Friday, July 19, 2013

"Almost at birth he contracted that most dreaded of literary diseases, monotony." Steranko's History of Comics

"We cannot die from obstacles and paradoxes, if we face them with laughter. Only of boredom might we perish. And from boredom, fortunately, the comics keep distance."

-Federico Fellini, who did not live to see DC Comics' Genesis

Thank goodness for the University's extremely limited library of material about comics, enabling me access the first volume to this well-known yet (like so many histories of the comics) out-of-print 1970 trend-setter. Knowing Steranko primarily as a comic book creator, I was curious to see how well he made out as a historian of comics of the 30s and 40s.

Steranko's personal interests certainly shaped this book; there's quite a bit of space given to Jack Kirby (including exclusive art), but why wouldn't there be? The troubles of Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster are by-passed; the worst thing said about Bob Kane is that he wasn't a very good artist. This book was written at a time when virtually every major creator responsible for the "Golden Age" of comic books was still alive and willing to talk to Steranko. Steranko offered up brief biographies of the creators and provided their quotes, but his primary interest was in the creations, not the creators.

I was certainly amused to find seven pages about the pulp novel antics of the Shadow in this, supposedly a comic book history! It's not that the pulps didn't influence the comics - Steranko certainly connects the dots between the two mediums - and the Shadow was influential in his own right. But seven pages? At least it's never boring; knowing as much as I do about comics but as little as I do about pulps, the pulp hero histories were a pretty lively read.

Often Steranko just fell into list-making which, compulsive list-maker that I am, I certainly related to. Each list was worth looking over as Steranko's wry humour often slipped out between sections: "The art looked like it was done by Bob Kane working left-handed." Zing!

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