Review: Baby Boomer Comics: The Wild, Wacky, Wonderful Comic Books of the 1960s
Baby Boomer Comics: The Wild, Wacky, Wonderful Comic Books of the 1960s
by Craig “Mr. Silver Age” Shutt, illustrated by Jim Mooney
published by Krause Publications
original publication: 2012
size: 14057KB (207 pages)
categories: comics & graphic novels – history & price guides
simultaneous device licenses: 6
part of the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library: yes
“Dr. Light’s goal, of course, was to take over the world. But he was no fool, he assured us — I mean, Snapper. He knew The JLA had to be disposed of first. To prove the point, he was depicted standing in his laboratory, clearly having a brainstorm:“Those champions of justice will never permit me to use my powers to dominate the Earth!” It’s no wonder Dr. Light became the master criminal he did, with such incredible insight at his command.”
writing in Baby Boomer Comics: The Wild, Wacky, Wonderful Comic Books of the 1960s
Brother Power the Geek, Streaky the Supercat, Reed and Sue getting married, Ringo wanting an autograph from the Metal Men, and the inimitable Herbie (the Fat Fury)…
If these bring a nostalgic smile to your face, true believer, then you’ll enjoy this trip down memory lane. ‘Nuff said.
Shutt writes well…respectful without being blindly adoring, fun, but with an important element of (dare I say it?) scholarship.
Fifty years on, there’s an advantage in not getting new stories to read every month. It’s actually possible to catch up, and to see trends that you otherwise might not notice.
For example, I didn’t at all recall Superman being kidnapped by Amazons (no, no…not the website, the evidently amorous warrior women) not once, not twice, but multiple times.
I also really like that Shutt didn’t stay with one publisher, but writes about DC, Marvel…and other publishers as well.
The articles are periodically illustrated with actual comic panels. Those work quite well on the Kindle Fire, by the way. You can “long press” (hold your finger or stylus on it for about a second) one of these pictures and choose zoom. Then you can zoom it more and scroll around, if you want.
Unfortunately, something that didn’t work well (and the book did say it was optimized for larger screens…I guess the Kindle Fire doesn’t count) was a series of trivia questions. I love trivia, and even though I wouldn’t have known a lot of these, I would have liked to have played the quizzes throughout the book. What happened, though was that the answer for a different question would appear below something you were guessing. Not only did that lead to some bizarre apparent answers (see below), it meant that I might have seen an answer before I read the question…not a good thing.
I’m going to give you two of the really funny mismatches, but I want to give you a spoiler alert first. You’ll see the answer to a question you haven’t seen yet, which is what happened to me with the book. However, I did think these two were hilarious!
Q. Who was the CHIEF battling when he lost his legs?
A. HIS RIGHT LEG
Q. What part of METAMORPHO”S body is brown?
A. THE NETHERWORLD
I’m guessing that those work properly on, say, a PC. However, since I got this from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, I couldn’t check that.
If you bought the book, you might also be surprised to find out that about 20% of it is a price guide. The problem with that is that prices change…while they could update the book, it does give me the sense that a fifth of the book is going to be obsolete in a year, which is a bit strange. Yes, there are comic book price guides that come out regularly, but that’s what they do…they aren’t mostly articles.
One other thing that some might see as a problem, but I found, well, charming. Since this is a collection of articles, you can see the repetition…like watching a marathon of a TV season in a day, rather than seeing them a week apart. Shutt points out the absurdity of the story lines sometimes by saying, “I don’t write ‘em, I just read ‘em.” I know that must happen when people read The Collected I Love My Kindle Blog Volume 1…I do use some of the same phrases in different posts (like “diapers and windshield wipers” to describe Amazon selling physical goods).
Those absurd plot lines are part of what makes this book great, though! There was a huge backlash against comics in the 1950s, really led by one person. Culture wars now have nothing on schools literally burning piles of comics and Congressional testimony (for an excellent coverage of this part of American history, I highly recommend The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America).
One thing that meant was that, partially in response to the Comics Code Authority, an industry had to reinvent itself. Artists and authors were given new rules. While you might think that would limit creativity, it can actually force new ways of thinking…it’s like playing a game.
Not everything came from that…Shutt also gives us insight into the business, since he has spoken with some of the driving forces. Why did so many Silver Age superheroes fight gorillas? It was because one particular cover with a gorilla on it had sold especially well. What about an editor giving two different writers the exact same cover…and publishing the two very different stories in different months? While that might have saved a few dollars (I presume the cover artists might not have been paid twice for the two issues), it’s still a fascinating creative exercise.
Overall, I enjoyed the book. Without the formatting problem with the trivia questions (and they may fix that at some point), I’d strongly recommend it. If you do read it on a PC, Mac, or iPad (or other larger screen device) and the trivia questions work fine there, I’d appreciate you commenting on this post to let people know. I tried getting a sample, but it didn’t go far enough into the book.
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.