Comic Book Comics

by on Apr.10, 2011, under Comics

For forty years Larry Gonick has had a nice little niche for himself writing well-researched, engaging comics about history and science. They’re thoroughly enjoyable and informative, and there’s no reason why he should have kept the field to himself for so long.

That’s why I’m so glad to have discovered Evil Twin Comics, the work of writer Fred Van Lente and artist Ryan Dunlavey. They have a previous collection out about the history of philosophy (which I plan to check out). I discovered them through their current project, though, Comic Book Comics, which recounts the history of the comic book industry itself.

Other such histories exist, of course, without pictures. Just like world histories existed before Larry Gonick made comics about them. It simply happens to be more fun to read about all this stuff with little figures and world bubbles.

For a comic book buff it’s also fascinating to read tidbits like the series of events that led from the Frankfurt School, to Fredric Wertham’s testimony before Congress, to the creation of the Comics Code Authority (which I’ve mentioned before), to the death of EC Comics, to the birth of Mad magazine. (See, the publisher of EC realized that a glossy magazine wouldn’t be subject to a code applying to comics.) Or how the increasing crackdown on drug paraphernalia in the early 1970s put head shops out of business and thereby killed the distribution network for underground comix artists like Robert Crumb.

The most recent issue, #5, even manages to make interesting reading out of nothing but the many intellectual property ripoffs and lawsuits that have plagued the medium since its birth.

When the collected version comes out I’ll certainly try to remember to mention it. In the meantime, though, these guys are doing great stuff and publishing independently (right in my neighborhood, coincidentally). The first two issues are available print-on-demand from IndyPlanet, the rest you can get through their website, where you can also find lots of previews. Or you can buy all their stuff even cheaper for your Kindle or iPhone or whatever from Comixology. Show them some love.

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