Tuesday, June 24, 2008
The Great Comic Book Heroes (2003 Edition) by Jules Feiffer
I'm pretty sure I checked this book out in hardcover at a school library or two, but I was a kid, so I didn't understand why all those stupid words were set between the many classic comic reprints. As an adult, I bought Fantagraphics nifty softcover collection of "the Pulitzer Prize-winning author's classic essay on the four-color characters he thrilled to as a youth and that inspired him to become one of the 20th century's most renowned cartoonists." Without the comics, for $8.95, and worth it still. Though first published in 1965, Feiffer contemporary language and views are just as valid and intriguing today. Anyone with an interest in comic book history should do the same. What's great about the essay (running a breezy 80 pages,) is that where even the best books of this type lean toward the academic, Feiffer gives a no-bullshit, straight from the hip recollection of both 40's fandom and professional life. Imagine a temporally displaced Kevin Smith, classier and more acerbic, but still course enough to refer to Robin as "a fag" in good humor. Feiffer makes more insightful observations, from a unique perspective that can still inform readers today. For instance, did you enjoy David Carradine's speech about Clark Kent being Superman's pointed critique of humanity in "Kill Bill." Tarantino claimed he was quoting Carradine's own aside from the set, but Carradine himself stole it directly from Feiffer.
Adding to the appeal of the essay is the very appealing presentation, both in the spiffy cover by Bob Sikoryak, and the winning interior design of Preston White. DC has been making extensive use of Chip Kidd on recent projects that instill feelings of annoyance in me, as they're both pretentious and plain ill-considered. White meanwhile employs a very attractive design sense that only enhances the work. I haven't been picking up Fantagraphics' comic strip reprints, but I hear great things, and if White isn't a part of that team, he should be.
Anyhow, you haven't heard the last from me on "The Great Comic Book Heroes." I'll be using its chapters as springboards for some future columns. It really is a joy to read (I've done it twice this calender year,) and I can't recommend it enough.
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