Christmas of 1977 was the last year of my youth where that holiday wouldn’t be festooned with gifts of books about comics. In the years to come, I’d get complete sets of the Marvel Origins books and the Olshevsky Marvel Indexes and all manner of other available books reprinting or about comics during the holidays. But in 1977, things hadn’t quite reached that point yet. With the exception of one gift.
That gift was THE POW! ZAP! WHAM! COMIC BOOK TRIVIA QUIZ, a floppy trade paperback featuring a literal 1001 questions about comic book super heroes mostly of the Silver Age and beyond, but with the occasional throwback to the Golden Age scattered in. The book was co-authored by Michael Uslan, who up to this point had taught a class on comic books at a college level, had interned for a period at DC, and who had written a handful of stories for the firm. These days, Michael is better remembered as “The Boy Who Loved Batman” (as his autobiography is titled), the person who secured the film rights to the Caped Crusader with the intention of bringing the character to the silver screen in a dark and serious treatment–a quest that led first to the BATMAN film of 1989 and thereafter to a string of other successful outings.
For its time, it’s a pretty good book on general knowledge of comic books and super heroes. I certainly learned things from it that I didn’t at this point know. But all of the questions seemed fair, even if they might be being asked about a character whom a general audience would consider obscure. Te other big draw for me was a section in the center which reproduced, as the book cover bragged, the images of 100 different comic book covers from the past. There didn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to what was showcased ere–it may be as simple as whatever odds and ends the publisher could get their hands on in black and white. But it did give a good cross-section of the industry and a number of the covers made me want to read the books in question.
Speaking of covers, I have no idea who illustrated the cover of this book, other than observing that it’s a pretty nice job and almost certainly done by a working comic book professional. It’s also worth noting that the very stereotyping of comic books and their fans that Uslan was so desperate to separate Batman from is plastered all over this volume–in 1977, this was the almost-universally held opinion about comic books, which meant that those of us who loved and read them often had to conceal our interest or face shame and humiliation from those around us. It wasn’t all that easy to be a comic book fan in 1977.
ADDITION: The book gives credit for the cover to Bob Layton, so that answers that.
3 thoughts on “BHOC: THE POW! ZAP! WHAM! COMIC BOOK TRIVIA QUIZ”
I would hazard a guess that the cover wasn’t by a working comics pro — it looks like too much of a pastiche, like the inking on the face is emulating Wood and the abdomen is emulating Starlin and there’s some Kane in there and some Romita, and the whole thing is a Cockrum/Starlin/Romita/Kane/Wood mishmash, carefully put together by an advertising artist who knows comics and is trying to get that “comic book look” through careful imitation, rather than the publisher hiring a comics artist and getting something just as good for a third the price in a quarter of the time.
But I could certainly be wrong. If someone who’d been around at the time told me that Rick Hoberg, Dave Stevens and Mike Royer had put it together over a weekend because Russ Manning tapped them all to do it, I wouldn’t find it incredible.
My first guess, though, would be that it was a professional illustrator who was a comics fan but didn’t work in the field.
Turns out it was done by Bob Layton, who was at least on the cusp of being a pro.
Huh. I would never have guessed, but I can believe it.
And I think he was definitely imitating a number of favorites in different spots…