Good non-fiction books about comic books?
July 23, 2006 1:17 PM   Subscribe

Anybody know any good non-fiction books about comic books, their publishers, their history, etc?
posted by Runkst to Media & Arts (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
This is a good one, though it's short. If you can, find the old hardcover edition that includes some stories.
posted by interrobang at 1:25 PM on July 23, 2006

I really enjoyed Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud. It is written in comic form. Don't let that deceive you, though. The book is quite academic. It has information about the history of various comic forms. It's real focus is creating a unified theory of what comics are and how they work.
posted by rex dart, eskimo spy at 1:27 PM on July 23, 2006

Ack, curse you rex dart, eskimo spy, I was about to post that. Very recommended though.
posted by zabuni at 1:28 PM on July 23, 2006

This one is also excellent, though it's only about Marvel.
posted by interrobang at 1:29 PM on July 23, 2006

Excuse my misplaced apostrophe. I was typing in a hurry. I shouldn't have even used "It's". Read it as "The real focus of the book is on creating a...

posted by rex dart, eskimo spy at 1:29 PM on July 23, 2006

I have Wright's Comic Book Nation, the afore-mentioned Understanding Comics (and sequel, which is not as good, in my opinion), and I've also looked Arguing Comics: Literary Masters on a Popular Medium (edited by Jeet Heer and Kent Worcestor), which contains essays by people like Umberto Eco, e.e. cummings, Marshall McLuhan, Leslie Fiedler, and others.
posted by synecdoche at 1:35 PM on July 23, 2006

While it's not exactly a book, Life of Reilly is a book length account of the writing of a Spider-Man story arc. It really delves into the ugly side of writing and publishing comics.
posted by bobo123 at 1:36 PM on July 23, 2006

If you are interested in the origins of the comic book, Steranko's History of Comics (vols. 1 and 2) are out of print but are extremely detailed and readable accounts of comics in the thirties and forties. It is arguably the standard reference for the comic book historian.
posted by Mr. Justice at 2:14 PM on July 23, 2006

Are Stan Lee's "Origins of Marvel Comics" books still around? I loved them as a wide-eyed teenager though they probably seem corny to a discerning adult.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 2:22 PM on July 23, 2006

Scott McCloud: Understanding Comics
Scott McCloud: Reinventing Comics
Will Eisner: Comics and Sequential Art
Will Eisner: Graphic Storytelling

There was also a recent special on The History Channel called "Comic Book Heros Unmasked" that is a good overview of the history of the industry. Of the above, Understanding Comics is by far the best. (Standing on the shoulders of giants, of course. The Eisner texts listed are heavily quoted.)

From what your interests seem to be, downloading the history channel show from BitTorrent (or TiVoing it, for that matter) and picking up Understanding Comics would be your best bet. You would have a good breadth of knowledge about the history of the industry, as well as a better than average understanding of, shall we say, "comic theory." If you're more interested in the nuts and bolts of things, then you should certainly move on to Eisner, as he provides what might be considered the "ur texts."

Also, in fiction, you'd be WELL rewarded (on many levels) if you read The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon. Chabon, as always, is amazing, and the major conflicts, characters, and history of the modern comic book industry (starting with Superman) provide the backdrop.
posted by absalom at 3:21 PM on July 23, 2006 [1 favorite]

Men of Tomorrow by Gerard Jones is an excellent history of how superhero comics came to be. It goes into great detail about the people behind what became National Comics (now DC) and also about Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster's creation of Superman.

There's more to the book than that, but the Superman and National Comics stuff really shines.
posted by ursus_comiter at 3:55 PM on July 23, 2006

I found "The Physics of Super Heroes" to be surprisingly interesting. It hits on the history of superheroes, but from the point of view of a physics professor.

"Men of Tomorrow" was good too, but focuses mainly on the Golden Age.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:51 PM on July 23, 2006

I'll pimp for Brad Wright's book, even though he and I disagree vehemently on some things.
posted by polexxia at 5:11 PM on July 23, 2006

Please don't buy comics stuff from Amazon, people. Support the dealers such as Fantagraphics and Art Bomb. Don't use Amazon as the one-stop solution for everything.
posted by JJ86 at 6:01 AM on July 24, 2006

Come in Alone by Warren Ellis is a good one. Sorry JJ86 doesn't look like it's available at Fantagraphics or Art Bomb, unless I missed it.
posted by citizngkar at 8:04 AM on July 24, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for the great suggestions!
posted by Runkst at 1:26 PM on July 24, 2006

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