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The Great Comic Book Heroes

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  215 Ratings  ·  26 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 January 1st 1965)
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Aug 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: guilty-pleasures
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
Jun 02, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2014
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
Feb 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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!
Sep 27, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: comics, nonfiction
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
Apr 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: readers of all ages, fans of these fine creators and popular culture
Recommended to Brent by: this fine author and Atlanta-Fulton Public Library
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.
This great book is full of choice anecdotes, since retold by others, not so funny as Feiffer, a bona fide original. This was the first memoir I ever read... and loved: one of the great, formative books in my life, and I recommend it to everyone who loves literature. This, the origi
Oct 11, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: comics
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
Jun 03, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Sep 14, 2008 rated it liked it
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
Aug 04, 2012 rated it liked it
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.
Serge Pierro
Sep 14, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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.
Rob Salkowitz
Jan 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
Jan 18, 2015 rated it liked it
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.
Jason Cytacki
Nov 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
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.
Oct 31, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: comic-creation
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.
Apr 07, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, humor
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.
Kevin Findley
I found this book in my public library as a kid and checked it out as often as the librarian and my mom would let me. I read another copy recently and still enjoyed it just as much. Feiffer did a fantastic job in detailing not just the heroes but their creators and the world they lived in.
Jan 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Nov 05, 2016 added it
I liked this book
May 22, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: comics-and-comix
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.
Bill Bleuel
Aug 09, 2011 rated it liked it
Interesting, easy read on the early day of comic books.
Jun 05, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Teresa
One of the first "serious" looks at comics in an extended essay.

Very well written, thoughtful and fun.

James T
Sep 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My bible as kid...still have it minus the jacket though.
AK Mama Reads
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Jul 18, 2010
Brian McConahay
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Jul 15, 2016
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Apr 17, 2016
Zachary Harless
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Jun 22, 2015
robert stanley
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Feb 17, 2016
Nick Wurm
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Aug 10, 2014
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Apr 21, 2010
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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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