Hello hello hello!  I’m here to let you know that I’ve added a new page called “What Am I Reading Now?”  As my monthly reading list shifts and changes I’ll add and subtract titles from this page.  This will give you an idea of where I’m coming from each month and might give you ideas for books you want to try or things that you think I should try.

I figured that I would dedicate this post to this page’s inaugural run by giving a brief run down of each title and my feelings on them.  I’ve added *Do Not Miss* to the beginning of titles that I think are really worth your time and money.

 

*Do Not Miss* Adventure TimeKaBOOM! Studios

Adventure Time #25

This monthly book by KaBOOM! follows Finn, Jake, and  a whole cast of other crazy characters on their adventures through the land of Ooo.  This is absolutely one my favorite books each month (and easily my favorite “silly” book).  If you are  a fan of the show this comic won’t disappoint.  They seem to have bottled lightning and transmuted everything great about the show into a comic that is more fun than any other comic I’ve read.  I literally laugh out loud (lol for you hip internet kidz) when I read it.  Each main story run is between 3 and 6 issues long so they feel like extra long episodes of the show!  In between those runs are individual issues that feel just like an episode.  I can’t recommend this book enough!  If you’ve never seen the show check it out; if you have seen the show go buy all of these.

 

Adventure Time: The Flip SideKaBOOM! Studios

This is a monthly mini-series by KaBOOM! which is in keeping with their tradition of having a 6 issue mini series running in tandem with their main Adventure Time series.  I would say that Flip Side is the strongest of these mini-series yet.  It centers on Finn and Jake on a topsy-turvy adventure to convince a wizard to kidnap a princess!  I’ve enjoyed this book more than the other Adventure Time mini series but I think it will be the last one I get until one really jumps out at me.

 

* Do Not Miss* BatmanDC Comics

Batman #27

This monthly book by DC was a part of their “New 52” a few years ago.  Under the tutelage of writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo this book has easily turned into the best monthly series of the past 2+ years.  Even if you aren’t a huge Batman fan (I wasn’t) this book is well worth your time because of Snyder’s nuanced writing and Capullo’s gritty, dynamic art.  The real strength of this book has been the way that it reflects on the 75 year history of Batman and re-imagines the mythos.  It constantly reads the way Batman should read, looks the way Batman should look, and feels the way Batman should feel while simultaneously bucking your expectations.  Pick up a copy of Batman Annual #1 (written by Synder and Tynion, art by Fabok) and you’ll see what I’m talking about.  I can’t stress enough how good this book is and how good a mood I’m in any day I get to pick it up at the shop!

 

*Do Not Miss* Black ScienceImage Comics

Black Science #4

This monthly series by Image reads like old school sci-fi pulp for a modern era.  Honestly I picked this up after reading a review of #1 on ign.com which gave it a 10/10.  How could I not check it out?  And boy-howdy, let me tell you, I was not disappointed.  The thing that stands out most to me about this title is the unbelievable pacing.  It is a modern exploration in en medias res.  We come into the story right as things go wrong.  You are bombarded with phrases and concepts (anarchist league of scientists, trans-dimensional travel, the pillar) with no context but you never feel lost.  This allows the reader to be swept up in the excitement of dimensional exploration while having the back story filled in as you go.  Each issue is about 60% current action and 40% back story which feels impeccably balanced to me.  Another thing that made this a stand out for me was that this book hit right as Matt Fraction’s run on Fantastic Four was wrapping up.  It really shone for me because it felt like an adult version of what I wished Fraction’s Fantastic Four had been (on the other hand, his FF run was great).  They share similar themes: family, exploration, the boundaries of science and ethics…but Black Science does it better.  Give it shot if you like sci-fi and weird worlds.

 

Detective ComicsDC Comics

This is another monthly book by DC that was a part of their “New 52” and serves as a different kind of Batman book from Snyder’s Batman in a few key ways.  It tends to have much shorter story arcs that feature villains (and allies) broadly.  The first year was intentionally devoid of the Joker, who then reappeared in Batman during the “Death of the Family” story arc.  This gave the team time to focus on other Batman rogues such as the Dollmaker, Penguin (later Emperor Penguin), and Scarecrow.  This book seems to me to be more about action and detective work than character development.  And it is really fun in that way.  You don’t have to think much about it but the stories tend to be enjoyable and the art is varied and strong. Definitely worth checking out if you like the Batman.

 

Fantastic FourMarvel Comics

A brand new volume of the classic Marvel title, this new Fantastic Four seems to be taking a darker turn this time around.  I won’t lie, I love the Fantastic Four.  They have always been one of my favorites.  Something about the campy pseudo-scf-fi adventure thing really speaks to me.  Jonathan Hickman’s run on Fantastic Four (and then FF) is one of my favorite runs of all time of any book.  I was wary when Fraction took over and they re-branded/re-numbered under the Marvel NOW! initiative.  As discussed in my Black Science post, I was disappointed in how the title turned out.  That being said, I loved FF and wish that it was still going.  I hope that this new volume turns out well but I have my concerns.  Fantastic Four shines when the odds are stacked against them, yet they can band together as a family against those odds.  Typically dark story arcs feel out of place for me.

 

Hellboy in Hell – Dark Horse Comics

I’m not entirely sure the release schedule for this Dark Horse title.  There will be a burst of releases for 2 or 3 months then nothing for 6 months.  But Atomic Empire considers it a monthly title, so here it is.  Any and all Hellboy books have been favorites for me for a long time.  I discovered Hellboy when I was about 12 and bought every trade paperback I could get my hands on.  I started collecting the issues thereafter.  While they only come out sporadically, they never cease to be a book that pleases.  With Hellboy in Hell, Mike Mignola is back on the art which is glorious.  His use of shadow to obscure and accentuate detail is unparalleled.  The dynamics of his forms is practically animated.  Hellboy books have always tended toward the esoteric and generally read fairly sparsely.  But if you can commit to reading things that you might not understand at first, you won’t be dissapointed.  I tend to read each issue a few times and, once the series is done, read them all in series because otherwise there is a lot of subtly that will slip through the cracks while you’re waiting 1 or 6 months for a new issue.  If you like mythology and religion, Hellboy is a great comic for exposing yourself to cool beliefs and stories from around the world.

 

MiraclemanMarvel Comics

This monthly reprint of the classic Miracleman stories from The Warrior magazine (amongst reprints from other volumes) is published by Marvel who acquired the rights in 2009.  I wanted to check this out because Alan Moore wrote the Warrior issues and I love me some Alan Moore.  I was intrigued by the fact that he explores themes in Miracleman that are similar to Watchmen.  I’ve been enjoying the book but it definitely feels like it was written by a younger author, which is really interesting.  The writing is much more heavy-handed than later Moore work.  It’s good, but not by any means his best.  I’ll be curious to move forward into the issues write by Neil Gaiman.  I tend not to love Gaiman’s writing so I’ll have to see if I want to continue with it.

 

*Do Not Miss* Superior Spider-ManMarvel Comics

Superior Spider-Man #28

If you couldn’t already tell by the name of the blog, I.  Love.  Spider-Man.  He’s always been my favorite.  I like the costume.  I like the corny jokes.  I like the drama.  I like pretty much all of it (barring One More Day).  This is a bi-weekly series that tells the story of Spider-Man who has been mind-swapped with Doctor Octopus!  I was interested in the idea and not as resistant to it as a lot of Spider-Fans but I have been more or less disappointed with it until recently.  It took a while for Dan Slott to fully commit to the concept and there were some awkward issues at the beginning of the series with Peter’s consciousness exerting his will over Ock.  As the series moved forward, though, it came into its own.  Spider-Ock is not Peter.  He doesn’t tell jokes.  He is brutal, tactical, and uses words like dolt.  I can’t say that I “like” this Spider-Man, but he is fun to read in a cringe-worthy kind of way.  This latest story (which I believe is the last Superior arc before Amazing comes back) is called “Goblin Nation” and it has rekindled my passion for Spider-Man.  It’s back to the basics: Spider-Man vs. the Green Goblin with the twist of Ock vs. Osborne.  I’m loving it.  I do wish that the whole “Superior” thing had just been a long story arc within Amazing rather than giving it its own title, but I suppose that was to give us the impression that this was going to last.  Check it out, this last story isn’t one to miss.

 

Superior Spider-Man Team-UpMarvel Comics

I picked up this monthly companion series to Marvel’s Superior Spider-Man because I’m a firm believer that there is no such thing as too much Spider-Man.  This series has been strange.  It came out of the short lived Avenging Spider-Man which sort of reinvigorated the concept of the Spider-Man team up book.  I like team-up books.  They tend to be light and action filled and less story-heavy.  Since becoming Superior Team-Up, though, this book has actually been a pretty important companion book for the main series.  There is some overlap in the stories but mainly, due to the fact that this book has had a different writer than the main series, Spider-Ock’s personality has been different in this book.  While he was still being “good” in the main series, he was already scheming in this one.  It gave a glimpse into the sort of Spider-Man he was going to become.  I don’t think this title is much longer for this world but it has been a fun ride.

 

Superman UnchainedDC Comics

This is a more or less a monthly title by DC that I picked up simply because Scott Synder was writing and Jim Lee was on art.  I don’t typically love Superman.  I have some Superman stories that I do love but this is the first monthly Superman series I’ve ever bought.  Synder’s Superman is interesting.  He’s no dumb farm boy with black and white morals.  He kind of feels – not surprisingly – like Batman with superpowers…that operates during the day.  There has been an interesting exploration of the history and mythos of Superman (I believe this book was started to celebrate 75 years of the original superhero) which Snyder is really good at.  Lee’s Superman art is definitive for me and always has been.  In my head Superman and the X-Men are always drawn by Jim Lee, which I guess is a testament to when I was coming up.  It has been good but I don’t expect to continue with it after this first story arc wraps up later this year.

 

I hope this gives you an idea of where I’m coming from each month.  I know that several of these titles will be turning over soon for me so keep and eye on the “What Am I Reading Now?” page.  In case you’re curious today I’m getting Batman #29, Fantastic Four #2, and Superior Spider-Man #29.

I figure before I get all fancy and try to make stupidly generalized statements like, “The comic book is, in its roots, Jewish” or “Spider-Man is by far the best superhero p-e-r-i-o-d”, that I should provide a working background with which to approach the material.  I present to you Part 1 of a 3 part outline of the history of the comic book.

Part 1 deals with the period commonly referred to as “The Golden Age of Comics” or simply “The Golden Age”.  “The Golden Age” covered an extensive period of time, ranging from the spring of 1933, when the first-ever comic book was produced, until early 1955, the time immediately proceeding the passage of the Comic Code Authority (a shonda!).  I want to make it abundantly clear that by no means is this an exhaustive or even extensive look at the history of the comic book.  Whatever information I may present here came almost exclusively from Mike Benton’s wonderful The Comic Book in America: An Illustrated History.  If you are interested in finding the book, here’s a link to an Amazon.com sale of the paperback version.  I must also admit that while I love comic books, I am at heart a Marvel guy and, in this way, may tend to stray towards Captain America rather than Superman (Oy!).  Without further ado I present you with

The Golden Age (1933-1955):

1933– The first comic book, Funnies on Parade, was created by the Eastern Color Printing Company of Waterbury, CT.  It reprinted Sunday strips of popular comics such as “Mutt & Jeff” “Joe Palooka” and “Skippy”.  M.C. Gaines, Eastern Color’s best salesman (and the fella that came up with idea to begin with!), sold 10,000 copies to Proctor & Gamble as a mail in prize for customers who clipped and sent in coupons from their Proctor & Gamble soap products.  Within just a few weeks the supply was exhausted, showing the selling potential of the comic book.

Funnies on Parade

Oh my God! That looks so funny!

1936– Comic Magazine Company, Inc.’s Detective Picture Stories was the first comic book dedicated to one specific subject.  Guess what it was.

1937– National Periodicals (later known as D.C.) was formed when Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson partnered with Harry Donenfield.  Wheeler-Nicholson, plagued by constant debt, sold his interest and left in late ’37 leaving Donenfield in charge.

1938– Superman, the first superhero, was created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.  Appearing in Action Comics #1 in the early spring, Superman would prove to establish the superhero as the dominant actor of the comic book world throughout much of the Golden Age and beyond (and for that I am eternally grateful…even if Spider-Man is better…).

Action Comics #1

If you find a copy of this lying around you should totally send it to me…

1939– Batman premiered in Detective Comics #27 giving the comic book world a unique foil to Superman’s “golden boy” persona as well as the world’s first gritty, noir superhero.  Original material, both art and writing, was vastly outselling reprints of Sunday funnies, comic strips, and the like.  Martin Goodman, publisher of the popular Marvel Science Stories pulps, entered the industry.  Goodman hired Funnies, Inc., a popular comic book producing group, to create comic books for him.  Bill Everett and his studio produced Marvel Comics #1 which introduced the Human Torch (the first one) and the Sub-Mariner.

Detective Comics #27

Also this one.

Marvel Comics #1

Also this one…Y’know what? If you find any comics send ’em my way.

1941– The impending war invigorated the industry with fresh material.  By summer, Nazi bashing was all the rage, and who better to bash Nazi’s than Jack Kirby and  (Rochester’s own) Joe Simon’s “Captain America”?  Produced for Marvel (who was at the time called Timely), Captain America would become one of the most popular heroes of the ’40’s.

Captain America #1

Take that Hitler!

1942– Created by Charles Moulton (the pen name of Dr. William Marston, a psychologist) and Harry Peter, Wonder Woman embodied “the values he [Dr. Marston] held as a pioneer theorist of the women’s liberation movement of the 1940’s”.  Archie #1 also premiered this year, introducing America to its favorite teenager for the next sixty-eight (plus) years.

1944– Superhero’s hit their peak, with Fawcett’s Captain Marvel Adventures (you might know him as D.C.’s Shazam) having an all time high circulation of 14,067,535 issues!

1946– The newest trends in the wake of the (small) decline in superhero comic books were funny animals and comic book versions of both classics and true stories.  9/10 kids ages 8-15 read comics regularly.

1947– Romance comic books begin to gain popularity.

1948– Cowboy and crime comic books gain popularity.  In response to criticism about their products, the Association of Comics Magazine Publishers (ACMP) formed in July.  The idea of the ACMP was to self-regulate the industry.  It was too easily boycotted by companies that relied on violence and sex to sell their comics and fell through later in ’48.

1949– The Cincinnati Committee on the Evaluation of Comic Books found that “seventy percent of all comic books contained objectionable material”.  Thirty-two bills and resolutions were passed in sixteen states restricting the sale of comic books to children.

1950– William Gaines (son of the godfather of comic books himself, M.C. Gaines) and Al Feldstein turned M.C. Gaines’ “Educational Comics” into “Entertaining Comics”, more commonly called EC, a company that would pioneer the genres of horror, science-fiction, and (off color) humor in the early ’50s.  The beginning of the Korean War would affect the industry more considerably a few years later but at the time served as inspiration for new war comic books.  While technically inconclusive, a Senate Committee report investigating the effects of crime comic books on juvenile delinquency rates from 1945-1950 ultimately proved demonizing.

1951– Horror and science-fiction comic books gained popularity.

Shock SuspenStories #18

It’s OK you can keep yours, I actually own a copy of this one!

1952– Interest sparked by the Korean War caused increased demand for war comic books.  Horror and romance comic books were also at an all time high.  MAD #1 premiered this year, indelibly changing the face of humor comics (and modern humor) as we know them.

MAD #1

Now that’s what I call funny!

1953– The age of the superhero was officially over; almost all heroes were retired with the exceptions of the greats: Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman.

1954– An infamous year in the history of the comic book, 1954 proved to create the perfect trifecta of comic book crushing power.  First, Dr. Frederick Wertham, an outspoken critic of comic books, published Seduction of the Innocent.  This demonizing text allegedly showed the ill effects of comic books depicting crime, sex, and violence on children.  Next, the U.S. Senate Subcommittee to Investigate Juvenile Delinquency held a series of public hearings on the ill effects of comic books on children.  Finally, in the October of 1954, after succumbing to pressure, comic book publishers established the Comics Code Authority (CCA).  This self-regulating body imposed strict industry standards on all comic books, “[t]he Code’s emphasis was on eliminating all traces of crime, horror, violence, and sex in…comic books”.

CCA

1955– Due to the strict standards of the CCA, there was a more than fifty percent drop in titles and circulation.  Many companies who relied on crime, horror, and science fiction comic books did not make it through the next few years.

The Crypt of Terrot #17

Well that was a cheery place to end this timeline…But have no fear true believer–not to give too much away–but the superheros save the day (natch)!  In my next post we’ll take a look at my favorite period in comic books, “The Silver Age of Comic Books” and its subcategory “The Marvel Age of Comic Books”.  ‘Til then!