With Further Ado #113: The History of Comics in 3 Easy Steps

Well, if this column’s title doesn’t win the award for “Overpromise of the Year”, I don’t know what will. But the truth of the matter is that from anyone’s own personal vantage point, we are all able to see the broad scope and history of this unique medium on any given trip to the comic store.

That’s certainly not the same for other arts. You can’t envision the history of cinema during a trip to your local movie theater. (Let’s assume that we all will be able to go to the movies again soon.). You can’t get a sense of the broad scope of music at one live concert.  One might even argue that on any trip to a library, you can’t really get a sense of the history of publishing or of books.

But comics are different. The old and the new, the nostalgic and the cutting edge, all exist shoulder-to-shoulder at any comic shop or comic convention. (Again, let’s look forward to the time when we can all attend conventions again.)

Step One: New Fun

DC Comics just published a reprint of their very first comic: New Fun Comics #1.

My colleague Mike Gold wrote about this fascinating new book here.  It’s an oversize reproduction of the 1935 issue that would become DC Comics’ first comic.  It’s great fun and a virtual time machine you can hold in your hands.

Step Two: Is Overstreet on any Map?

I’ve been really enjoying the 50th edition of  The Overstreet Guide to Collecting Comics. It is, first and foremost, a reference guide for buyers, sellers and collectors.  But more than that it, it is a celebration and an examination of the industry today.  The market report talks about the recent prices of big ticket comics, but the most captivating part, for me, are the reports from many individual “advisors”. They talk market trends and in many cases, about their comic shops. They discuss what is working and not working; what is connecting and not connecting with their customers.

In the 70s, many of us focused on collecting from just one or two publishers, and it was “easier” back then.  I stumbled across this old mini-catalog from Robert Bell and was struck by how manageable the Marvel Universe was. What a contrast to the Overstreet Guide. Way back then,  it was conceivable that you could collect all of the modern issues published Marvel Comics.  Now it seems inconceivable to collect all the Marvel Comics published in just one month. Check out these prices ..but be prepared to gulp!

<Bob – please include as many catalog images here as you can-thanks!>

The Third Step

And in the cutting edge category, I just read Image’s Stillwater #1.  One of my other fine Pop Culture Squad colleagues, Bob Harrison, talked about it here . This comic is a keeper. The striking cover, along with Bob’s recommendation, made me eager to scoop it up.

In many ways, I think this represents the that “third easy step” in the history of comics. Stillwater is a brash new series with solid storytelling, published by an encouraging publisher and developed by focused creators who want to control their own careers and manage their own properties. Reading a comic like this – you can’t help but root for the creators behind it all just as much as you root for the protagonists in the story.

The author and marketer Jim Joseph maintains that marketing is a spectator sport.  I can’t help but think that the idea applies to geek culture was well.  What a gift we all have to be able observe it all, and participate in it all, as it unfolds before us.