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Author Topic: Jim Steranko's "History"  (Read 7207 times)
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Aldous
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« on: July 17, 2005, 03:45:38 PM »

I just picked up Jim Steranko's History of Comics Vol. 2 for seven pounds fifty. It's not second hand, so I can only try to imagine where it has been all these years before turning up buried amongst the other books on the basement floor of a comic shop.

When I was in my mid-teens, I found the first volume in a second hand bookshop, and I devoured it. It's a very entertaining and well-written book. I have always wanted Volume 2, and I'm sure you will know of the feeling of finding a book (or comic) you've wanted for years.

The only other book about comics I had as a kid was "All in Colour For a Dime" which my grandparents bought me. I'm not sure if the comic fans who have grown up with the Internet, or even American fans in general, would appreciate the significance of those two books, "All in Colour" and Steranko's "History" for someone living in New Zealand.

I loved comics as a boy (DC in particular) but I didn't really know much about the creators (although I knew their names and could pick an artist's work at a glance), or the great history of the comic book medium and its characters in America. I knew as much as you could know from having reprints of old stories -- but something like Steranko's great book was a godsend.

Now with the 'Net, you can find out everything about anything, even if it's just by asking someone.

But those "history" books were something special for me way back then.
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« Reply #1 on: July 18, 2005, 01:27:32 PM »

I agree, those books were fantastic.  "All in Color For A Dime" used to be advertised in the back of those old Warren magazines collecting Will Eisner's "Spirit."  I remember spending hours pining over ads for that book, collections of The Phantom and Flash Gordon, paperbacks of O'Neil and Adam's "Green Lantern/Green Arrow" and all sorts of other mysterious and, I was certain, wondrous tomes.  It wasn't til years later I found "All in Color."

Steranko's "History" Volume 1 I picked up at about age 10 when it was still in bookstores.  What an incredible read!  I remember whole passages where Steranko fired off name after name of superheroes who flashed onto the scene in the war years, had a moment of glory and then vanished.  Names like the Green Skull, the Fighting Yank, the Flame, the Hangman.  I wanted so badly to turn back the clock just for a day and visit a newsstand of the 40s.  And those covers...even in black and white, they were absolutely phenomenal.  That was actually a big part of the appeal of comics for me as a kid...the idea that it had a long history and that it would take me years, maybe a lifetime, to encounter all these characters and read all their adventures.  Just as some kids loved memorizing stats for baseball players from years past, I wanted to learn everything about those old forgotten heroes.  That's one reason I loved the JSA appearances so much, I guess.

And of course Steranko introduced me to the pulps, which have largely replaced comics in my affection and which, happily, are increasingly available in affordable reprints these days.

I read that book so many times it's falling apart.  This year I tracked down a "fresh" copy and got it as a birthday present to myself. Volume 2 I only found about 8 or 10 years ago, so I know how you must have felt finding it.

As for how it could have been there, I know that a limited supply of both volumes was unearthed about a decade ago and they started showing up in comics stores.  These were not reprints, but originals that had been locked away in storage somewhere for years.  They still had the original price tags of 4 and 6 dollars, respectively, but on average they went for 10 and 12 bucks.  Still a great bargain in my book.

The only recent history I've seen that came close to touching these was Gerard Jones and Will Jacob's "The Comic Book Heroes" from the mid-90s.  It kind of fills in the history where Steranko and Thompson and Lupoff left off; lots of Silver and Bronze stuff.  Great chapter on Weisinger-era Superman.

The only downer about the Steranko books is reading that list in the front of the book of "future volumes" that were never printed, and never will be.  What I wouldn't give to read them...
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Aldous
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« Reply #2 on: July 18, 2005, 07:55:45 PM »

My apologies for repeatedly using the English spelling of "colour" in the "All in Color For a Dime" book title. Of course it should be "color". I wrote that post in a rush with my money running out on the 'Net cafe meter, and it slipped under my radar.

Quote from: "Nightwing"
I remember whole passages where Steranko fired off name after name of superheroes who flashed onto the scene in the war years, had a moment of glory and then vanished. Names like the Green Skull, the Fighting Yank, the Flame, the Hangman. I wanted so badly to turn back the clock just for a day and visit a newsstand of the 40s.


Amen, brother. I had very similar feelings.

Interesting what you say about the pulps! I do remember being thrilled by Jim's descriptions of the "bloody" pulps. I went right out determined to find Shadow novels and I was only able to find two... He also fired me up to find "Gladiator" but it took me four years (this would be the days before Amazon), and even then it only turned up as a very old and battered copy from a major Australian library. I loved Wylie's novel, and I would never have searched for it if not for Jim Steranko. As I recall, he included some passages from the book which I found simply electrifying.

Quote from: "Nightwing"
That was actually a big part of the appeal of comics for me as a kid...the idea that it had a long history and that it would take me years, maybe a lifetime, to encounter all these characters and read all their adventures.


Hmm, yes...  :roll: ...the biggest "problem" of liking old comics! After reading Vol. 2 of Steranko I fully expect to develop a compulsion to buy the Archives for Captain Marvel and Plastic Man.
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« Reply #3 on: July 18, 2005, 10:32:03 PM »

This reminds me of the holy grail of comic history books and that is David Kunzle's two legendary monster volumes that go for insane ammounts of money on ebay nowadays.

One of my teacher had part one and I was in awe.

History of the Comic Strip, Volume I: The Early Comic Strip: Picture Stories and Narrative Strips in the European Broadsheet from c.1450 to 1825

The History of the Comic Strip, Volume 2: The Nineteenth Century

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« Reply #4 on: July 19, 2005, 04:25:55 PM »

Aldous, trust me you can't go wrong by getting the Plastic Man archives.  The Shazams are another matter; they're not so great, but should be getting great a few volumes down the road if they last that long.

If you're still interested in pulps, you should check out http://blackmask.com for (free!) downloadable versions of a great many (all?) Doc Savage and Shadow novels, plus -- hurray! -- a handful of Spider tales.  Also ERB's "Tarzan" novels and Johnston McCulley's Zorro, the pulps' two most "legitimate" and "respectable" creations.  And Rapheal Sabatini's great sea novels, and...well, lots of cool stuff.

Oh, and "Gladiator".  :lol:
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« Reply #5 on: July 20, 2005, 12:06:26 AM »

Quote from: "Super Monkey"
This reminds me of the holy grail of comic history books and that is David Kunzle's two legendary monster volumes that go for insane ammounts of money on ebay nowadays.

One of my teacher had part one and I was in awe.

History of the Comic Strip, Volume I: The Early Comic Strip: Picture Stories and Narrative Strips in the European Broadsheet from c.1450 to 1825

The History of the Comic Strip, Volume 2: The Nineteenth Century


Thank Rao my local University Library has these!
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« Reply #6 on: July 20, 2005, 01:49:14 AM »

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Thank Rao my local University Library has these!


I would suggest taking them out and reading them, they are amazing!


P.S.

PLASTIC MAN ARCHIVES VOL. 7 HC

Written by Jack Cole, art and cover by Cole.

Another amazing volume of peak-period Plastic Man stories by Cole at his zany best! This volume collects Plastic Man #7-8 and Plastic Man's adventures from Police Comics #66-71. Plas and Woozy travel way out West, meet Stretcho the India Rubber Man, visit Hollywood, tail a homicidal hat and more!

240 pages, $49.99, in stores on Oct. 26. 2005
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« Reply #7 on: July 20, 2005, 01:12:34 PM »

Quote from: "Super Monkey"
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Thank Rao my local University Library has these!


I would suggest taking them out and reading them, they are amazing!


That's the only reason I know they are there!   Cheesy Kunzle is still writing on comics, BTW.  He did a review on a book of "Platinum Age" comics from Spain for IJOCA.  I got my friend from Spain to get a copy based on that review.  Can't read it, really, but it's cool to have.  I love old comics!
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