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The Great Comic Book Heroes

3.99 of 5 stars 3.99  ·  rating details  ·  155 ratings  ·  23 reviews
Fantagraphics is proud to publish Jules Feiffer's long out-of-print and seminal essay of comics criticism, The Great Comic Book Heroes, in a compact and affordable size. In 1965, Feiffer wrote what is arguably the first critical history of the comic book superheroes of the late 1930s and early 1940s, including Plastic Man, Batman, Superman, The Spirit and others. In the bo ...more
Paperback, 80 pages
Published March 17th 2003 by Fantagraphics (first published 1965)
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One of my earliest books, now stored in a box somewhere in Michigan, awaiting retrieval. The anthology collected mostly creation stories, making this the pop counterpart of Edith Hamilton's Mythology. I remember liking The Fantastic Four (so recently sullied with crap-ass movies), The Spirit, Plastic Man, Wonder Woman (wonder why) and Submariner, who was until the 80s about the most sociopathic of superheroes. Captain America was in here, too, and of course, S- and B-man. My copy has this cover: ...more
Rich Meyer
The first real comic book trade paperback that reprinted old stories for fans features some good reprints of some old stories. The Spirit tale is a little soft in terms of reproduction, but there are some fun stories here. Make sure you buy the the hardcover from 1965 or the paperback from the seventies, as they have the reprints. The new edition and e-book does NOT have the comic book stories.

Without the reprints, this is not the best book of reminiscences about the industry, which is surprisin
Matt Dorff
I got this when it first came out (I was five! or something). Spent hours poring over the pages. The illustration style was from another era, but I found it thrilling. Just dug out my original copy (covers are beat up, but the interior pages are still intact) and began to revisit. All the more meaningful now that I am making graphic novels. I remember being most taken by The Spirit segment. It was clear even to my 5-year-old eyes that Mr. Eisner was something special. What a delight!
Feiffer's opening essays are funny and informative, from pretty much an insider's perspective. Then the comics are mostly origin stories and first adventures. Probably not interesting to someone who's not into comics, but if you are, it's all good to know.
David James
Feiffer's 1965 essay is widely regarded as one of the earliest critical works on comic books. And this being Feiffer, it is at once funny, serious, sentimental, snarky, and all too on target. Here he celebrates the junk he grew up reading on the eve of World War Two when the medium was first discovering itself and no one involved was thinking of anything more than their next paycheck. Certainly there was no comprehension that an entire mythology was being created by a bunch of hack writers and a ...more
The first history of comic books, cartoonist Feiffer, who later won a Pulitzer Prize, delivers a fascinating account of super heroes comics alongside some of the more obscure creators. For example, Detective Comics #1, the first National title that spawned the company's much better known by the nom de plume DC, received a full critique of the artists (future great Craig Flessel, pre-Superman Joe Schuster, text-heavy Tom Hickey, Caniff-wannabe Will Ely, and Mandrake-copier Fred Guardineer) and th ...more
This was at its best when it was personal and rather lyrically whimsical (both regarding his time as a fan and as a laborer in the field). Unfortunately though--Feiffer being Feiffer--he couldn't help but get all analytical and psychological about the whole business, which led to the usual specious mishmash.
Feiffer wrote this book, really the first serious look at comic books and superheroes back in 1965. It ignores the Silver Age because he is taking a walk down his own personal memory lane so it focuses on the Golden Age. In light of what we know now about a lot of the history of comics some of it seems anachronistic. Keep in mind that the Wertham "Seductionof the Innocent" debacle was still fresh. We now know that Bob Kane didn't create all those Batman stories himself and how Siegel came back t ...more
Arguably the first extended commentary on the literary and artistic virtues of comic books, this rightly famous essay has been acclaimed ever since. Written in 1965, it also serves as a history of the Golden Age of comics - but, rather than objectively, it's a deeply personal one, as told from Feiffer's childhood memories and point of view. This can sometimes frustrate, as he truncates or skips over subjects we'd like to hear more about, and his insights occasionally seem dated or mystifying (e. ...more
Peter Landis
It is often times hard to tell what is truth and what is simply embellishment in this book. All the same, it really does a wonderful job of establishing the beginnings of the comic book industry from the perspective of an insider.
Most frustrating aspect was how much is written from the author's personal opinion. (He liked it, therefore it's good. He didn't like it, therefore it's bad.)
I would have preferred something more removed from the author, more objective... but this is what we get.

And then some parts can get, well...
God, how I hated [Robin]. You can imagine how pleased I was when, years later, I heard he was a fag.

3 stars for historical significance, not necessarily for enjoyability or stand-alone value.
An inter
This was the first memoir I ever read... and loved.
Read this edition from Fantagraphics; then find out who wears socks in the comics.
Feiffer went to work in the comics industry as a boy, before becoming the author of his continuing work in the Village Voice. As a colorist, he decided to color in socks... on Will Eisner's lead character, The Spirit. Full of choice anecdotes, since retold by others, not so funny as Feiffer, a bona fide original.
Outstanding collection of short essays on the origin and evolution of heroes in comic books (not just super-heroes). There is little argument that comic book heroes fill psychological needs, but much more argument over which needs. A fascinating chronological analysis put in context of the social and economic landscapes of the time from a man who was a rabid fan and contributor.
Rob Salkowitz
An amazing, well-observed essay that, in 1966, essentially put comic books on the radar as a cultural artifact, not just worthless junk for kids. The original edition also included reprints of more than a dozen representative stories from the Golden Age, including an episode of Will Eisner's "The Spirit" that helped draw Eisner back into the industry.
Serge Pierro
This was one of the first serious looks at the art of sequential imagery that we call comic books. It covers the Golden Age of comics, and since I read the original edition of the book, it contains reprinted stories from that time period. An interesting look at the history of comics, at a time when comic book stores and such did not even exist yet.
Jason Cytacki
Short and to the point. For its length and date of publication it contains some really great insights into the superhero myth. Jules spends only a little time reflecting on his own memories and recollections and instead spends a majority of the book analyzing what about these heroes keeps us interested.
Great essay about the early days of comics and the joys of reading fun, junk when you're a kid. This essay was written in the 1970's when comics were still an esoteric pursuit, only enjoyed and appreciated by a small minority of adults. This gave the essay an especially interesting perspective.
wow feiffer's text is way more sexist, racist, and homophobic than i remember it being. still a good book to have around for the reprints tho.
Jun 05, 2008 Frank rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Teresa
One of the first "serious" looks at comics in an extended essay.

Very well written, thoughtful and fun.

Jan 28, 2013 Brynn rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2012
Interesting. Highly personal. Like reading someone's journal entries.
Bill Bleuel
Interesting, easy read on the early day of comic books.
James T
My bible as kid...still have it minus the jacket though.
pure junk but so great to look at and remember
Kaleb Goldbeck
Kaleb Goldbeck marked it as to-read
Jun 17, 2015
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Jules Feiffer is the acclaimed author-illustrator of several books for children, including BARK, GEORGE; MEANWHILE . . .; and I LOST MY BEAR; and the illustrator of THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH, by Norton Juster. Jules Feiffer is also a renowned editorial cartoonist, playwright, novelist, and screenwriter. He has been the recipient of an Academy Award, a Pulitzer Prize, a London Theatre Critics Award, an ...more
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