Saturday, December 12, 2009


Fans of early comic books will definitely want to check out SUPERMEN!: THE FIRST WAVE OF COMIC BOOK HEROES 1936-1941, which is edited by Greg Sedowski with a foreword by Jonathan Lethem. It's a lovingly restored collection of color stories featuring obscure and often bizarre characters from the halcyon days of the industry--a time when writers and artists we now recognize as pioneers were just as green as comic books themselves were.

Among the creators featured in SUPERMEN! are Bill Everett, Jack Cole, Gardner Fox, Will Eisner, Joe Simon, Jack Kirby, Lou Fine, Ogden Whitney, Fred Guardineer, Irv Novick, Basil Wolverton, and Dick Briefer. Most of the characters you've probably never heard of, and have been so forgotten that their stories have fallen into the public domain.

Reading them today, however, it would be hard to forget the raw, pulpy joy of Cosmic Carson, the Flame, Marvelo, the bloodthirsty Comet, Spacehawk, Fantomah, and even Dirk the Demon! Some stories are better than others--the Eisner/Fine Flame tale is fantastic--and some are just downright insane, particularly Fletcher Hanks' Stardust the Super Wizard, which you have to read to believe (Fantagraphics has released two paperback collections of the obscure Hanks, who is something of the Ed Wood of comic books).

Also included are various covers and house ads to help sell the feeling of reading an actual comic book of the period. Highly recommended if read in small doses--a story or two at a time. Otherwise, your head may explode from all the astonishing illogic and sometimes brutal violence of these stories that were quickly produced and meant to be forgotten.

If you're interested, you can read interviews with Sadowski here, here, and here.

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