I recently finished reading Fredric Wertham's Seduction of the Innocent for the first time and found myself in need of a little mental palate-cleansing. I first turned to The Great Comic Book Heroes by Jules Feiffer for the third time... sort of. That book was originally published in 1965, but I always think ot it as a mid-seventies thing because I received my copy for my tenth birthday. The book comprises text in the front, comics in the back. I made a really good effort when I was ten to read through the text, but I felt an almost physical tug from those brightly-colored Golden Age classics pulling me to the back of the book. I tried reading a chapter at a time but, frankly, ending up skimming them more than giving them a deep read. I did read enough of the Superman chapter to realize that Feiffer was pretty much full of $#!t when it came to his philosophy of superheroes (and was dismayed, decades later, when that philosophy was carried over into a popular film) but, apart from that, his book is written with such a joie de vie for comics that it makes a perfect counterpoint to Wertham's bleak Seduction of the Innocent.

The Great Comic Book Heroes was reissued in the early 2Ks (I think it was), but without the comics. I took that opportunity to "re-read it for the first time." But I didn't buy a new edition; I read my HC, in-depth for the first time, but was able to resist the temptation of the comics in the back (which I did read many, many times over in my youth and since). So this was my third time through (or second, depending on your point of view). I enjoyed it immensely, but it is very short and I found myself in need of more "mental palate-cleansing."

That realization led me to All in Color for a Dime, the 1970 collection of fanzine articles edited by Dick Lupoff and Don Thompson. Like Seduction of the Innocent, All in Color for a Dime has achieved nigh-legendary status (in certain circles). Also like SOTI, it had been out of print and difficult to obtain for a number of years. When it was reissued in 1997 I snatched it right up... then let it sit on the shelf for 25 years. I read one chapter per day of SOTI and posted my thoughts as I went along. AICFAD comprises eleven essays so, for the next week and a half, I plan to read and post my thoughts on one essay per day.

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6. "One On All and All On One" by Tom Fagan

The chapter written by Tom Fagan (best known to comics fans as the chairman of Rutland, VT's annual Hallowe'en parade) is about kid gangs. If there's one thing I dislike more than kid sidekicks, it's kid gangs, but I must admit Fagan covers them thoroughly: The Boy Commandos (and the knock-off Girl Commandos and Commando Cubs), the Little Wise Guys,, the young Allies, the Newsboy Legion, the Young Defenders and Boys Ranch. He also covers lesser-known "gangs" such as Little Boy Blue and the Blue Boys, the Four Comrades, Young Robinhood and His Band, Boy Heroes, Junior Rangers, Tough Kid Squad, Little Dynamite and His Gang and the Boy Champions. 

As further evidence of my assertion we are now living in a New Golden Age, the following kid gangs all have dedicated archival collections dedicated to their exploits: Boys Ranch, Boy Commandos (two volumes), Young Allies (two volumes) and Newsboy Legion (two volumes). Many of the other gangs mentioned in the previous paragraph are represented in other reprint volumes.

One thing I passed on back in 2006/2007 was two volumes collecting Walt Kelly's Our Gang from 1944-1945 and 1945-1946. I have his Christmas Classics and Springtime Tales (from 1987 and 1988, respectively) and I thought that (plus Pogo in comic books and strips) was enough. I have recently added a third precept to my two long-time rules of comic collecting ("Don't buy what you don't read" and "Don't read what you don't enjoy") and that is, "Buy it when you have the chance." Now I'll have to see if my primary or secondary LCS has it in stock or I can find it online. Here's what Fagan has to say about Walt Kelly's Our Gang.

"Mostly in fun was Walt Kelly's Our Gang which ran for seven years in Our Gang Comics, eventually giving way to Tom and Jerry. The series was based on the MGM short comedy series, but Kelly soon adapted it out of all resemblance.

"For one thing, he altered the Negro stereotype kid, Buckwheat, saddled on him by the movie version, to make him almost indistinguishable from the rest of the kids except by color. Bucky, as he became known, was one of the very, very few non-stereotyped Negroes in the comic books of the forties.

"Our Gang dealt mostly in comedy, but they occasionally fought Japanese, counterfeiters, and pirates, occasionally getting embroiled in multi-installment serials that took them far afield, even to headhunter country in the Amazon jungles.

"The strip continued until Kellyu dropped it to syndicate his (deservedly) successful Pogo, which he had developed in Animal Comics since 1942, simultaneously with Our Gang."

Again I am reminded that these essays were published in 1970 when Fagan notes: "the existence of Bucky beyond the years of World War II (the last issue of Young Allies was dated 1946) may prove confusing to historians of comic book lore. Because, when Marvel Comics revived Captain America in 1964, Bucky was gone. Marvel said he had been killed while diverting a buzz-bomb type missile back in the war days, which certainly shook the faith of those who recalled Bucky's adventures with the Allies, and with Captain America as late as 1954--long after the war had ended."

Fagan takes his treatment of "kid gangs" right up through the Legion of Super-Heroes, the Teen Titans and the X-Men.

Jeff, will you also be reviewing Lupoff and Thompson's second collection, "The Comic-Book Book"?

I'm enjoying the review of "AICFAD", and still have the copy I bought across the street from UConn's main campus in the late '70s; I've read very few of the stories described (and, honestly, found few Golden Age tales, reprinted in E. Nelson Bridwell's 100 pagers of the '70s, appealing, art-wise) but love "hearing" about the good ol' days, which is why I'm hoping you eventually review Mr. Silver Age's magnum opus "Baby Boomer Comics", which turned me back into a Silver Age fan, after many years of ignoring comic-books altogether.

"Jeff, will you also be reviewing Lupoff and Thompson's second collection, 'The Comic-Book Book'?"

Unfortunately, no, because I don't own a copy. If I could find one, though...

Although I do have a copy of Craig Schutt's book, I'd feel a little funny discussing it here since he has his own forum. If he were to lead a discussion of his own book, however, I'd gladly participate. Perhaps he even has it in a format that can be easily transferred to his forum and we could all read and discuss it.

Next on my reading list are Comic Books and Other Necessities of Life, Wertham Was Right! and Superheroes in My Pants!, all collections of Mark Evanier's "Point of View" columns from the Comics Buyer's Guide, however I hadn't necessarily planned on discussing those here, either. 

In his closing paragraph for "OK, Axis Here We Come" Thompson notes - "barring a sudden burst of the bubble...Human Torch, Sub Mariner and Captain America should be around for years to come..."  Did he ever imagine they would still be around 50 years later?

Jeff of Earth-J said:

"Jeff, will you also be reviewing Lupoff and Thompson's second collection, 'The Comic-Book Book'?"

Unfortunately, no, because I don't own a copy. If I could find one, though...

Amazon has many copies of both hard- and soft-cover versions at various prices:

The Comic-Book Book: Don Thompson, Richard A Lupoff: 9780870001932:...

Clearly, senility has set in. Got a Blazing Saddles reference wrong, too.

The Baron said:

"Doc Samson"

I'm gonna assume you meant "Doc Savage", Skipper.

We all have not-so-good days.

Thanks to Runt and Richard, it looks as if I will be reading an commenting on The Comic Book Book after all.

7. "A Swell Bunch of Guys" by Jim Harmon

This chapter is about the Justice Society of America. This entire book is written by a generation of fandom for which the minimum entry requirement was a complete run of the JSA in All Star Comics. Of all topics so far, this is one I wish had been written by another author: Roy Thomas. (He does have a chapter later on.) Harmon's essay started off on the wrong foot (with me) by identifying All Star #3 as a "crossover" (whereas I would use the term "team book"). I first read All Star Comics #3 (in "treasury edition" format) in 1975 when I was 11 years old (I definitely count that), and I eventually completed my own collection of the JSA in All Star (in "archive" format), and I definitely count that, too. 

Harmon focuses his overview of the series on certain "key" issues: #3, 4, 6, 8, 10, 11, 13, 15 and 38. He then jumps to The  Brave and the Bold #28 finishes off with JLA #21-22. He spends quite a bit of time discussing the metatextual requirement regarding certain members' demotion to "honorary" status. He provided a play-by-play description of #3, including the following assessment of Sheldon Moldoff.

"Moldoff was a very uneven artist. His best work--on Hawkman, and on another DC feature, the Black Pirate--showed magnificent design and draftsmanship. His worst--one recalls an EC feature, Moon Girl--could range from the merely uninspired downward through the utterly inept. Some critics have been so unkind as to suggest that Moldoff's good work was all the product of his "swipe file," an almost universal device used by comics artists keep up with particularly good work of their contemporaries--and that the bad work is Moldoff on his own. Perhaps. But let's be more charitablethan that, and merely say, again, that he was uneven."

I have long felt that way, and my opinion is reinforced every time I look at his Hawkman after becoming increasing familiar with classic Sunday comics such as Prince Valant. I thought it was just me! Here's another section I found interesting.

"Many comics, and particularly the costumed hero books, have been criticized for containing alleged perversions, thinly disguised pornography especially of a homosexual nature, which would presumably lead innocent children down twisted paths of unhealthy activities. Ninety-nine percent of these charges are a load of hogwash. If they reveal anything twisted, it is the minds of the critics who see such content where none exists.

"But when it came to Wonder Woman--the original Wonder Woman, I mean, not the drastically different version currently published--it would be hard to deny the charge.

"Wonder Woman and her friends were constantly being whipped, trapped, chained, and tortured with lovingly delineated leather harnesses, bonds, and restraint devices. Of course Wonder Woman eventually triumphed in each encounter, and in each encounter men were portrayed as either hulking hairy beasts, twisted, scheming dwarfs, or totally ineffectual weaklings. In the end, Wonder Woman would carry her helpless boyfriend, Steve, to safety like a toy, then dump him to exchange hugs and kisses of delight with the readily available Holliday Girls."

As he's wrapping up, he says, "Perhaps I've changed. Perhaps I've grown older and lost the innocent accepting quality of a child. Or perhaps the changing times are to blame. But even though these new stories were written by Gardner Fox and edited by Julius Schwartz, the Justice Society in its guest appearances with the JLA just does not match its old magnificence of the days and the pages of All Star Comics."

I'm sure there are some here who would take exception with that assessment. I disagree with that assessment. 

He can only be referring to the JSA appearances in Justice League of America, given when this essay was written. So he never saw some of the better work done with the characters, like the Mike Parobeck-illustrated series (Justice Society of America #1-10, 1992-1993), or the series by Roy Thomas and Dale Eaglesham (Justice Society of America #1-54, 2006-2011). Still, I find nothing wrong with the JLA/JSA team-ups, and they excited my mind greatly as a child. So I, too, disagree with his assessment.

When the first JLA/JSA two-parter was published I was immediately fascinated by them. Their costumes were clunkier, which made them very appealing. Later I would read more about them in fanzines and, of course, many of their later DC stories.

"...they excited my mind greatly as a child."

"I was immediately fascinated by them."

I think Harmon's assessment is an example of the "Golden Age is 12" school of thought.

(He mentioned being in elementary school when All Star #3 came out.)

This topic has inspired me to dig out my original copy, bought decades ago!  I bought this because I thought this would have info about the Marvel and DC comics I was currently reading. But thre wasn't really much about 1960s comics, it was mostly about what I considered to be old old old irrelevant comics, the Golden Age, an era I was not particularly interested in as a kid.   

Now of course I am very glad I still have my copy, even if it's a little worse for the wear. 

Great book!

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