Thursday, April 2, 2009


I am still amazed that my small town library had a copy of Comix: a History of Comic Books in America back in the 1970's. At that time I was about 10 or 12 years old and this book was fascinating, lurid, and felt somehow naughty to a kid who read Marvel superheroes and DC war comics. Looking at the book now, I realize it was one of the earliest books to take a serious look at the American comic book.

This book features reprints of complete stories by most the medium's greats. The ones that made the biggest impression on me were Harvey Kurtzman's "Big If" from Frontline Combat, and George Tuska's "Baby Face Nelson vs. the U.S.A." from Crime Does Not Pay. Just the reprints from Warren Publishing line of horror magazines made this book a terrifying treat from my young eyes: "The Success Story," Archie Goodwin's and Al Williamson's classic tale of comic strip artist makes a few too many compromises to meet those deadlines, Goodwin and Joe Orlando's graphic Vietnam war tale "Landscape," and Wally Wood's "The Curse." Yes, Wood's art in that is a step down from his 1950's heyday, but it shines nonetheless. I think the naked girl cavorting through the story appealed to me too. The final page page of Reed Crandall's "The Squaw" (below) gave me nightmares. There was also a chapter on undergrounds that was my first exposure to Robert Crumb and Gilbert Shelton.

Another standout that freaked me out was Jim Steranko's masterwork "At the Stroke of Midnight" (from Marvel's Tower of Shadows #1). This book also supplied my first (knowing)exposure to Carl Barks with a great story about Uncle Scrooge and his money bin.

All the stories in Daniels' book just whetted my appetite for more. But back in 1973-1975 I wasn't even aware of comic fandom or the back issue trade. They didn't carry any of this stuff at the local 7-11. Later on, when Russ Cochran's EC Library volumes became available and I discovered a comic shop with back issues of Creepy and Eerie I was able to glut my appetite for this stuff. But until then, this was heady stuff for a 12 year old kid, and I'm grateful to the librarian who ordered this book and put it on the shelf where I could get to it.

1 comment:

JMM said...

I have the same exact memory of this book as you do. I still have it in my library, bought at Gateway Books in Tupelo Mississippi when I was 11 years old in 1974. Thanks for this concise and entertaining comments! Mike