Archive for March, 2010

Superman Then and Now: The Story of Comics

Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters and the Birth of the Comic Book

by Gerard Jones

For anyone who wishes to understand the genesis of the graphic novel from the early days of the comic book industry, Men of Tomorrow (Basic Books, 2004) is essential reading. This volume tells the story behind not only the creation of Superman, but also its immediate predecessor, science fiction fandom. Even more tellingly, Men of Tomorrow also describes in depth the roots and growth of comic book publishing and its closely linked cousin, the distribution business.

This blog post is an encapsulation of only some of the myriad anecdotes included in Jones’ work. The pages of Men of Tomorrow pay much further attention to the stories of Harry Donenfeld, Jerry Siegel, Joe Schuster and Jack Liebowitz—among others—compared with what has been included here. In particular, Jerry Siegel’s struggle for recognition as the creator of Superman spanned decades, with Donenfeld and Liebowitz acting as key adversaries to the acknowledgment of due title where it was deserved. Continue reading ‘Superman Then and Now: The Story of Comics’

Shades of Grey: Footnotes in Gaza by Joe Sacco

Footnotes in Gaza by Joe Sacco

Recently, I have spun off with rapt attention into Joe Sacco’s Footnotes in Gaza (Metropolitan Books, 2009). Until I’d read the whole book, I spent a good part of my mornings before going to work, and evenings before going to bed glued to this finely and painstakingly crafted four-hundred (!) page comics-documentary


As is explained in the book’s foreword, the impetus for Footnotes in Gaza stems from a 2001 collaboration for Harper’s magazine between journalist Chris Hedges and Joe Sacco. Hedges was hired as writer and Sacco was working as an illustrator on assignment, which involved travelling to the Gaza Strip. Hedges and Sacco decided to concentrate on the Palestinian response to Israeli occupation in the town of Khan Younis, during the Second Intifada (uprising).

Hedges and Sacco heard repeated testimony from people who personally witnessed the massacre of Palestinians by Israelis in Khan Younis in 1956, many of whom had friends and relatives who were been killed. Hedges described the massacre as part of his final article for Harper’s, but these sections were edited out of the published version.

Sacco was incensed by this deletion, and recognized that very little information about the massacre had ever been printed in English. This led to his researching the Israeli raids on Khan Younis and the neighbouring town of Rafah in greater detail, which in turn became Footnotes in Gaza.

The title of the work derives from Sacco’s comment that:

This is the story of footnotes to a sideshow of a forgotten war…the ongoing raids across the Gaza border by Palestinian guerrillas and Israeli forces; and the footnotes—History can do without its footnotes (8-9).

Sacco suggests, “Footnotes are inessential at best; at worst they trip up the greater narrative” (9). He is referring to the complexity that inevitably arises from becoming entangled in exceptions, doubts, and alternative hypotheses that trip up the neatly packaged history lessons that are generally delivered in newspaper reports and history primers. Continue reading ‘Shades of Grey: Footnotes in Gaza by Joe Sacco’

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