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Comic Book History of Comics

4.18  ·  Rating Details ·  326 Ratings  ·  77 Reviews
For the first time ever, the inspiring, infuriating, and utterly insane story of comics, graphic novels, and manga is presented in comic book form! The award-winning Action Philosophers team of Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey turn their irreverent-but-accurate eye to the stories of Jack Kirby, R. Crumb, Harvey Kurtzman, Alan Moore, Stan Lee, Will Eisner, Fredric Wertham, ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published 2012 by Idea & Design Works Llc
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Jun 21, 2012 Kate rated it it was amazing
Shelves: graphic-novels
I was willing to give this book a try because upon skimming, I saw that it gave Dr. Wertham a fair analysis: far, far too many books about comic books paint him as an egotist out to ruin harmless fun. Van Lente and Dunlavey present not only all the medical and especially social work he did that formed the background for his incendiary attitude toward '50s comics, they also (both fairly, and hilariously--I about choked with laughter at some panels in the p. 84-85 spread [Archie Andrews and Superm ...more
Dov Zeller
This is a hard one to rate. It is a very dense, fairly interesting, unflaggingly homosocial history of comics, though it is not just one history, but overlapping, shifting histories, re-manifesting histories. By the end of the book it is clear that there are many ways to approach comic history and some versions could go back as far as several hundred years and some to the early nineteen hundreds (I would argue for cave paintings as another beginning).

How and when does an art form begin? Where d
Aug 14, 2014 Raina rated it liked it
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Of COURSE this is incomplete. Partial. A bit scattered. The entire history of an art form is difficult to contain in a linear narrative. I appreciated reading this for myself, as an overview of points in comics history I haven't studied before. I feel like I understand the ownership rights drama a little bit better now that I've read this. And have more fodder for my ongoing opinion-forming re: superheroes and their pluses and minuses and ramifications for amerikan culture.

Stewart Tame
Dec 13, 2015 Stewart Tame rated it really liked it
Very nicely done! Van Lente and Dunlavey do an admirable job of condensing comics history into a single volume without leaving anything major out. This is comics history from an American point of view. Europe, the UK, and Japan are touched on only with regards to the ways in which their comics have been received in the USA, plus any pertaining cultural background--for the UK, for instance, Mick Anglo's Marvelman is mentioned partly for the Captain Marvel influence and partly because of its impac ...more
Jul 24, 2012 Rick rated it it was amazing
Shelves: comics
Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey, creators of the unexpected and exceptional Action Philosophers, return to the nonfiction comics realm with this hilarious and insightful history of their chosen medium. Much like in Philosophers, the duo effectively uses exaggeration and humor. Van Lente employees asides and one-liners. Dunlavey relies on the best techniques from cartoonist forebearers. Perhaps nothing benefits more from this style than the events involving EC. They manage to display M.C. Gaines ...more
Ben Loory
Oct 28, 2012 Ben Loory rated it it was amazing
outstanding! i could feel my brain percolating. so much fun. just a ton of information and presented so well and clearly.

only now i feel a really expensive comics jag coming on...
May 02, 2013 Mario rated it it was amazing
This review originally appeared on my blog Shared Universe Reviews .

In approximately 220 pages, Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey somehow manage to write and draw the history of comic books. This was a huge undertaking and anybody even slightly familiar with the history contained in this comic will know that. For those who didn’t know just how audacious a project this one, looking at the sources index organized by chapters will surely go a long way in helping you understand. The history of comics
All in all, I was expecting the Comic Book History of Comics to be better. It's an interesting concept, presenting the history of comics in comic form, but sadly let down by the execution. First off, I can't say I'm much of a comic geek, so my grounds for evaluating the history part are shaky. That said, it seemed disjointed and slapdash. It also felt rather one-sided, as if someone set out to write the history of the Golden Age and Silver Age and the rest was almost an afterthought- the parts a ...more
Sep 29, 2016 Morgan rated it really liked it
Shelves: own
This covers a lot about the history of comics. Does this cover everything? No. Was I expecting it to cover everything? No. Covering every historical event in the comic book world would be nearly impossible to do I would think. With this you get what the creators found in most nonfiction. Of course I could give a list of things they forgot about, but it wouldn't be as interesting to read about things I already knew. I'm glad they focused on topics I wasn't that interested in and ...more
David Schaafsma
Oct 20, 2013 David Schaafsma rated it liked it
Shelves: gn-pedagogy
This is impressive, I guess, in the very achievement of a comic book history of comics, as Scott McCloud helps us see comic theory through comic form...I can't say I really liked it, visually, though I see what they are doing, to pay homage to the various styles across the decades... But I still didn't love it... and its smart, well-researched, snarky, smart-assed, but I can't say I ever laughed or even smiled much... it's a bit of work to get through, as useful as it is for serious comics histo ...more
Kevin Peterson!
Jun 11, 2012 Kevin Peterson! rated it it was amazing
Utterly fascinating, clever, and brutally honest. Rips the band-aid off the wound of most of the unspoken truths and keeps going. Everything (almost) is covered from Disney (yay!) to Tezuka to Crumb to Image to piracy.

The only comics "textbook" to actually touch on the history of comics that I know of. Isn't afraid to get dirty, but also doesn't choose sides (ie. Stan Lee/Kirby/Ditko/Marvel).

Required reading for any fan of comics.
Jun 08, 2012 Philip rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, 2012
Great exploration of the history of American comics (there is some info on European and Japanese comics, but it's primarily about the U.S.). Comics is a great medium for presenting information, so this is a good fit. It seems odd that it took so long for somebody to do a history of comics in comics form. I hope Van Lente & Dunlavey do more non-fiction comics to sit alongside this and their earlier "Action Philosophers Comics."
Derek Parker
Jul 12, 2012 Derek Parker rated it it was amazing
As with Action Philosophers, I got the individual issues of this title as they first came out. But reading the final product in toto is a different experience. This is a book I would like to teach, alongside Scott McCloud's, in an introductory comics class.
Feb 07, 2017 Nikki rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
This book is dense, but had me hooked the whole time. I feel like I understand the comic book world so much more. Obviously it can't cover everything, but seeing the way all creators, world events, trends, the economy and more all interwove to impact funny books is super interesting. Also, four for you, Jack Kirby. You go, Jack Kirby.
David Suiter
Oct 02, 2012 David Suiter rated it it was amazing
The Comic Book History of Comics by Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey presents the long and storied history of the comic book and graphic novel art form and the industry that spawned it in the only format befitting the true history of comics, a comic book. In this meticulously researched book you will laugh, you will howl and you will even learn a thing or two about comics in America and all over the world.

In this book, IDW Publishing has collected the six issue series Comic Book Comics originall
Whew! I had no idea this would be so dense when I started it, but I'm better off for it! I was surprised to see van Lente bring in bits of animation history where it overlapped with comics history and was interested to find out how much it influenced the comics industry. It picks up pretty quickly after that, covering such major events as the Seduction of the Innocence and the Senate subcommittee hearings, the creation of Marvel Comics, the underground comix scene, the battle over creators' righ ...more
Aug 07, 2012 Halley rated it it was amazing
This book was truly excellent. Having met the authors, I knew they were both extraordinarily knowledgeable comics fans but what sets them apart is their attention to detail and the level of research which they so obviously put into every panel. By the same team that produced Action Philosophers, this book was just as fascinating and just as eye-opening. I would recommend it to anyone who reads comic books (or wants to).
Sep 04, 2012 P. rated it really liked it
Shelves: comics, nonfic
This isn't the kind of comic you fly through - if I hadn't felt pressure from the other books I'm supposed to be reading I would have taken this even more slowly. There's a lot of information here, and even helped with the illustration (so handy at identifying recurring figures) it's hard to unpack sometimes. But worth it!
Dinuka Fernando
Mar 08, 2013 Dinuka Fernando rated it it was amazing
If you love comics and consider yourself a comic geek or you're curious of this strange world of comics, then this is the ultimate history guide in comic form. It's brilliant- pick it up and get educated!
Oct 09, 2012 Emily rated it it was amazing
Marvelous! Illuminating, analytical, with a lot of insight into how and why comics developed as they did, primarily in America, but also touching on Great Britain, Europe, and Japan. Has a great bibliography, but most of all, this book is hilarious!
PJ Ebbrell
Jun 25, 2012 PJ Ebbrell rated it it was amazing
Superb graphic content of mainly USA history of comics, although it does go further a field later on. A good early part on 1930s comic history and very sympathetic to that towering great of USA's comics - Jack Kirby.
This book took me longer to read than I ever planned. It's excellent but I never had the opportunity to actually sit down and read it. Fortunately ask my flights lately have afforded me such a time. I loved it!
Sep 30, 2012 MAD rated it it was amazing
Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey deliver an insightful illustrated journey through comic book history. The book is filled with pop culture observations. It takes you behind the scenes of the art studios and distros that have made comics what they are today. Worth reading for any comic book fan.
Sep 13, 2012 Peacegal rated it really liked it
Great idea for a fun-to-read history of the comics form, with lots of humor and visual gags tossed in for good measure.
Mauricio Muniz
Oct 03, 2013 Mauricio Muniz rated it it was amazing
Essencial para descobrir como foi criado e como funciona o mercado de quadrinhos nos EUA. Muitas curiosidades numa edição memorável. Recomendado!
Jun 19, 2012 Tammy rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2012
Very well done. Thorough and critical, the scholarship is only enhanced by Dunlavey's renderings in homage-style.
Nov 18, 2014 Bruce rated it really liked it
I have three basic criteria by which I judge comics quality, irrespective of genre. In no particular order, I ask myself whether a book has: (1) distinctive, striking, or otherwise effective or affecting art; (2) a coherent and compelling narrative; and (3) information density or literary sophistication (and here I'm using the word "sophisticated" to connote use of visual or textual elements in combination to convey multiple layers of meaning, not in the colloquial sense of "maturity," or as the ...more
Ed Erwin
Jan 15, 2017 Ed Erwin rated it liked it
This is more a "history of the comics industry" than a "history of comics". It talks more about publishing trends and publishing houses and fights over character ownership than it does about artistic style. And it is very much focused on the USA, with only a little content about Europe and Japan, and not very much about underground or independent comics. And that is OK, and interesting, but the title is a bit misleading.

In this telling, the creation of classic characters like Batman, Superman, A
Greg Pettit
Dec 18, 2013 Greg Pettit rated it it was ok
When I saw the premise for this book, I was immediately excited. A history of comics done as a comic book is perfect! It would allow the writer to show exact examples of what he was describing. Sadly, the artwork is quite poor, and rarely takes advantage of the medium.

The writing is mostly solid, especially considering the vast amount of material covered. It's almost like trying to write the history of music. Even if you focused on just Rock 'n Roll, you would have to explain the roots, tangents
Aug 20, 2012 Stephen rated it liked it
Well, you can tell that this book was made by a Kirby fan. The narrative stream starts out with the boy who would become 'Kirby' discovering a cover of a pulp decades before he would have any impact on comics in the 1960s, with his story continuing through his public complaints about work-for-hire status and his oft-forgot settlement with Marvel thirty years ago (yes, he settled, let's move on).

Eisner is depicted as someone who didn't really make it in the real comics, for God's sake, but who w
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Van Lente was raised by a mystery-loving mother (who preferred Dorothy Sayers to Agatha Christie, but we won't hold that against her) and a wisecracking Woody Allen-lookalike scientist father in what appears to be some kind of genetic experiment to write his first novel, TEN DEAD COMEDIANS, even though neither parent nor the son himself would know it for many years.

Van Lente spent his time betwee
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