Sunday, November 29, 2015

"Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters and The Birth of The Comic Book" by Gerard Jones

T.M.I...Too Much Information.

Gerard Jones' opus on the origins of comic book publishing, Men of Tomorrow, is excellent, but I think it might've been too much to take in...things happen for a reason..why did the guys who created Superman live like paupers for most of their lives? Why did the writer who helped create/develop Batman go uncredited? The book is full of answers...

It's also obviously influenced by Michael Chabon's then-trendy novel, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, which would've made a lasting impression on me if I hadn't read Tom Dehaven's superior Derby Dugan's Depression Funnies a few years earlier. It's an irresistible narrative hook: the story of four men - two became tycoons (Harry Donenfeld, Jack Liebowitz), the other two (Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster) created Superman, which should've made them rich, but didn't - drives the book, but there is room for Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Bob Kane, Bill Finger, Will Eisner, Mort Weisinger, Bill Gaines and (a man whom no account of the history of superhero comics would be complete without ) Frederic Wertham, who actually gets a fair shake from Jones, the most even-handed portrayal of the man I've ever read anywhere.

And...you get a good idea of the origins of the business model for publishing magazines and periodicals..I can't help thinking that the business hasn't changed as much as people would like to think...though Bill Finger is finally getting credited with Bob Kane for Batman, now, so that's a nice epilogue...maybe Jones could update the book someday to include that. It would be somewhat.. reassuring.

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