I don't know about you guys but I'm a sucker for books about comic books. I have a large number (probably more than twenty) and most of them are devoted to the golden or silver age. I'm always looking for more to add to the collection, and last week I found (whilst browsing on Amazon) "Superheroes! Capes, Cowls and the creation of comic book culture" by Laurence Maslon and Michael Kantor.  

I bought it from one of the merchants who sell used books on Amazon and got it for the princely sum of 4 pounds (that's about 6 bucks) and it arrived today.

It's a work of genius! Straightforward, jargon-free writing, taking the reader from the 30's, comic-strips and the advent of Superman, right up to the appearance of Obama on a Spider-Man cover in 2012. Superb images throughout including some that this reader had never seen before! Interviews with Steranko, Kubert and Adams help to make this a book among books.

This, together with "Men of Tomorrow" will henceforth be my top two of my book collection.

Anyone else collect books about comics?

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To tell you the truth, I was unable to read more than snippets of the original book. It was too hard to hold up and read for any length of time, and laying it down threatened to damage the spine. It really did need a stand, like those old Oxford Dictionary things, that would hold it open but not TOO open.

That's why I didn't buy the original -- it was so enormous. I was happy when it was going to be broken and expanded into five (still huge) volumes. The two I have are glorious, and I'm hoping to get the Golden Age one eventually. 

I have Gold and Silver, and this thread reminds that I'd like to buy Bronze. The completist in me pines for the "missing two." I fear I'll talk myself into buying the reprint.


Thomas Lupo said:

I have and read Levitz's 75 years of D.C. Comics.
Small doses and a strong back helped.

Paul just got in copies of the new version, and he posted a comparison between the old and new. Maybe the new size will prevent some injuries among (ahem) veteran fans.

I have a bookshelf of books about comic books, too. I have frequently cited the encyclopedias Michael L. Fleischer wrote, Encyclopedia of Comic Book Heroes: Batman, and The Great Superman Book (it was retitled to tie-in to the Christopher Reeve Superman movie). Somehow, I never got around to getting the Wonder Woman volume. All three have been reprinted recently, albeit in smaller size, and are well worth having. Unfortunately, the other books in the planned series -- on Captain Marvel, Plastic Man and the Spirit; The Flash; Captain America, the Sub-Mariner, and the Human Torch; and Doctor Fate, the Hawkman, Starman, and the Spectre -- were never published.

I've got Robert Greenberger's The Essential Superman Encyclopedia, which is useful in that it bridges the gap between when the Fleischer books end -- the 1970s, with a smattering of entries from the early '80s -- and the 2000s. It's not better than the Fleischer books in my eyes, but it has a harder task in having to incorporate all the "Infinite Final Identity Crisis at Zero Hour on the Brightest Day after the Darkest Night" changes to the DC Universe.

I also have:

  • All in Color for a Dime, the early history of the early days of comics.
  • Jules Feiffer's The Great Comic Book Heroes, which, oddly reprints only the first page of the first Captain Marvel story, owing to the then-still-ongoing litigation between DC and Fawcett over the character.
  • the first and second volumes of The Steranko History of the Comics.
  • Gerard Jones' The Comic Book Heroes: The First History of Modern Comic Books - From the Silver Age to the Present.
  • Brian Talbot's The Naked Artist: Comic Book Legends, which is full of behind-the-scenes stories about comic book creators and their behavior, good and bad, at conventions and other settings. Some of these stories take on urban legend status, but urban legends aren't always untrue.
  • Les Daniels' Comix: History of Comic Books in America, which I've read incessantly
  • Original editons of Stan Lee's The Origins of Marvel Comics, Son of Origins of Marvel Comics; The Superhero Women and Bring On the Bad Guys. Later editions swapped out some of the stories.
  • Brian Cronin's Why Does Batman Carry Shark Repellent?: And Other Amazing Comic Book Trivia! Cronin writes sefveral columns on comics lore for CBR, and it's all entertaining stuff. 
  • Good Days and MAD, Dick DeBartolo's memoirs of his days with the company.
  • Superman at Fifty: The Persistence of a Legend, which is full of essays about the character.

I also have a few books about the making of comics:

  • The DC Comics Guide to Writing Comics, by Dennis O'Neil. Unfortunately, it is marred by poor copy editing. There are other books in the series, that I don't have: The DC Comics Guide to Penciling Comics, The DC Comics Guide to Inking Comics, The DC Comics Guide to Creating Comics: Inside the Art of Visual Storytelling; The DC Comics Guide to Coloring and Lettering Comics.
  • Alan Moore's Writing for Comics. This is a reprint of an essay he wrote for a fan magazine back in the '80s. 
  • How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way, by Stan Lee and John Buscema. Moore puts down this book in his essay, but I found -- and find -- it invaluable. I learned a LOT from this book. 
  • The Scott McLeod trilogy: Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art, Making Comics, Reinventing Comics: The Evolution of an Art Form; Making Comics: Storytelling Secrets of Comics, Manga and Graphic Novels.

I know I have more, but those are the ones I refer to the most. 

Steve W said:

Please don’t think that this is morbid, but what will happen to my lovely collection of books about comic books when I die?  I’m 58 and I say this for a reason - my dad died last month, aged 82, and a death of a close family member always makes you question your own mortality.  Mum and I are stymied as to what to do with his large collection of books and we shall probably end up taking them to the local charity shop. This makes me ask myself - what will happen to my collection?  Will they end up at the charity shop too? No-one in my family likes comics, other than me. None of my friends care about or are remotely interested in comics. My wife doesn’t like them either. So, unless I make some sort of provision, these books will end up unloved and unwanted.

Last week I had an idea.  Maybe my local library would like them! My local library is gigantic - it caters for our local university student body as well as the population of Worcester.  I’ve emailed the chief librarian and asked if a bequest of books about silver age comics would be appropriate. She has replied asking me for a list of requisite ISBN numbers, but indicating that such a bequest would probably be looked on with approval. So my collection may end up staying together!

Maybe, but ... I saw a piece in the Washington Post recently about the main D.C. public library building, which will be closed for the three years for renovation and expansion. The article was about what's being done with the collection. Librarians are sifting through all of the books, videos, DVDs, etc., checking to see if they're in good shape, but also if the information within is outdated. Those considerations determine if the item goes to another library, goes to charity, or gets dumped: "Dilemma for Librarians: Keep Thousands of Books or Donate Them?"

I also have Brian Cronin's other book, Was Superman a Spy?: And Other Comic Book Legends Revealed.

There were three Comic Creators paperbacks I picked up featuring interviews with the writing teams through the years for Spider-Man, the FF and the X-Men if I remember correctly - some interesting stuff among them.

Yeah, I've noticed that myself. But lord, those are some awesome covers.

Captain Comics said:

The Steranko books are fascinating, and well worth owning. I have the originals and have desperately tried for decades to keep them from falling off their staples. (I guess I should sell them before they do.) But it's terrible history. You can't trust it, because it's essentially "history as Steranko saw it or heard it and spent an afternoon in a library looking it up." But he presents everything he "knows" as fact.

It was, though, one of the earliest efforts at a comprehensive comics history, and is to be praised for that. And it's useful for setting up a historicial framework. But, again, the books are not to be trusted. When I quote them, I always say, "Steranko says ... "

I don't think it's been mentioned in the list yet--The Ten Cent Plague is a great book about 1940s/1950s anti-comics crusaders and paranoia (depressing at times, but certainly informative).

And now I have several books to look for--thanks for the recommendations everyone.

I loved the write-up of "The Ten Cent Plague" on Amazon (as well as as above). So much so that I ordered a used copy of the book. It'll take 3 weeks to get here as it ships from the USA but I'm happy to wait. Thanks to Fraser for the heads-up.

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