I was regularly haunting the section of the Sachem Public Library that contained books on or about comics, not just for that elusive copy of ORIGINS OF MARVEL COMICS (which I never did find there) but also for anything else of interest. I took out and read a bunch of books from that section, many of them repeatedly–and while the selection paled in comparison to what a reader or researcher of today would have available to him, these books became among the most important texts in expanding my knowledge of comic book history.
One of the most important, and which I read around this time, was this one, ALL IN COLOR FOR A DIME. I had previously found and consumed its sequel in the selfsame library, THE COMIC-BOOK BOOK, but AICFAD was much more the mother lode as far as i was concerned. While that follow-up volume had covered a bunch of series that sounded interesting, ALL IN COLOR concentrated on the most prominent characters, most of whom were still being published then, and which I was desperate for more information on.
AICFAD had started life as a series of nostalgic articles that ran in the science fiction fanzine XERO beginning around 1960. They were hardly researched–rather, they were very much the nostalgic recollections of a group of SF fans who had all read comic books during their formative years and still held fond memories of them, occasionally backed up by the random copies that they still possessed. AICFAD caused a bit of a sensation when it debuted in XERO, just before Dr. Jerry Bails and Roy Thomas launched ALTER-EGO, the first fanzine devoted specifically to costumed super heroes. It became a popular feature, and one after another, assorted contributors came forward to talk about the particular early comic books that they loved. This was really the beginnings of comic book fandom as we know it.
Years later, in the aftermath of Batmania and with nostalgia for all of the pop culture of the 1930s and 1940s flourishing, a deal was struck with editors Dick Lupoff and Don Thompson to collect and update several of these articles in a hardcover book. So this tome included pieces on Superman, Batman and Robin; PLANET COMICS and the Fiction House line; Captain Marvel and the Marvel Family; Popeye and Thimble Theater; The Timely/Marvel line of characters, in particular Captain America; The assorted kid gang comics such as the Newsboy Legion and the Boy Commandos; The Justice Society of America; the assorted movie serials based on comic book and comic strip characters; the rest of the Fawcett characters, including Bulletman and Spy Smasher; the short-lived oddball “second banana” super heroes; and the comedic work of George Carlson. It was a treasure trove.
The book also gave me a glimpse of several issues and stories that I wouldn’t read for years, or in some instances, decades. Of note, this was my first glimpse at the cover to FANTASTIC FOUR ANNUAL #3, with the wedding of Reed and Sue. Boy, that looked like a comic book I wanted to read. The text also talked about the story in FANTASTIC FOUR ANNUAL #4, which I had only just experienced when it was reprinted in FANTASTIC FOUR #189 a few weeks previously. There was also a great double-spread of the Red Skull about to launch a volley of flaming arrows at Captain America that looked amazing, and whose script was credited even then to Stan Lee. And a terrific pin-up of the original Daredevil of the 1940s and his pals, the Little Wise Guys, who would eventually push him out of his own magazine, making way years later for Matt Murdock to file a brief and steal the trademark.
Like its follow-up, ALL IN COLOR FOR A DIME was reissued in the late 1990s with updated text and a new cover, and that edition is probably easier to come by these days. In addition, there was also a paperback edition in the 1970s–which didn’t help with the presentation of the artwork but which was just fine for consuming the text. In whatever form, even after all of these years, it’s still well worth seeking out.