11 April 2008


Geeks, Gangsters and the Birth of the Comic Book.
by Gerard Jones (Basic Books/Perseus, 2004)

Men of Tomorrow won the 2005 Eisner Award for best "Comics-Related Book." My old pal Marcus is a lifelong fan and collector of this uniquely American creation, and he gave me this wonderful book to read. I like when story-telling and history come together. Mr. Jones has the erudition and insight of a scholar as well as the chops to tell a riveting tale. The confluence of immigrants, organized crime, pornography, capitalism, and technology between America's World Wars, tempered by the Great Depression, fermented into a strange mix that gave us geek culture and the comic book hero. These two things, Jones suggests, are not only permanent features of our popular landscape, they endure in new forms that continue to shape the modern world. Men of Tomorrow is a re-write of the textbook--it gives you a new perspective on the American century by viewing events through the eyes of a couple of first-generation schlemiels. Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel invent Superman, then give it away, then spend their lives getting it back. In the meantime, history sweeps them into obscurity as their creation takes on its own life. Along the way we learn the whole story, not just of the comic book, but of the emergence of American popular culture. And we meet everyone from Margaret Sanger to Estes Kefauver to Meyer Lansky along the way. You should take this one out for a ride.

No comments: