Pirates, Prince Valiant, The Phantom, Brick Bradford, The Spirit, and Don Winslow as well as lesser known examples like Bronc Peeler, Tex Thorne, Roy Powers, Dan Dunn and Tailspin Tommy. The text is also littered with contributions from Noel Sickles, Milton Caniff, Roy Crane, Alfred Andriola, Dick Moore, Mel Graff, Leslie Turner, Roy Crane, Milton Caniff, Hal Foster, Alex Raymond, Chester Gould, Fred Harmon and Frank Robbins.

It’s virtually impossible for us to understand the power and popularity of the comic strip in America from the Great Depression to the end of the Second World War. With no television, far from universal usage of radio, and movie shows at best a weekly treat for most people, household entertainment was mostly derived from the comic sections of daily and especially Sunday Newspapers. Comic strips were the most common recreation of untold millions of people who were well served by a fantastic variety and incredible quality. This brilliant book recaptures that time with powerful effect. It is a book we should all read and hopefully it will show you just how great an entertainment medium comics can be.

© 1975, 2007 Ron Goulart. All Rights Reserved.

Jack Cole and Plastic Man

Jack Cole and Plastic Man 

By Art Spiegelman and Chip Kidd

(Chronicle Books)  ISBN 0-8118-3179-5

This eccentric tribute to the genius of cartoonist Jack Cole combines all the love and design skills of Spiegelman and Kidd with innovative print and paper techniques, a sharp biography and heart-felt appreciation of this inspired and tragic creator, and a wonderful selection of complete story reprints from Cole’s incredible fund of work.

The comic sections, printed of artificially browned newsprint — for that old comic feel — include The Eyes Have It (Police Comics #22, 1943), Burp the Twerp (Police Comics #29, 1944), Sadly-Sadly (Plastic Man #20, 1949), Plague of the Plastic People and Woozy Winks on Dopi Island (both from Plastic Man #22, 1950) and the legendary, if not infamous, Murder, Morphine and Me from True Crime Comics #1 (1947) cited often and tellingly by Dr. Frederick Wertham in his attacks on comics in the 1950s.

Although he would probably hate it said, Jack Cole is one of the key innovators in the field of comics and strip cartoons and this book is a fine tribute. Let’s get it reprinted right now!

Edition © 2001 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved. Text © 2001 Art Spiegelman

Nasty Tales: Sex, Drugs, Rock ‘n’ Roll and Violence in the British Underground

Nasty Tales

By David Huxley

Headpress: Critical Vision ISBN: 1 900486 13 X

The creative explosion of the 1960s and early 1970s has been largely forgotten these days, and never more so than in what used to be called “underground comix”. This slim volume, written by one of the lesser luminaries of the scene, traces the developments and points of note of a generally fuzzy period in the history of the comic strip, with lavish illustration and keen insight into how our side of the pond responded to “the Man” and his implacable foes Robert Crumb, Wonder Warthog, the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers and all those other forgotten immortals of the US counter-culture.

Extensively researched, clearly propounded and sporting what seems to a complete chronological listing of all underground and alternative comic titles published between 1966-1982.

Text: © 2001 David Huxley. Illustrations © respective owners and artists. All Rights Reserved.