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History of American Comics: Resources

An on-line supplement meant to enhance the History of American Comics lecture offered by Public Services Librarian Matthew Morrison in honor of National Comic Book Day.

Helpful Websites

Comic Book Legal Defense Fund  -  Featuring several pages on comic book history and anti-censorship efforts.

Comic Shop Locator  -  Need to find a comic shop close to you? This website will help.

Free Comic Book Day  -  The official website of the annual comic book awareness festival.

No Flying, No Tights  -  Curated comic book and graphic novel review site run by educators, for educators.

Read DC  -  Free comics, offered by DC Comics during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Recommended Reading

Comics As History, Comics As Literature

This anthology hosts a collection of essays examining the role of comics as portals for historical and academic content, while keeping the approach on an international market versus the American one. Few resources currently exist showing the cross-disciplinary aspects of comics. Some of the chapters examine the use of Wonder Woman during World War II, the development and culture of French comics, and theories of Locke and Hobbs in regards to the state of nature and the bonds of community. More so, the continual use of comics for the retelling of classic tales and current events demonstrates that the genre has long passed the phase of for children's eyes only. Additionally, this anthology also weaves graphic novels into the dialogue with comics.

Comic Shop: The Retail Mavericks Who Gave Us A New Geek Culture

"The early 1970s saw the birth of the modern comic book shop. Its rise was due in large part to a dynamic entrepreneur, Phil Seuling. His direct market model allowed shops to get comics straight from the publishers, bypassing middlemen. Stores could better customize their offerings and independent publishers could now access national distribution. In this way, shops opened up a space for quirky ideas to gain an audience and helped transform small-press series, from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to Bone, into media giants. Comic Shop is the first book to trace the history of these cultural icons. Dan Gearino brings us from their origins to the present day, when the rise of digital platforms has the industry at a crossroads even as sales are robust. He spends a year with stores around the country, with a spotlight on The Laughing Ogre in Columbus, Ohio. Along the way he interviews those who shaped comics retailing from the early days, including many pioneering women, top creators, and shop owners who continue to push the industry in new directions. A guide to forty of the most interesting shops around the United States and Canada is a bonus for fans"

Comic Books and American Cultural History

Comic Books and American Cultural History is an anthology that examines the ways in which comic books can be used to understand the history of the United States. Over the last twenty years, there has been a proliferation of book-length works focusing on the history of comic books, but few have investigated how comics can be used as sources for doing American cultural history.   These original essays illustrate ways in which comic books can be used as resources for scholars and teachers.  Part 1 of the book examines comics and graphic novels that demonstrate the techniques of cultural history; the essays in Part 2 use comics and graphic novels as cultural artifacts; the third part of the book studies the concept of historical identity through the 20th century; and the final section focuses on different treatments of contemporary American history. Discussing topics that range from romance comics and Superman to American Flagg! and Ex Machina, this is a vivid collection that will be useful to anyone studying comic books or teaching American history.

Stan Lee and the Rise and Fall of the American Comic Book

Based on interviews with Stan Lee and dozens of his colleagues and contemporaries, as well as extensive archival research, this book provides a professional history, an appreciation, and a critical exploration of the face of Marvel Comics. Recognized as a dazzling writer, a skilled editor, a relentless self-promoter, a credit hog, and a huckster, Stan Lee rose from his humble beginnings to ride the wave of the 1940s comic books boom and witness the current motion picture madness and comic industry woes. Included is a complete examination of the rise of Marvel Comics, Lee's work in the years of postwar prosperity, and his efforts in the 1960s to revitalize the medium after it had grown stale.

Superhero Synergies

In the age of digital media, superheroes are no longer confined to comic books and graphic novels. Their stories are now featured in films, video games, digital comics, television programs, and more. In a single year alone, films featuring Batman, Spider-Man, and the Avengers have appeared on the big screen. Popular media no longer exists in isolation, but converges into complex multidimensional entities. As a result, traditional ideas about the relationship between varying media have come under striking revision. Although this convergence is apparent in many genres, perhaps nowhere is it more persistent, more creative, or more varied than in the superhero genre. Superhero Synergies: Comic Book Characters Go Digital explores this developing relationship between superheroes and various forms of media, examining how the superhero genre, which was once limited primarily to a single medium, has been developed into so many more. Essays in this volume engage with several of the most iconic heroes--including Batman, Hulk, and Iron Man--through a variety of academic disciplines such as industry studies, gender studies, and aesthetic analysis to develop an expansive view of the genre's potency. The contributors to this volume engage cinema, comics, video games, and even live stage shows to instill readers with new ways of looking at, thinking about, and experiencing some of contemporary media's most popular texts. This unique approach to the examination of digital media and superhero studies provides new and valuable readings of well-known texts and practices. Intended for both academics and fans of the superhero genre, this anthology introduces the innovative and growing synergy between traditional comic books and digital media.

Super-History

In the less than eight decades since Superman's debut in 1938, comic book superheroes have become an indispensable part of American society and the nation's dominant mythology. They represent America's hopes, dreams, fears, and needs. As a form of popular literature, superhero narratives have closely mirrored trends and events in the nation. This study views American history from 1938 to 2010 through the lens of superhero comics, revealing the spandex-clad guardians to be not only fictional characters but barometers of the place and time in which they reside. Instructors considering this book for use in a course may request an examination copy here.

Demanding Respect

How is it that comic books-the once reviled form of lowbrow popular culture-are now the rage for Hollywood blockbusters, the basis for bestselling video games, and the inspiration for literary graphic novels? InDemanding Respect, Paul Lopes immerses himself in the discourse and practices of this art and subculture to provide a social history of the comic book over the last 75 years. Lopes analyzes the cultural production, reception, and consumption of American comic books throughout history. He charts the rise of superheroes, the proliferation of serials, and the emergence of graphic novels.Demanding Respectexplores how comic books born in the 1930s were perceived as a "menace" in the 1950s, only to later become collectors' items and eventually "hip" fiction in the 1980s through today. Using a theoretical framework to examine the construction of comic book culture-the artists, publishers, readers and fans-Lopes explains how and why comic books have captured the public's imagination and gained a fanatic cult following.