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

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

by Gerard Jones


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"The fascinating and heartbreaking true story of the goniffs, shmendricks, and shlemiels who gave birth to the superhero comics-written with all the verve and velocity of a golden age comic book."-Art Spiegelman

Animated by the stories of some of the last century's most charismatic and conniving artists, writers, and businessmen, Men of Tomorrow brilliantly demonstrates how the creators of the superheroes gained their cultural power and established a crucial place in the modern imagination.

"This history of the birth of superhero comics highlights three pivotal figures. The story begins early in the last century, on the Lower East Side, where Harry Donenfeld rises from the streets to become the king of the 'smooshes'-soft-core magazines with titles like French Humor and Hot Tales. Later, two high school friends in Cleveland, Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel, become avid fans of 'scientifiction,' the new kind of literature promoted by their favorite pulp magazines. The disparate worlds of the wise guy and the geeks collide in 1938, and the result is Action Comics #1, the debut of Superman. For Donenfeld, the comics were a way to sidestep the censors. For Shuster and Siegel, they were both a calling and an eventual source of misery: the pair waged a lifelong campaign for credit and appropriate compensation." -The New Yorker

Author Biography: Gerard Jones's articles have appeared in periodicals ranging from Harper's to the National Lampoon. He sits on the advisory board of the MIT Comparative Media Studies Program, created the Art & Story Workshops for children, and serves as a tutor at the 826 Valencia Writing Center in San Francisco. He was once a comic book writer, too.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780099487067
Publisher: Arrow Books, Limited
Publication date: 07/28/2006
Pages: 384
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.70(h) x 1.20(d)

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Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters, and the Birth of the Comic Book 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
plappen on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is a history of that ubiquitous part of contemporary American adolescent life, the comic book.In the early part of the 20th Century, there were an entire generation of male geeks and outsiders who enjoyed reading this crazy literature called science fiction. Mainly Jewish, and usually living in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, they combined their fantasies and youthful traumas into the square-jawed heroes who are now a central part of pop culture.A central part of this book are Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, a couple of kids from Cleveland who created the first superhero, Superman. They learned, the hard way, that hard-nosed businessmen of questionable reputations, like pornographer and bootlegger Harry Donnenfeld, now ran the business. In the beginning, Siegel and Shuster signed away the rights to their creation (standard procedure). It took until the 1970s, just before the first Superman movie, for the pair to get official recognition, and something like a reasonable amount of money, for Superman.The 1930s saw an explosion in comic book popularity. Even the shadiest, two-bit publisher could put out the worst schlock ever created, and it would be vacuumed up by the public. A seemingly infinite number of superheroes came before the public, teamed up with every other superhero, fighting any villain that could be put on paper. Some combinations worked, while others failed. Hitler and the Nazis provided a ready-made villain during the 1940s, which saw the public turn away from superheroes. Wartime paper restrictions put most publishers out of business; those that remained put out crime stories, westerns, and horror stories, to name a few. In the 1950s, Congress discovered the comic book. They were accused of corrupting America¿s youth, especially the horror stories.For the artists in the industry, working conditions were little better than a sweatshop. For instance, if 64 pages of material were due at the printer in three days, there was no possibility of leaving the office until those pages were done. With such time constraints, many details were left out of panels and chunks were taken from other stories, even if the two had nothing to do with each other.This book is excellent. Anyone who has ever read an old superhero comic book, or a newer "independent" comic, should read this book. It¿s also recommended for those interested in early 20th Century pop culture.
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I ahve been reading and collecting comics for thirty years now. I have always loved the history of the industry. It is a fasinating look into the America of the early 30s, 40s and into AMerican Pop Culture. And Men of one of the definite books on the history of comics. From it's early days as publishers of Pulps through the creation of the superhero through today. If your a comic fan and think you know the history behind Jerry Segel and Joe Shuster's creation of Superman, think again. But not only does Gerard Jones give an account of the industry but more importantly he tells us of the men behind the industry. Not just the writers and artists. But the publishers, the men who put the money up for this new form of entertainment. I could go on but you need to pick this book and find out for yourselves just what a rich history of the comic indsustry is. Even if your not a comic reader but a lover of history this book is for you. It will give you a look into the industry that created a pop culture that to this day has change they way America looks at ourselves.