comics history Archives - Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources
Whether or not you realize it, you’ve likely enjoyed the work of comics historian John Wells for several years, given his long-term relationship with DC Comics. More recently, his wealth of comics knowledge has come to the forefront through his involvement in TwoMorrows Publishing‘s American Comic Book Chronicles. The series tackles comic book history dating back to the 1940s, typically dedicating a decade to each full-color hardback installment. When it came to the 1960s, Wells and series editor Keith Dallas opted to split the decade into two volumes, given the amount of history that occurred in that era.
The first 1960s volume, which covers from 1960-1964, was released early last year. Wells’ second 1960s installment, American Comic Book Chronicles: 1965-69, was released in late May. After discussing Wells latest foray in the latter part of the 1960s, the interview shifts to Dallas. In my conversation with Dallas, we focused on American Comic Book Chronicles: 1970s, which he edited with Jason Sacks; it’s scheduled for release in late August.
To get a taste of the books, be sure to check out ACBC’s Facebook page, where snippets of the series are previewed — and discussions of comic book history are a regular educational occurrence. Kudos to TwoMorrows and the ACBC Crew, whose 1950s volume of American Comic Book Chronicles (written by Bill Schelly) was recently nominated for a Harvey Award.
To celebrate Marvel’s 75th anniversary, this fall Taschen will publish 75 Years of Marvel: From the Golden Age to the Silver Screen, a mammoth inside look at the company written by its former editor-in-chief Roy Thomas.
Edited by Josh Baker, who worked with Paul Levitz on 75 Years of DC Comics, the 720-page hardcover spotlights not only Marvel’s most famous characters, but also many of the writers and artists who gave them life — focusing largely on the creators from the 1960s’ “Marvel Age of Comics,” like Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Don Heck, Jim Steranko, Marie Severin, John Romita, John Buscema and Gene Colan.
Using the British Library’s “Comics Unmasked” exhibition as a springboard, the Department of History and Classics delves deep into history for a selection of medieval manuscripts that could certainly be considered as early comic strips.
The library’s Medieval and Early Manuscripts Blog gives a shoutout to the 11th-century Bayeux Tapestry, characterized by Bryan Talbot and others as “the first known British comic strip,” but the curators don’t stop there. For instance, there’s the Holkham Bible Picture Book (1327-1335), with its beautifully colored sequences from both the Old and New Testament, which is “sometimes described as England’s first graphic novel.” Julian Harrison, the library’s curator of early modern manuscripts, points out that it even employs banners for dialogue, much like word balloons in modern comics.
Publishing | I talked with TOON Books founder Francoise Mouly about her new imprint, TOON Graphics, which will feature “visual books” (picture books and comics) for readers ages 8 and up. The line launches with three titles: Theseus and the Minotaur, by Yves Pommaux, Cast Away on the Letter A, by Fred, and Hansel and Gretel, retold by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Lorenzo Mattotti. [Publishers Weekly]
Commentary | Former DC Comics senior editor Joan Hilty tackles the issue of sexism in comics and calls for publishers to include more women in their senior editorial rank:. “Women are getting the bestselling books into stores and greenlighting the million-dollar movie franchises, but they’re barely represented among the creative executives who map out the universes and storytelling strategies. That’s where you cement broad-based, long-term loyalty to authors and characters, tap new audiences and trends, and grow readership, without which none of those books or movies would exist.” [The Guardian]
It’s safe to say few were sorry to see the Comics Code Authority quietly fade away in 2011, having become literally no more than a stamp on the covers of a handful of titles, but it was nonetheless an important part of history.
Sean Howe, author of Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, realized this three years ago and sent a letter to Heidi MacDonald, asking who had the files of the Comics Magazine Association of America, the trade association that administered the Code. While Howe thought the records had vanished, Mark Seifert was told they were donated to DC Comics.
This week, Howe reiterated his appeal on his blog:
Running from May 2 to Aug. 14, “Comics Unmasked” traces the history of British comic books, from the 19th century to the present, exploring how they’ve addressed such subjects as violence, sexuality and drugs while breaking boundaries.
Passings | British cartoonist Gordon Bell has died at the age of 79. He was a contributor to DC Thomson’s children’s comics, including The Beano and The Dandy, in the 1960s and ’70s; his creations include The Bash Street Pups. After that, he went on to become a political cartoonist (under the nom de plume Fax) for the Dundee, Scotland, newspaper The Courier, which is also apparently owned by DC Thomson. Lew Stringer has posted a sampling of his work at Blimey! [The Courier]
Passings | Another U.K. creator who drew for weekly children’s comics, Anthony John “Tony” Harding, has also died. While Bell’s work was on the goofy side, Harding drew soccer stories for action-packed boys’ comics such as Bullet, Hornet and Victor. His best-known gig was as the artist for “Look Out for Lefty,” the story of a hotheaded soccer player with a skinhead girlfriend, which got a bit too close to reality with its depictions of violence during soccer games. Again, Lew Stringer posts some of his work. [Down the Tubes]
A historian believes he has identified the designer of the Bayeux Tapesty, an 11th-century embroidered cloth once characterized by Bryan Talbot as “the first known British comic strip.”
Embroidered on linen with colored woolen yarns, the 230-foot “tapestry” consists of about 50 scenes depicting the Norman conquest of England in 1066. Although some scholars have long theorized it was commissioned by Bishop Odo of Bayeux, half-brother of William the Conqueror, the name of the actual designer has been elusive.
But now Medievalists.net reports that in a paper published in the journal Anglo-Norman Studies, Howard B. Clarke credits Scolland, abbot of St.Augustine’s monastery in Canterbury, with the work.
Feeling the need to expand your comics knowledge? Worried that you don’t know Rodolphe Topffer from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer? Fearful that you might make a serious gaffe at your next sequential arts cocktail party?
Good news, help is on the way: The Sequential Artists Workshop, or SAW, located in Gainesville, Florida, is holding an online class on the history of comics. Taught by John Ronan, the class will go from the 1750s through the birth of the comic strip in the early 2oth century, with a focus on early humor magazines like Puck and Judge.
The class begins Aug. 27 and will be held live on Tuesdays, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., through Dec. 20. The cost is $99.
History | Scholars will present their research this week on The Glasgow Looking Glass, which is believed to be the very first comic book, at the International Graphic Novel and International Bande Dessinee Society Joint Conference in Glasgow Published in 1825, the work is a satire of early 19th-century Scottish fashions and politics. [ITV]
Retailing | Aaron Muncy, owner of The Comic Shop in Decatur, Alabama, is matter-of-fact about his business: There isn’t much of a kids’ market, he says, and he has no time for collectible comics: “Since it’s worth so much money — it’s just straight to eBay and get rid of it. I’ll leave it in the store for a week or two if I pick it up, just to give my customers a chance but it’s worth too much money to have sitting around.” [WAFF]
Following the video on Friday, The Cleveland Plain Dealer’s celebration of the 75th anniversary of Superman kicked into high gear Sunday with seven more stories, including a front-page feature.
Superman was, of course, created in 1933 by teenagers Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, who lived in the city’s Glenville neighborhood (spotlighted in that Friday video), and then sold in 1938 to Detective Comics. The newspaper’s anniversary coverage includes:
• A timeline (of sorts, although it’s more like a game board) of Superman’s 75-year history, from his arrival on Earth to his first encounter with Beppo to his relaunch in DC Comics’ New 52
• An interview with Brad Ricca, author of the upcoming Super Boys: The Amazing Adventures of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster — the Creators of Superman
In addition to all of that, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson has proclaimed Thursday “Superman Day.”
Legal | Forbes profiles Michael Wolk, a lawyer who’s organized the financial backing for Stan Lee Media’s prolonged, and so far unsuccessful, multibillion-dollar lawsuits against Marvel and Disney over the rights to the characters co-created by Stan Lee. Wolk’s primary investor is Elliott Management, one the nation’s largest hedge funds. SLM, which is no longer affiliated with its co-founder and namesake, asserts Lee didn’t properly assign ownership of the works to Marvel, and that Disney didn’t file its Marvel agreement with the U.S. Copyright Office. “We are in the right here,” says Wolk, who’s not actually a Stan Lee Media shareholder. “No court has ever addressed or ever decided who is the owner of the characters — all of the prior litigation got dismissed for reasons that have nothing to do with who owns the characters.” [Forbes.com, via The Beat]
Sean Howe, the author of Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, regularly shares artifacts from Marvel’s history on his Tumblr, and this week he posted a memo from 1972 that details where the characters fell in the pecking order–with each ranked as “very important,” “important” and “not as important.”
It was January 1955. Dwight D. Eisenhower was in the White House, Adventures of Superman was on television, and in sleepy Galesburg, Illinois (population 31,425), the local Exchange Club had seized upon one goal: the eradication of comic books that might fuel juvenile delinquency.
Writing for The Register-Mail, Galesburg County Library archivist Patty Mosher delves 58 years into the city’s past when, spurred by a National Exchange Club circular, the men of the local service organization set off to root out objectionable publications that targeted children and teens.
Sure, the “Galesburg cleanup,” as it became known, wasn’t as flashy as the mass burnings of comic books seven years earlier in Binghampton, New York, or as officious as the Cincinnati Parents Committee’s annual ratings reports.
But by gosh, it was well-organized!
Censorship | At least one comic, alas unnamed, was among the thousands of books removed this week from a Turkish government restricted list. Most of the bans were widely ignored anyway, but Metin Celal Zeynioglu, the head of Turkey’s publishers’ union, pointed out one important effect of lifting them: “Many of the students arrested in demonstrations are kept in prison because they’re carrying banned books. From now on, we won’t be able to use that as an excuse.” [The Australian]
Publishing | Tom Spurgeon’s latest holiday interview is with Shannon Watters, the editor of BOOM! Studios’ children’s comics line, which includes Adventure Time, Bravest Warriors and Peanuts. [The Comics Reporter]