PoP! Top 6-Pack: Best Non-Fiction books about comics

The PoP! Stars narrow it down to the cream of the crop in categories ranging from (but not limited to) Comics, Movies, Toys and Geek Culture in general. This is the PoP! Top 6-Pack.

I love comics. I grew up as a child reading comics, and always wondering about the people that created them. Sometimes to me the best part of a Marvel Comic were the Marvel Bullpen pieces. It felt like Stan Lee was involving me in a secretive world, where my favorite writers and artists hung out in New York all the time, and everyone had a cool nickname. I thought these guys were like the Rat Pack partying from dawn to dusk, and instead of singing ditties they were writing about irradiated teenagers, gods that walked among us, and genetic anomalies.

Fast forward to now. I’m 31. The myth of all my favorite writers and artists hanging out all day in a swinging Manhattan office, ruined. The upside is that now that I’ve gone through puberty I have a higher attention span, and I can read a full size book. Heck, they aren’t even assigned to me by a teacher. The key word here is book. When it comes to information about the comic industry, and the people in it, print still has it all over digital. Try Googling a rumor you heard about your favorite comic creator. There is a 50/50 chance that what you end up with is wrong. There is a 100% chance that someone who has no business speaking on the issue will say something that may not be the smartest thing you ever heard. If there’s a book written on the subject, agree with the book or not, it’s gonna give you more information. Information that has been researched, and a publisher thought enough of to publish.

I chose six books for your consideration. Some of them are very serious. Some of them are a lot of fun. All of them are well written, interesting, and please both the 12 year old comic reader in me, and the comic reader I am now.

Kirby: King of Comics

Written By: Mark Evanier
Introduction By: Neil Gaiman

Yes, I already wrote an article about this book, and even this week.

The interesting thing to me about this article is the comment by HrdwrkngXsoldier. He asks about a popular story about Jack Kirby. The story in question involves a group of people waiting in the Timely Comics lobby for Jack Kirby. They were trying to goad Kirby into a fight. He tears down the stairs, just to find the guys gone. The story has gone through many permutations, from Kirby beating the guys to a pulp, to Kirby getting a thrashing, to the true story recorded in this book. I can’t think of a story that illustrates my point more succinctly.

That, being said, I couldn’t do a list like this and not include this book. It’s combination of information and presentation are out of this world. A true classic, and well worth your time.

Secret Identity: The Fetish art of Superman Co-Creator Joe Shuster

Written By: Craig Yoe
Introduction By: Stan Lee

This book deals with one of comics’ best kept secrets. The component of the story that isn’t a secret is that Shuster and Siegel made very little money from Superman. Joe Shuster had a family that he needed to support. As an artist, he had one way to make money, and sucked up his pride and did what he needed to do in order to support that family.

It’s eery to see women that are obviously based on the same model as Lois Lane in bondage and fetish art. While something like this may not be as shocking now, remember this was the 1940‘s and 50‘s. Also, this is the artist that co-created frigging Superman.

Definitely give this book a read. It’s interesting, and helps to illustrate the plight of poorly compensated comic creators.

Batman Unauthorized

Edited By: Denny O’Neal
Written By: Various

This is one of the fun books on the list. Denny O’Neal is largely responsible for the Batman we have today. Here he edits a book of essays by upcoming authors, including Superman writer Chris Roberson, about all facets of the Batman mythos.

The book has some real gems. One of the essays is how much it would actually cost to be Batman. Most of the essays deal with issues raised by the Batman Begins movie, but not all. Overrall there are interesting views covering all corners of the Batman mythos.

You’ll all be sorry!

Written By: Gail Simone

I love Gail Simone. I love her ongoing war with monkeys, I love Secret Six, and Birds of Prey. I also love this book.

Describing this book just as a collection of Gail’s articles at CBR does it no justice. This is an unabashed look into the mind of one of the funniest people working in comics. Gail moves from skewering a serious issue to summarizing popular comic series in an acerbic sentence. Every bit is fresh and engaging.

Gail Simone is a hero of mine. She went from a geek to a pro, who writes some of the best comics in the marketplace today. This book makes me happy in places I didn’t even know I had. If you have a soul, it should have the same effect on you.

Was Superman a Spy?: And Other Comic Book Legends Revealed

Written By: Brian Cronin

This is another collection of web articles collected in book form. This tome takes on every rumor you’ve ever heard of, and some you haven’t. Brian Cronin tackles rumors about creators, storylines, and events in the comic industry that will shock you.

The subject of the articles cover popular rumors like the one that Wolverine was going to be revealed as a mutated wolverine, to the story of a Dutch inventor that was blocked from getting a patent on a process because it had been used previously in a Donald Duck comic book. (Both true!) The sheer range of diverse rumors that are either held up or debunked are worth the price of admission alone.

Our Gods Wear Spandex: The Secret History of Comic Book Heroes

Written by Christopher Knowles
With art by: Joseph Michael Lisner

This book is a nice read for comic readers. It deals with the subject of mythological themes in comics. Christopher Knowles takes you from Ancient Greece to 1940‘s Britain, and shows you the universal myths and archetypes that still run through our comics today.
This book is similar to the documentary Mythos done by Joseph Campbell, but tailored specifically to comics. It chronologically takes comics and shows the universal stories that inspire our comics today.

Another great feature is art by Dawn creator and artist Joseph Michael Lisner. The little caricatures and illustrations in this book will have you coming back to it by themselves.

Overrall this is just a fun, educational read that will entertain you.

Another 6-Pack! done. Hope you enjoyed!!!

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Who ARE these people!?

Nick Brammer is a contributing writer for Panelsonpages.com and sometime co-host for the Panels on pages PoP!Cast. Originally from Bedford MA, Nick now makes his home in sunny Florida.

Comments (5)

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  1. Robert Eddleman says:

    So far I’ve read and highly enjoyed You’ll All Be Sorry! and Was Superman a Spy? The others look intriguing as well.

  2. Nick Brammer says:

    @Spazzy Thanks!!!
    @Rob Kirby is obviously my fave, but Our Gods Wear Spandex is amazing. The Batman one is just a fun read.

  3. Heytherejeffro says:

    I’m sorry, but not having Bradford Wright’s Comic Book Nation is kind of a travesty. I guess only having room for 6 books makes it tough, though.

  4. Nick Brammer says:

    @Jeffro Yeah 6 spots leaves a lot out, and some of these books are a little more accessible than Comic Book Nation. I also left all the Scott McCloud books off.

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