As I think I’ve spoken about in the past, I came from a family of readers. Both my father and my mother would read books regularly, and it was this love of reading that helped make it acceptable and unquestioned that I had an interest in comic books–they understood that reading was reading. And so we would take semi-weekly trips to the Sachem Public Library to stock up on books. I read any number of great series there in their kids section, but at a certain point I discovered that there were actual books about comics hidden in the adult section, and so that became one of my frequent haunts.
At around this time, I found and borrowed from the library this volume, THE COMIC BOOK BOOK. It was a collection of nostalgic essays from a variety of writers about a number of different old comic book features and series of the Golden Age, which was then being looked back upon fondly. It was edited in part by Don Thompson, who would go on to have a long career as the co-editor of the weekly Comics Buyers’ Guide industry newspaper, but he was at this point a mainstream journalist and a comic book fan. This volume was a follow-up to Thompson and Lupoff’s earlier ALL IN COLOR FOR A DIME, which like this book collected essays on assorted old comic books, most of which in that case had been written for the SF fanzine XERO in the very early 1960s (they were heavily revised for the collection.) All of the essays in this volume, however, were written especially for it after the success of the first.
You have to understand that, as opposed to today where there are literally enough volumes either collecting old comics or writing about them for me to fill an entire room with, in 1977 there were only a handful of books on comics–and most of those were about newspaper comic strips. So coming across this edition was akin to finding a treasure trove of lost knowledge, and I devoured it completely.
THE COMIC-BOOK BOOK includes essays on Jack Cole’s Plastic Man, the Mickey Mouse newspaper strip, WINGS COMICS and the assorted aviator heroes of the 1940s, Frankenstein in the comics particularly the long-running Dick Briefer series, Will Eisner’s The Spirit, the assorted magician comic book characters, AIRBOY, the Carl Barks Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge stories, the disparate female super heroes, Tarzan and the cavalcade of jungle heroes mainly those of the FICTION HOUSE titles, the EC line of horror comics, the comics derived and influenced adventure radio shows and the assortment of short-lived second banana super heroes.
These were hardly meticulously-researched pieces (and no wonder. Most of this material was long gone from the public eye at the time this book was written.) They were more about the memory of having read these great series, and what the writer remembered about the experience. As such, there were a number of goofs and errors in the text but nothing major. And the volume was illustrated, though sparsely, with images of covers, panels and pages from those long-gone wonders.
I probably took this book out of the library a million times all told. Parts of it fascinated me enough that I actually spent a week copying Maggie Thompson’s chapter on her remembrances of reading The Spirit by hand into a loose-leaf notebooks, so that I could return to it whenever I wanted to. It gave me a broader sense as to what material was out there in terms of the content of the comics, and a greater appreciation for it as well. It was also somehow a comforting thought that a bunch of adults loved the comics they had read so much that they still held these feelings for them even after they’d grown to adulthood–reading comics, particularly past a certain age, was very much looked down upon by most adults in this era, so any support of vindication as to the value of one’s reading material was most welcome.
A new and updated edition was released in the late 1990s, pictured above as well, one that corrected the worst of the mistakes in the original and which is probably easier to find today.