This book had me at page 8.
That’s when Tony Isabella, author of “1,000 Comic Books You Must Read,” appropriately credited Superman as the character who established comic books as a part of our national scene. Despite all the current movie hype surrounding Iron Man, Wolverine and Batman, I’ve always believed Superman holds the title as the reigning king of all comicdom.
In “1,000 Comic Books You Must Read,” Isabella has delivered 70 years of the best the comic book medium has to offer. His picks range from the expected landmark issues that introduced iconic characters to rare books that define important eras in the national psyche.
Each comic book is documented with the name of the publisher, writers and artists as well as the indicia date of publication (the date found in the block of copy printed on a book’s inside front cover or opening page).
The best part? Isabella, a 35-year scholar, author and fanatic of the comic book art form, offers a few lines of commentary on each and every book he features. His irreverent observations make the case why each book deserves its 15 minutes of fame. One of my favorites highlights issue No. 11 of All Select Comics from 1946. The cover features a red-carpet ready blonde bombshell whose identity is only hidden by a mask around her eyes. Isabella writes: “Louise Grant is private detective Mark Mason’s secretary and secretly assists him as The Blonde Phantom. She fights crime in a mask, evening gown, and high heels. The sheer absurdity of this is why she’s my favorite 1940s super-heroine.”
Isabella really reaches deep in the archives to pull out some of his recommendations. He mentions books I’ve never heard of such as issue No. 1 of Psychoanalysis from 1955. This post-modern ditty is the oddest of the New Direction titles, published by E.C. Comics (publishers of the infamous Tales From the Crypt). “The titles featured tales of three ‘people searching for peace of mind’ trough sessions with a never-named psychiatrist. One patient was ‘cured’ in the third issue and the remaining two in the fourth and final issue.” Great stuff.
For me, the real nostalgia kicked in halfway through Chapter 6: The Energetic Eighties. This was the era I started collecting. I caught myself smiling at familiar covers I coveted in my youth and some of the ones I still have in my own collection.
Early on the reader will notice the wonderful graphic design brought to the book. It would have been very easy to cram the covers of 1,000 comics into the book and call it “done.” In this case, classic covers are pleasingly arranged with four books per page. Landmark art or very important covers are presented in even larger size.
Isabella realizes that, for fans, any comic book can be considered the greatest comic book of all time. And while all these books are actually available to collectors, thanks to “1,000 Comic Books You Must Read,” they can all fit on one shelf. ?
“1,000 Comic Books You Must Read,” by Tony Isabella, 271 pages, hardcover, $29.99, Krause Publications. Shop.Collect.com.
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