on 6 October 2012
This is an extraordinary book, quite possibly the best ever written about comic books, their creation and their cultural impact. Meticulously researched and rivetingly written. The lives of the creators of Superman, Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster, form a thread running through the book, and we learn about their early lives, the influences that came together into their creation of Superman, their initial failure to interest any publisher in the concept, the happy accident that led to the character featuring on the cover of Action Comics, the subsequent explosion of superhero comics, the truckloads of money that others made out of Superman, Siegel and Schuster's failure to repeat their first success, their fall into abject poverty, and their eventual rescue by comic-book fan-boys.
I've been a comic book fan for half a century myself, but had no idea just how many crooks ran the industry. Real crooks too, with links to some of the most notorious gangsters of their day, men who, before they started publishing comics, had made their money from prohibition, prostitution, pornography, illegal gambling, money-laundering and so forth. These were the men who founded the comic book companies, including DC and Marvel, and who continued to run them from the 1930s through to the 1980s. These were the guys who treated their artists and writers like scum, whilst getting rich off their creativity. Along the way, they bought off the police, judges, trade union leaders and anyone else they could bribe to oil the wheels of their industry. For anyone who thought that comics books were all about freedom and fantasy, this book is a real eye-opener.
We also, however, learn about the many writers and artists who gave us not only Superman but Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and a host of other heroes and box-office stars. The creators turn out to be characters as bizarrely colourful as the heroes they created. Author, Gerard Jones, however, delves behind the stories of these strange folk and gives fascinating insights into the times in which they lived, the environments that shaped them, and the impact they and the characters they created had on their own times and on subsequent generations of creators, fans and businesses. What unfolds is a story every bit as amazing as any comic book fantasy.
A superb book and a great read, strongly recommended for anyone with an interest in 20th and 21st century popular culture.
on 19 May 2016
In Chicago circulation 'wars' can be literally lethal: the one in 1912-13 saw the deaths of twenty-seven news vendors
Rarely can books be called definitive; this one definitely is. Stupidly over-written and excitable (I cherish comics as much as the next man, but the paean to 'the funnies' on page 68 is simply OTT) but at the same time stupidly readable, this is gloves-off, edge-of-the-seat stuff for the Clark Kent or Lois lurking in the heart of us all. Eighteen pages of bibliographic AND ORAL sources attest to the author's scholarship. Lou Fine (Black Condor, The Ray, subbing on The Spirit when Will Eisner was at war) puts in tantalising appearances (pp 139, 169) but sadly doesn't make it as far as the index
on 1 October 2010
I thought I knew a lot about American comics - who wrote them originally, who drew them, who edited them (even who INKED them). But after reading MEN OF TOMORROW, I realised how limited my knowledge was.
Gerard Jones' book is an absorbing and wonderfully informative read, charting the the biggest 'origin story' ever. These are the times and the places where mystery men, costumed heroes and super-powered crime fighters were born, creating fortunes for a few publishers at the top and (eventually) misery for a lot of the creators at the bottom.
Not a hoax! Not a dream! Not an imaginary tale!
If you're a fan, you must read this. It rewards in spades.
on 29 June 2012
A great book, detailing the hidden worlds behind our favourite silver age comic books, mainly focusing on the infamous battle in between Siegel and Shuster and DC Comics for the rights and recognition as the creators of Superman but with enough segues to make it pretty much a comprehensive account of the comic industry from the 30's to the 80's.
Very well written and researched. The only flaw I have with it is that there's an awful lot of people who keep popping in and out of the story's narrative who you have to keep remembering who they are and what they've been doing, along with even more people who will pop up for a few sentences, seem important and then disappear for the rest of the book. Of course this isn't the fault of the writer; if the real history was made up of hundreds of people, well the writer has to include those hundreds of people in order to be as accurate as he can - this is a non-fiction history book.
Very well written, very informative, well worth a read.
A three hundred and forty five page book [complete with notes on sources, two photo sections and an index] that tells, in fifteen chapters, the origin of the comic book industry and it's history from the 1930's to the present day.
It does this largely by focusing on a few characters, most notably the people who founded the early companies plus jerry siegel and joe shuster, the creators of superman.
This is a fascinating story, and it's told in very readable prose. It really gives you a sense of what it was like growing up in america in the 20's, and what life was like for those who got involved in comics when they became popular at the end of the 30's. And it's also a cautionary tale, because you won't believe the hardships that some of these creators suffered, all because they signed things they possibly shouldn't have.
A fascinating read for those who like comics. If you don't, read it anyway. It's a fascinating bit of history and it's a really good read
on 3 May 2011
Ever wondered how Superman came into existence? Ever wondered how his originators got shafted and caught up in the politics of the day and never received all their full royalties for all the radio shows, movies, merchandising and other spin-offs that Superman delivered to DC Comics? Read this book - it is all revealed, together with information about how all the major superheroes had their origins - cooked up in the middle of the night, slaved over and presented to the publishers with almost impossible deadlines met - low pay - no copyright protection - a tale of American capitalism and greed, but more than that, a beautiful story about how good ideas, idealism and good characters will survive despite all the obstacles. I loved this book - 10/10 to the author.