Comic Book Comics #4

Comic Book Comics #4 cover

Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey pack issues of Comic Book Comics full of history and humor. Even when you’ve heard these stories before, you’ll find a new perspective or detail you weren’t previously aware of.

And they don’t stick just with the obvious, well-known stories — this issue’s 40 pages covers

  • The creation of Crime Does Not Pay, a notoriously horrific comic, and what happened to Charles Biro and Bob Wood, its founders.
  • How Marvel Comics and Stan Lee started publishing superhero titles and developed the “Marvel method” of letting the artist tell the details of the story.
  • This story continues into an exploration of how Marvel treated Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby as Stan Lee took the credit and glory.
  • The Texas roots of underground comics by Jack Jackson and Gilbert Shelton.
  • Continuing that piece of history, key moments in the life and drugs of Robert Crumb.
  • A brief history of Tintin and other European comics.

Comic Book Comics #4 cover

The telling of Marvel’s history is particularly amusing, as many favorite images from their comics and Stan Lee’s familiar phrases are incorporated into the story of the corporation. It’s post-modern! Also in this tale is another of my favorite bits from the boys, when Dunlavey works himself and Van Lente in as commentary on artist/writer relationships. And I loved the Logan’s Run imagery when they discussed why French comics didn’t have the age restrictions that were established in the U.S.

Van Lente is accomplished at distilling histories into key moments, and Dunlavey’s crowded panels provide additional details or commentary. His figures usually appear on the edge of insanity, an apt portrayal for the demented world of comics. He also does a good job mimicking some of the art styles being discussed. Issue #5, variously referred to as the “all battle” or “all lawsuit” issue, is due in May.


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