The comic book's early days have received heightened attention in the wake of Michael Chabon's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Kavalier and Clay, about the cutthroat businessmen and naive artists who then populated the industry. Although Jones' history limns dozens of the young writers and artists, most from working-class Jewish neighborhoods and many still teenaged, and the bosses who exploited them, its central figures are Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, who launched the superhero genre by creating Superman, only to sell the rights to the character for a pittance and spend decades in obscurity and near-poverty. Jones continues the story through the censorship that nearly destroyed the industry in the 1950s to the 1960s superhero revival that continues today. Jones' experience as a comic-book scripter, albeit decades after the period he chronicles, gives him the advantage over most previous writers on the comics milieu, and his vivid writing suits the subject. But it is his impressively thorough research that makes this one of the most valuable books on a distinctively American storytelling form. Gordon Flagg
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