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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on June 7, 2009
Scott Tipton and Chris Ryall, two fans who ended up working in the industry (like so many other comic writers and artists) have teamed up to bring us the non-definitive work on one of America's great contributions to world culture, the comic book.

Intended more as a primer than anything else, Comic Books 101 takes us through an overview of the history of the industry, walks us through the typical artistic comic book production process, and gives us a solid, if occasionally too brief, background on the major characters, authors, and players of the past 60 years. Yes, there are Marvel and DC, Spiderman, Iron Man, Superman and Batman, the JLA and the Avengers, Jack Kirby, George Perez, Alan Moore, and a whole bunch of other historical bits.

Tipton and Ryall tend to keep things light and not overly pedantic, not being afraid to share opinions and personal recollections via sidebars or in-text mentions (when discussing the state of DC's hero Green Lantern, they end the chapter by stating things are "in our humble it should be."). This chattiness is both the weakness and the strength of the book. On one hand, the personal nature of the essays detracts from a more objective overview of certain subjects and might put off the hardcore fan wanting to know more about the Blackhawks or Nick Fury.* On the other hand, the writing style is perfect for engaging the casual fan or the true neophyte. Throughout Comics 101, the overall tone lets the reader know that these are two guys who truly love comics, and want to share that love with the rest of the world.

A particularly moving moment comes in the profile of a Marvel editor named Mark Gruenwald, responsible for much of Marvel's late 80s-early 90's success: rather than just giving us a capsule review of his importance, Tipton gives us a personal essay about Gruenwald, of how they met, and the importance he had not only within the industry, but in nurturing fans. Tipton's testimonial gives us a brief portrait of a man who knew how important the reader is to the medium, and it results in a meaningful, moving essay.

In addition to providing a safe, undaunting haven for the curious, Ryall and Tipton outdo themselves by providing a list of recommended reading--from graphic novels to deeper histories of comics in general. They break it down by character, company, and creator, and it's possibly the most valuable resource one could have for diving into the morass of comicdom, with its 60-plus year history and ever-changing emphases.

In many ways, this work, while not definitive, is definitely the best starting point I've ever been fortunate to read. The authors make the convoluted world of comics incredibly accessible, and for that, I salute them.

Comic Books 101 is highly recommended.

*Slight Disclaimer--I'm a long-time reader and (very)occasionally correspond with both authors via Tipton's site, and he's covered both the Blackhawks and Nick Fury in much greater depth in his weekly column.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on June 22, 2009
What a good book. On the way from the mailbox, I flipped through it and found a whole bunch of "No kidding, I didn't know that" factoids, and I have been reading comics for 35 years now. Written by fans, but in no means fannish, this is a book that the old jaded collector and the non comic reader will enjoy.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
I bought a copy of this book for a teenage friend who is becoming a VERY good comic artist. I figured it would help her to have a definitive history of the field. I read through most of the book before wrapping it (one benefit of giving books as gifts--nobody knows you sampled the goods!) and truthfully, I sort of wish I wasn't giving the book away. Not because it isn't good, but because it is SO good.

I'm not a big comics fan. I like them, but I don't get excited about 'em. However, this book is just loads of fun even for someone who reads comic strips in a casual way. I really enjoyed the history of the Superman comic, such as learning how his parents' first names changed over time, or his gradual acquisition of various superpowers. I never followed Wonder Woman (sorry, fans!), so I liked the overview of her backstory. I chuckled at the bio of Stan Lee and what he accomplished. And I loved looking at all the photos of comic book covers, especially since I remember how much trouble my brother got for owning some of these in the 50s. ("They'll rot your brain!" my parents declared.)

As a result, I'm likely to buy another copy of this book to give as a holiday gift. Maybe a few.
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on August 29, 2011
The original creators of Superman got ripped off and were never paid much. Stan Lee is not the real name of Spidey's creator. Wonder Woman originally rescued an injured US. Army Airman and returned him to Walter Read hospital in her invisible plane. Scott Tipton and Chris Ryall share these and myriad other comic book facts in "Comic Books 101."

I enjoyed reading "Comic Books 101." If you are the superhero fan type (I actually am not) you will LOVE this book. The authors have compiled myriad facts and history about even the most minor of superheroes. Their history of the early beginnings of the comic book industry in the U.S. is especially interesting.

Their superhero focus forces them to give short shrift to modern comics such as "Fables" and they give only a brief summary of Manga. I would have loved more pictures, but these must be hard to get permission to use. The pictures of classic comics they do include are amazing exhibits of key points in comic book history.

If you're already a comic book junkie, you'll enjoy this book to fill in any small gaps in your knowledge. If you're relatively new to the comic scene, or rekindling your interest as an adult, you will also enjoy this volume.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on May 28, 2009
I've been a fan of the Comics101 website for a long time. Been a comic fan even longer, going back to the early 70's when I was just learning to read. Scott and Chris are my people. When it comes to a comic book trivia throw down, unless your name is Mark Waid, I think I have a chance. Got Comics101 the book in the mail yesterday and read through it last night. Great book. They did recycle some of the old posts, but expanded them with new info and more history. Learned some stuff I didn't know. Good looking book, lots of classic panels and covers, plus some original art. Touched on some of the more contentious issues in Comic Book history without taking sides. If you love comics, you should take a look.
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on March 23, 2013
This book was awesome! It covers DC, Marvel, Disney, and all of the major independent comicbook companies, the best graphic novels, recommended reading, bios of creators, opinion, facts, and even reviews of every comicbook movie and TV show up to 2008! There's an introduction by Stan Lee, and a great epilogue that nicely rounds off the book. It's a great book for lifelong comics lovers AND newbies to the comicbook world. An absolute must-have for anyone and everyone interested in comics.
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on January 27, 2012
Comics 101 is a great reference, whether you're new to comics or a long-time reader. This is not a guide to collecting; this is a reference to the history of comics, focusing on the prominant people, brands and characters, along with recaps of the notable movies and television versions of comics. The writing is both informative and entertaining. I learned a lot and it piqued my interest in characters I've never read.
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on January 4, 2012
A great survey of comics and the comic industry. This book strikes a good balance between providing interesting background material without getting bogged down in minutia. Provides information on the history of the industry, the origin and evolution of the major characters and super hero teams, the various roles required to create a comic, and the history of TV and movie adaptions. A fun read!
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on August 5, 2011
i thought i knew alot about comic books but this opened my mind to a whole another world. it was really cool to learn about the writers and artists from the past that so often get over looked. if you are a true comic book fan then i recommend this book. its an easy to understand read and insanely informational.
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on July 25, 2011
this book was like a trip down memory lane. i read all kinds of comics, any thing i got hands on. thank you! really love this book
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