Bruce Von Stiers
You might have read my reviews of Ron Goulart’s Groucho Marx mystery novels. Ron has written several Groucho books. He has also written other books and a ton of short stories. A book that Ron wrote a couple of years ago recently came to my attention. This is a non fiction book that was published by Collectors Press. The title of the book is Comic Book Culture: An Illustrated History.
The book starts out with an Introduction. You know from the outset what this book is about because of the first sentence in the Introduction. This sentence is “this is a book about pictures.” Ron then goes on to let you know that these pictures are from comic book covers of the 1930’s and 1940’s, the supposed Golden Age of comic books.
The book has 15 chapters along with the Introduction. It is done in full color with slick pages and is the size of a coffee table book. The book was copyrighted in 2000.
The first chapter, Famous Funnies, gives some of the history of how comic books came into being. We find out about The Katzenjammer Kids and Foxy Grandpa. We learn that comic books were often given out as premiums from gas stations. Trivia like the first time Tarzan graced the pages of a comic book is listed in this chapter as well.
Next up is Jumping On the Bandwagon. This chapter details how various publishers got into the business of putting out comic books. We learn about the steps Delacorte Publishing went through to produce some of their best selling comics. The chapter chronicles who did what in promoting comics to the general public and which characters were the most popular.
In Brand New and Original, Ron gives information on some of the adventure comics. Ron lets you know about comics like Detective Dan and Bob Scully, the Two-Fisted Hick Detective. Then the book moves on to the Golden Age of comics. Here you will find out about comic books like Action Comics, Detective Comics and Amazing Mystery Funnies. Some of the people who put together the first issue of Marvel Comics are listed.
As was mentioned earlier, this is a book about pictures. Throughout the book are full color pictures of comic book covers. These covers are of such comics as All-American Comics and All Select Comics (which featured Captain America, the Human Torch and Sub-Mariner on its debut cover). The date of the comic book cover and the artist who drew it are listed whenever possible. A good portion of the covers also have captions describing something about them. There are also asterisks next to the picture number to indicate the value of the comic book cover.
The book moves through the various stages of comic book publishing in the ‘30’s and ‘40’s. You find out things like the club kids could join to be part of Captain America’s team. This was in 1941, and membership included a loyalty pledge to defend the country and carry out any assignment given to the member in “time of national emergency.”
There is even a chapter on women who graced the covers of comic books. This chapter is called A Brief History of Good Girl Art. For the most part, these were hapless females who are being rescued by the hero of the comic. But comics like Phantom Lady, Rulah Jungle Goddess and Miss Fury has a wily female as the protagonist on the cover.
The back of the book list a brief bibliography and gives the copyright credits for various pictures in each chapter.
Comic Book Culture is not the complete history of comic books. It does give a capsulated view of the industry and what is deemed at the Golden Age of comic books. The comic book covers in the book are interesting and entertaining. You can see how the comics had progressed from being just something added as newspaper filler to being an entire industry.
To find out more about this book, or other Collector Press titles, visit their web site at www.collectorspress.com.