The history of the modern comic book is often overlooked, and in many cases under appreciated. Now I’m not arrogant enough to pretend that in a 500-odd word post on a blog I’ll be able to give the subject the depth it deserves, but what I will do is tell you why you should give the history of the medium we love so much more thought that the typical “what issue did this happen in?”
While I am far from be an expert in the history of the medium, it does fascinate me, and it should fascinate you as well.
Learning about the struggles of the early comic book publishers, writers, and artists, has lead me to realize that their story is something that could very easily be retold in a comic. From the way Batman was created and tale of Bill Finger – the Legend That Should Be, to Stan Lee having to fire the entire Timely Comics bullpen (Timely later changed name to Marvel) twice, to the industry devastation of the book Seduction of the Innocent by Fredrick Wertham in 1954, and the senate hearings that resulted from the book.
There have been numerous books written about the subject of comic history, and I’ve been trying to build a collection of them – a personal library if you will – something that has over the past year become more and more of interest for me. Books such as Sean Howe’s The Untold Story of Marvel Comics, Marc Tyler Nobleman’s Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman, and Brad Ricca’s Super Boys: The Amazing Adventures of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster – the Creators of Superman.
These are, by no means, the only books you should read. Over the past two years I’ve amassed books that contain the year by year visual history of Batman, DC, and Marvel; a history of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; as well as an X-Universe history. I also recently acquired Superheroes!: Capes, Cowls, and the Creation of Comic Book Culture by Laurence Maslon and Micheal Kantor .There are many, many great books out there to delve into; far more than I have listed here, more than I currently have on my book shelf, and more than I think I can ever expect to own.
I’ve found a few documentaries out there that are worth the time – Turtle Power: Definitive History of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle, and Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope. The three listed above are by no means an inclusive list of documentaries and I encourage you to hunt others down, whether from an online store or your own choice of online streaming service.
The point I am failing to make is that there is a book out there to get you started no matter which publishing company holds your interest, all you have to do is look.
However you choose to learn about the history of the medium, about the creators and publishers that are such a huge part of our lives now, I encourage you to do it. Because I think not only does it help us appreciate where comics have come from, and what they have gone through, but that the creators of Days Gone By deserve to be remembered. What Went Before is just as important now as it ever was.
We just need to remember that.