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5.0 out of 5 stars A true American art form gets the history it deserves, October 19, 2012
This review is from: Comic Book History of Comics (Paperback)
The Comic Book History of Comics by Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey presents the long and storied history of the comic book and graphic novel art form and the industry that spawned it in the only format befitting the true history of comics, a comic book. In this meticulously researched book you will laugh, you will howl and you will even learn a thing or two about comics in America and all over the world.

In this book, IDW Publishing has collected the six issue series Comic Book Comics originally published by Evil Twin Comics.

This wonderfully drawn and written history begins before comics were known as comics and carries on through modern times delving into the direct comic market and comic book piracy. The writer, Van Lente, and the artist, Dunlavey, don't just tell you the history of comics in a "here are the facts" sort of way. This book combines the words and the pictures into a deep narrative where each part tells you something about the birth and growth of the medium.

Using caricatures for some of the biggest comic book influences from Walt Disney to Jack Kirby to Will Eisner and Alan Moore the art gives the book its distinct look. Dunlavey's art is not limited to caricatures; each page is highly detailed and dense with art that tells the story of comic books. The pictures echo the words on the page reinforcing the history and giving a broader view of the events that words cannot convey.

Dunlavey's detailed style creates little moments within the narrative. It is the symbolism he uses to give greater understanding to the story. When the Comic Code Authority is introduced bringing about the end of American crime and horror comics in the 1950s, Dunlavey has a squad of storm troopers attacking the vampire caricature symbolizing comic horror. The storm troopers wear badges with the distinct Comic Code Authority `A' on their sleeves. Fine points like these create the metaphors that words cannot.

Van Lente tells the history at a stimulating pace. Covering the significant moments with depth and clarity using punchy dialogue that entertains as it recounts the details. Big events in the developments of the medium are given proper attention. Did you know that when Walt Disney released "Snow White" it had a profound impact on the development of comic books? This full-length animated movie put New York's top animators out of work and created a plethora of talented artists hungry for work. What was the medium the artists found? Comic books.

The creation of the Marvel Universe in 1961 also receives a great introduction to Stan Lee's changing of Timely Comics into Marvel Comics. Van Lente mimics Lee's bombastic dialogue as Lee toils with his future and desire to come up with something new that would either be his last hurrah in comics or the birth of realism in comic books. Dunlavey's art uses the iconic imagery of Marvel in the 1960s to hammer home Lee's enthusiastic thought process which led to the creation of the Fantastic Four.

The book is not limited to the creation of comic books but also looks at the stigma that surrounds comic books. Van Lente and Dunlavey explore why comics in the United States are viewed as immature and for children, where in Europe and Japan comic books are a form of high art and are revered by not just comic book readers but by the entire culture.

This stigma of comics can be traced back to World War II and the immediate aftermath. Just as American publishers were stifling their own creativity with the Comics Code Authority, Japan and Europe were developing new and innovative comics that covered all genres. Americans became great at making super hero comic books, but thanks to some anti-American sentiment and a desire to make their own art, Europe led by the French, and Japan were challenging what comic books can be. It is something American comics are trying to reclaim but struggle with to this day.

This book pulls no punches and talks about the seedy origins of comics and the unsavory characters that played a roll in creating some of the most beloved characters in comic books. Van Lente and Dunlavey present all arguments and sides to all stories in an understandable format. Topics from creator's rights, creative disputes, the Marvel Method, the underground comics scene and the black and white boom of the 1980s are all explored lending much to the wide and varied tapestry that is the history of the comic books. This history book will appeal to history buffs and comic aficionados and fans.
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Location: Los Angeles, CA United States

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