- Paperback: 80 pages
- Publisher: Fantagraphics Books; Reprint edition (April 13, 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1560975016
- ISBN-13: 978-1560975014
- Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.4 x 8.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 14 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,575,310 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Great Comic Book Heroes Paperback – April 13, 2003
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From Publishers Weekly
Feiffer ends his fabulous 1965 essay on comic book history with an argument that comics are "junk," but that junk is good, even necessary. Taken on their own terms, comics deliver exactly what they should: base, escapist entertainment. This work was first published as a hardcover volume accompanied by 127 pages of color reprints, now omitted. The new, slim volume is a personal and critical history of the medium from 1937 to the early 1950s, mixing Feiffer's impressions of comics, and labor in them, with a powerful history of the business. He begins by recounting his love of comic strips, then dissects the appeal of the first comic books: "The daily strips, by their sleek professionalism, held an aloof quality which comic books, being not quite professional, easily avoided. They were closer to home, more comfortable to live with, less like grown-ups." He follows the comic book medium as it births Superman, Batman and all of the rest and cheekily examines various art techniques. Feiffer also looks at the comic book/juvenile delinquency controversy of the 1950s and the effect WWII had on the medium. His commentary is still relevant (and still among the best) today because it explains comics' appeal panel by panel, making immediately clear why this "junk" is so exciting. In the final chapter, Feiffer describes his own late entry into comic books (he worked for Will Eisner, of Spirit fame) with awe and regret.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
It belongs in every fan's library, and this is an excellent way to pick it up painlessly. -- Craig Shutt, "Ask Mr. Silver Age", Comics Buyer's Guide, 16 May 2003
One ofif not the first ofthe early writer/artists to emerge from the comic book ghetto into the literary/art world. -- Will Eisner, creator of The Spirit
The first book to discuss comics seriously....it is fascinating. -- Atomic, Fall 2002, Lloyd Chesley
The modern, non-editorial-page cartoon of social and political commentary was pretty much invented by Jules Feiffer. -- Booklist
Today's cartoonists owe huge debts of gratitude to Jules Feiffer. -- Los Angeles Reader
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Feiffer writes several pages of introduction that trace both the history of comics from newspapers to comic books and his own development from a child infatuated with everything about comics and super heroes to an adult writer/cartoonist.
I grew up following the adventures of many of the comic book super heroes he presents here. (Comic books were in their heyday and cost 10 cents.) By the time I was "into" comics, these super heroes were already well established and their super powers were taken for granted. In THE GREAT COMIC BOOK HEROES, Feiffer includes many of the comic book sequences that reveal how these super powers came to be. Here's some of what I learned from Feiffer:
Superman, as most of us do know, was sent to earth as a baby from a planet whose destruction was imminent. Inhabitants of that planet were all endowed with what, on earth, were super powers.
Batman didn't really have super powers. From the time when, as a child, he saw his parents killed by gangsters, he trained his body and mind to function as a crime fighting machine.
The Human Torch was, in fact, not human. He was created in a lab.
The Flash got his superhuman speed as a result of breathing gas fumes during a lab accident.
The Green Lantern got his powers from a green ring made from a magic green lantern.
Captain America got his super powers from an injection of a secret formula. He was supposed to be one of many superior beings created to fight "the Nazi menace," but the scientist who invented the secret potion was killed by the Nazis before he could make any more. He took it's "recipe" to the grave with him. Thus, only one super hero, Captain America.
Plastic Man got his super powers from another lab accident in which he was exposed to a mysterious acid.
These are but a few of the Super Heroes, in their original comic book form, included in Feiffer's book. These, in particular, fill in missing backgrounds for me.
In these old comic books there was no confusion. There were "us good guys" and "those bad guys." And guess what - the good guys always triumphed.