Tuesday, 23 June 2009

[203] Supermen! The First Wave of Comic Book Heroes Review

I'm really interested in Golden and Silver Age comics, but one of the problems with trying to get 'into' that huge span of the medium's history is that if the comics are reprinted, it is usually with the hardened collector in mind. Hardcover Archive editions are the norm, often priced upwards of £40-£50, collecting a chronological span of the hero or publication in question. There are few cheap, well-produced colour anthologies that cherry pick and sample. Fantagraphics have put together a good little collection of Golden Age strips in Supermen! - it has flaws, but it is very well-intentioned and looks lovely. Read my review for Den of Geek below.

Chances are that, unless you're a self-confessed comics obsessive, you probably wouldn't be able to name more than a handful of comics publishers. It is probably due to the monopolised nature of the comics industry, where totemic, decades-old franchises rule the roost, that condescending parents, lovers and other innocent bystanders may have only heard of DC or Marvel Comics. It didn't always work like that, however, and there was a time when the comics landscape was a lot more varied - with Superman and Batman having to compete with other colourful characters from publishing houses such as Novelty Press, Fiction House Magazines, and Chester, Centaur and Fox Publications.

In the foreword to Supermen!, a beautifully designed volume of early American comics from Fantagraphics Books, Jonathan Lethem asks the reader 'Who was your first?'. Meaning superhero, of course. One of the tidier, mainstream accounts of the rise of the comic book tells of Superman revolutionising the nascent medium in June 1938's Action Comics #1.

Read the full article here.

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