Ed Catto: So Bad It’s Good
It wasn’t that long ago that comics enthusiasts would cringe at all the silliness. It used to be so hard for comic fans to be taken seriously by the world at large. I vividly remember being so enthusiastic about those moody “serious” 70s Batman stories like Night of the Stalker (Detective Comics #439) or There Is No Hope in Crime Alley (Detective Comics #457). But I knew if I ever were to discuss these comics with any non-comics fan, I’d simply get an eye roll and sarcasm along with a “Holy Comics” pun or a “POW, ZAP, WHAM” pantomime. There was no respect for comics.
In fact, this led to the adoption of the term “graphic novel” in 1978. Will Eisner coined the phrase to inoculate creative endeavors in sequential art (comics) against the public’s dismissive mindset for all comics.
Today, the world understands that not all comics are silly and all comics are not about superheroes. So much so, that there is a conversation bubbling up in many places that argues that maybe we don’t even need that highfalutin term – Graphic Novel – anymore.
Geeks have won. The world now knows that comics can be many things and can be enjoyed by many different people in many different ways.
Which now brings us full circle. I also believe there’s no need to cringe at the silliness of comics anymore. Comics occupy such a big wide world that all of it can be celebrated – from the silly and whimsical to the grim and gritty.
And maybe that’s why there’s been a mini-trend of books that simply have fun pointing out all the silly comic super hero characters. So consider this a sequel of sorts to my Yuletide Book Guide column last week. This week, let’s get ready to rumble giggle with a few wonderful books.
The League of Regrettable Superheroes: Half-Baked Heroes from Comic Book History by Jon Morris is an excellent introduction to 100 of the goofiest heroes ever. Morris spotlights each with background, vintage artwork and colorful commentary. It’s divided into three sections: The Golden Age, The Silver Age and the Modern Age. Some readers might take offense at the heroes he’s selected to ridicule (Hey, I remember when we took Marvel’s Human Fly seriously) but it’s a great primer!
I’ve know a lot about many of the characters featured, but super-obscure characters like The Bouncer, Dr. Vampire and Captain Truth were new to me –and I’m so glad I know about them now.
Craig Yoe is man filled with passion and wit – and both always come out in everything he does. I enjoy all his comics and books, but Yoe Books, in association with IDW, just published Super Weird Heroes. This amazing book also spotlights these goofball heroes of yesteryear, but here you can also read their adventures. This book is 500 pages total, but offers 320 pages of glorious goofy reprints.
Michael Eury is likewise an author filled with passion for his subjects. I really enjoy his Back Issue magazine, obviously a labor of love. His upcoming Hero-A-Go-Go: Campy Comic Books, Crimefighters, & Culture of the Swinging Sixties zeros in on the goofiness for a specific time period.
“Whereas Back Issue magazine allows me to explore the comics and culture of my adolescence, Hero-A-Go-Go is my love letter to my childhood, the Swinging Sixties,” said Eury.
This book is not on sale until April of 2017 so you’ll have to be patient. But there’s so many good things that I can’t wait to read – everything from Dell’s Monster Superheroes and Joe Simon’s Jigsaw to the story behind All Star Dairy’s Batman Milk! And there’s a great preview available right here.
“It was a thrill interviewing folks like Bill Mumy, Ralph Bakshi, and Dean Torrence (Jan and Dean Meets Batman) about their contributions to Camp culture, but I was most charmed by Bob Holiday, who brought the Man of Steel to life on Broadway in It’s a Bird… It’s a Plane… It’s Superman,” said Eury. “He took the role of Superman seriously, and I’m honored to shine a much-deserved spotlight on his valuable, but too often overlooked, contributions to the Superman saga.”
So don’t take yourself too seriously and spread a little fun this Yuletide season –and beyond – with these treasures. Here’s your handy ComicMix summary:
Craig Yoe’s Super Weird Heroes is published by IDW and the hardcover retails for $39.99.
Michael Eury’s Hero-A-Go-Go: Campy Comic Books, Crimefighters, & Culture of the Swinging Sixties is available for pre-order now and will be published on 4/19/17 for $36.95.