by Michael Vance & Jon Suter
Anyone interested in the history of comic books will want the revised edition of The Comic Book Heroes by Gerard Jones and Will Jacobs (Rocklin, Calif.: Prima publishing, 1997, $19.95)
Robert C. Harvey's volumes on the history of comic strips and comic books are still excellent overviews, but Jones and Jacobs provide more detail on Silver Age of comic books.
Their coverage begins with editor Julius Schwartz's revival of the superhero "Flash" for DC Comics (1956), and ends with a description of the events of 1995 and 1996.
Although there is an emphasis on DC and Marvel, there is important information about Gold Key, Image, Valiant and many other publishers who have helped mold the modern comic book.
The authors interviewed many artists, writers, editors, and others involved in the creation of comics, and have also gone into the administrative and financial aspects of publishing.
Some of the corporate intrigue makes the infamous J.R. Ewing of television's Dallas seem a paragon of virtue.
A recurring theme is the alienation of many creators from publishers. The rise and decline of the late artist Jack Kirby has a near tragic grandeur. Even though the authors' sympathies are clearly with Kirby and other artists, the book is remarkably objective.
Readers can determine for themselves the heroes and villains of this complex narrative.
All of the illustrations are black and white. This helps keep the price reasonable, but some artists' work does not reproduce well; e.g., George Perez's Teen Titans.
There are some minor typographical glitches, but this book deserves an A+ and* a wide audience.
If the next decade is as turbulent for the comic industry as the 1985-96 era has been, a third edition will be called for. The question of whether comic books will survive at all has no guaranteed answer.
In the meantime, one hopes these authors will continue to amass biographical and historical information. Biographies of Jack Kirby. Julius Schwartz, and other giants would be well within the range of their talents. DJS.
Questions? Comments? Email to Suspended Animation c/o Starland.