Tuesday 22 May 2012

Weekly Treats! The Comic Book History of Comics & The Cape

I'm a big fan of Action Philosophers (Evil Twin Comics) by writer Fred Van Lente and illustrator Ryan Dunlavey as it beautifully distills some pretty complex philosophical ideas in a pacey, entertaining way. If it suffers from not exploring those notions in detail it's probably because sacrifices had to be made to avoid an already chunky book being twice the size but there are no such concerns with Van Lente and Dunlavey's new book The Comic Book History of Comics (IDW) which merely has to concern itself with charting the complete history of comics!

Starting with a cute list of characters and copyright information the story begins in 1896 and Richard F. Outcault's The Yellow Kid because, crucially, it featured not only illustration but conversation. And this, already, is why The Comic Book History of Comics is so good; yes it runs through all the important creators, publishers and legal battles that have shaped the medium (something anyone who's a fan should be aware of) but it also considers the nature of the beast. What are comics? How are they informed by a wider context? How does Spider-Man fit in with the Pop Art movement and the auteur theory in film criticism?

This really is as essential a book as Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics for appreciating sequential art in all its forms including the business of comics - the final chapter is entitled No More Wednesdays - and its changing philosophy. There's a shared pod cast interview with Van Lente at WordBalloon (see here).

I'd also like to recommend Joe Hill's The Cape (IDW again - well done folks!) which is actually an adaptation of a short story by Locke & Key writer Joe Hill by Jason Ciaramella and Zach Howard. It's a perfectly crafted tale of a boy who discovers that the cape that he uses to pretend to be a superhero enables him to fly. After an accident the cape is thought lost until, as an embittered adult he finds the cape and plans a violent spree. Something of a character study it's grounded, occasionally violent and thoughtful.

In the land of Weekly Treats Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham's Batman Incorporated #1 (DC) is the big release and Amazing Spider-Man #686 only sees Spidey facing the end of the World (Marvel)!

Full list under the tab at the top.

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