Sunday, April 2, 2017

The Comic Book History of Comics #5 (of 6)

   I've been enjoying this series, but with this issue The Comic Book History of Comics moves into dangerous territory.

   There are no topics that I know of that can cause more anger or acrimony betweens comics fans than the "how much credit does Stan Lee deserve" topic.

   I've seen lots of friction generated by the topic - in fact, those bitter arguments drove me away from several online discussion groups.

   One of the many problems with the topic is the fact that there are so many different stories based around the events that shaped the early days of Marvel Comics - the creation of the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, the genesis of the "Marvel Style" (where the artist worked off a slim plot and the script was written after the art was finished), and who created what.

   Adding to the difficulty is that some versions of events depicted here are based on joking comments made to fans, or as reported in stories written by journalists who didn't know much about comics (and thus included numerous mistakes), or are based on comments made by individuals with an agenda or an axe to grind.

   My general reaction, whenever someone proclaims "this is what happened," is to pose the age-old question: "Vas you dere, Charlie?"

   My suspicion is that those creators were just trying to do a job and keep up with brutal deadlines - it was later that artistic merit (or worse, vast monetary value) was assigned to work that was just a job that had to be done as quickly and efficiently as possible. I also suspect those artists enjoyed the freedom of being able to guide the story by the visuals - a system that obviously worked well from a business standpoint.

   OK, lecture over. I enjoyed this issue, although my perception is that it leans toward the "artists did it all" school of thought - but give the creative team credit for tackling a tough topic that is no doubt earning them lots of angry comments on the Internet.

   Quibbles aside, this is a terrific series that any fan of comics history should be reading.

Grade: A-


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