In the depths of the Depression, out of the crowded tenements of New York and Cleveland, the comic book superhero leapt into being. Out of a mix of geekiness, science fiction, and outsider yearning, a crew of young men from working-class Jewish neighbourhoods and shady backgrounds created a series of blue-eyed, chisel-nosed crime fighters and adventurers who quickly captured the imaginations of young and old. Within a few years their creations had spawned a new genre that still dominates youth entertainment seventy years later.
Gerard Jones’ book is exhaustive in its portrayal of the origins on the comic book industry, starting with the childhoods of those pivotal in the movement, through to and beyond their deaths.
Anyone remotely interested in comic books will likely know the rough story of Superman’s creators being shafted monetarily for their creation, but to read it in such brutal detail is really sad. It’s not just a venture through the characters, nor does it focus specifically on one person (though, Jerry Siegel admittedly dominates, through his refusal to give up), but a look at the ins and outs of an industry at its peak.
Aside from being ridiculously interesting, well-written and researched, it’s just kind of depressing. It’s a bit of a warning for people to own their own work in creative fields. It’s not even one-sided, where you’d expect the artists/writers to be the victims entirely, Jones will highlight their own faults and problems, whether it be attitude or perceived talent at different points in their career.
Interested in comic books and their history? An excellent, comprehensive read on their origins. But it will probably make you sad to see quite how badly certain creators fared over the years.