Comic books don’t just offer great storytelling—they feature stunning works of art on every page. The books below celebrate the rich visual history of the medium, from its pulp roots to its modern-day mainstream success, and are a perfect primer for the new fan or keepsake for the hardcore comic geek.
75 Years of Marvel Comics: From the Golden Age to the Silver Screen, by Roy Thomas and Josh Baker
It’s been three-quarters of a century since a little publishing company in Manhattan called Timely Comics was founded, publishing Marvel Comics #1 (featuring the Human Torch). From an inauspicious beginning in a crowded field, that little company survived, thrived, innovated, and outlasted, eventually becoming the multimedia behemoth we now know as Marvel Comics. This 700-page tome charts that illustrious history with an insider look at the company at each stage of its existence, from the ’60s heyday that saw the birth of Spider-Man, the Hulk, and the X-Men, to the reign of superheroes at the box office.
D.C. Comics: A Visual History, by Daniel Wallace, Alan Cowsill, Alex Irvine, and Matthew K. Manning
Fans on the other side of the great comic book divide would do well to pick up this equally impressive history of D.C. Comics, going all the way back to its founding in 1934 as National Allied Publications. From the birth of Batman, to Superman’s first flight, to the 2000s comic book boom, this newly-updated guide (featuring 16 new pages covering 2010 to 2014) features hundreds of vintage illustrations and comes packaged in a handsome new slipcase design.
Batman: A Visual History, by Matthew K. Manning
One of the oldest heroes in comic book history, Batman has seen a lot of action over the last 75 years—and made a lot of changes to his wardrobe. This singular book offers a complete journey through the history of the Caped Crusader, from his introduction in Detective Comics in 1939, to his campy adventures in the 1960s and gritty rebirth in the 1980s, straight on to his modern incarnation. In any era, Batman has proven himself to be the superhero who sets the standard, and this beautifully illustrated volume presents all the evidence of that fact.
The Art of the Simon & Kirby Studios, by Mark Evianer
The comic book industry of today is largely built on the backs of two men, Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, New Yorkers who teamed up to work for a little outfit called Timely Comics, created a character known as Captain America, and went on to redefine the notion of what comic books could be, elevating them from pulp distractions to their own kind of literature. Through carefully selected pieces from Simon’s private archive, this book charts the most influential partnership in the genre’s history.
Marvel Comics: 75 Years of Cover Art, by Alan Cowsill
If a picture is worth a thousand words, a good comic book cover is worth a million pictures. This eye-catching book collects the best of the best: iconic cover images from the company’s 75-year history, with accompanying information about the illustrators behind the work.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Visual History, by Andrew Farago
The most surprising success stories in comic book history, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have been around so long (and were so recently introduced to a whole new generation via a blockbuster film), that it’s hard to remember what a shockingly goofy concept they are, how endearing and unexpectedly enduring. Starting in their black-and-white indie days and moving through the kid-friendly Archie Comics take to the 1990s films, and beyond, this book provides a delightful visual history of one of the industry’s most delightfully visual franchises.