Companion books for PBS documentaries are often utilized more as decorative pieces for a coffee table rather than books to be read cover-to-cover. I remember a friend whose parents had the companion book for Ken Burns' The Civil War and thumbing through it when I was in high school. It was a beautiful book with great pictures but I don't think I ever read an entire page of the text.
I'm glad I took the plunge with this companion book. Maslon and Kantor have done a great job presenting a concise overview of the history of comics publishing in the United States. Both informative and entertaining, the book tells the story of superhero comics from their antecedents in the pulps of the early 1930's all the way through the current DC and Marvel Universes and the creator owned imprints.
As some have stated in Amazon reviews, there are a few discrepancies concerning the exact dates of origin for some creations. And no, it does not delve into all the smaller publishing houses that have produced superhero comics. This really doesn't detract from the book's overall effect though. You can't cover every aspect of the history of superhero comics in 300 pages and that is not what the authors intended to do.
For someone with Ph.D. level knowledge of comic history, "Superheroes!" will not offer any information you do not already know. For fans whose experience only stretches as far back as when they began reading comics, and for those with little to no knowledge of comic books at all though, it provides a great overview in an entertaining fashion that will hopefully spark further investigation of this thoroughly fascinating literary form.
I have been a comic book reader since 1985 and while I've always been more in the DC camp, I enjoyed reading this history of the "House of Ideas." The narrator was engaging which is a must with non-fiction books like this.
Going in, I feared that this would be a one-sided story portraying Marvel in glorious, technicolor beauty. The author did a good job of highlighting both the high and low-lights of the publishing giant's 70+ year history. Most importantly, he didn't gloss over the image of Stan Lee, Marvel's ambassador and editor emeritus.
Lee seems is too often portrayed as a genius who single-handedly saved superhero comics from certain demise in the early 1960's while Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, the true geniuses behind Marvel's core characters, get lost in the dust bin of history. Admittedly, Lee certainly contributed much to the rise of Marvel comics in the 1960's but his tireless self-promotion has gained him some undeserved credit in my opinion.
This book covers the history of Marvel from its founding as Timely Comics in 1939 through the first decade of the 21st century and does so "marvelously." I would highly recommend it to comics fans and those who wouldn't know Batman from Christian Bale.
Painter, musician, bibliophile...
"How does art get done? Why, often, does it not get done? And what is the nature of the difficulties that stop so many who start?"
These are the questions the authors ask, and more importantly, answer, in this concise, brilliant book. By turns philosophical and pragmatic, insightful and witty, ART AND FEAR is a gift for the creative soul.
It's valuable to working artists, artists who have given up, and artists who have yet to begin.
And if you remove the charged word "artist," one might say it's valuable to anyone who struggles to create anything.
You need not be writing a symphony or a novel, dancing a principal role, or attempting to release a sculpture from a hulking block of marble. Maybe you're designing a dress, creating a new dish, keeping an illustrated journal, or teaching yourself to play a ukulele. What creative thing you do isn't the point. Continuing to do it is:
"What separates artists from ex-artists is that those who challenge their fears, continue; those who don't quit."
This is at the heart of the authors' message. They've written it to help us figure out how to stay in that first group. To stay in it, you must be able to combat fear, which includes facing any issues, preconceptions, misunderstandings, or even delusions about yourself or anyone else that may be holding you back from doing your work. What is involved will be as individual as your work. There are no easy answers or magic formulae. But it can be done, and is, every day you refuse to give up.
When my brother gave me this book, I didn't hold out much hope, but I kept my reservations to myself. After all, I'd read a sea of books about creativity, many of which turned out to be filled with useless pop psych clichés and other nonsense. But this one is different. It provides something deep and true, something everyone who creates can use.
Or as another artist friend said, "This is the straight stuff, straight up."
Indeed it is, and it just might change your creative life.