Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Warlock's Book Review: Men of Tomorrow

Though I love reading I'm not much for writing up book recommendations. Movies? Sure. But books, there are plenty of other folks out there that can give you a better explanation of why one should read a book. Me, I either like it or don't like it and I have my reasons.

Today I make an exception.

"Men Of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters and the Birth of Geek Culture" (2005) by Gerard Jones was a fascinating read - a book I couldn't put down and one of the best books I've read this year.

It follows the history of Jewish immigrants and 1st generation Americans as they claw their way into the American dream and into the American consciousness creating our modern geek culture and media empires.

This incredibly researched book revolves around Harry Donenfeld, Jack Liebowitz, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster (the creators of Superman) and all the other Golden Age creators that gave birth to the superhero and the comic book.

It follows the history of Donenfeld as he works with gangsters and bootleggers during prohibition setting up a network that would later evolve into distributing his Spicy Tales nudie mags and eventually comics. It follows Siegel & Shuster's evolution of geek culture through fanzines of the early pulps and the beginnings of the Science Fiction genre and their creation of and eventual 'sale' to Donenfeld of Superman, the hero that started an industry. It follows Jack Liebowitz, Donenfeld's accountant who cultivated and controlled the comic book industry with National Periodicals (DC comics) all the way to becoming the senior board member of Warner Communications.

Filled in with the other creators of the industry, Bill Gains and EC comics, Will Eisner, Bob Kane and Bill Finger, Jack Kirby, Stan Lee and the 'birth' of modern Marvel comics and even Fredrick Wertheim (Seduction of the Innocent) all amidst the backdrop of the 50 year battle over the ownership of Superman, it's the best history of the industry I've ever read.

I highly recommend it for anyone interested in Pulps, Comics and Geek culture in general.

On a side note, years ago I (mostly) read Michael Chabon's fictional "The Adventures of Caviler and Clay". I found that novel extremely frustrating in it's portrayal of the early history of the industry and the (based-on-real-life) characters. As I read his book I didn't want some fictional story I wanted the real story with the real people involved. Men of Tomorrow is that book and I cannot praise it enough.

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