THE COMIC BOOK HISTORY of COMCIS
Fred Van Lente & Ryan Dunlavey
I'm only marginally familiar with Van Lente's work at Marvel, but I've been hearing a lot of buzz about the two historical non fiction books he does with cartoonist Ryan Dunlavey. I must say, the buzz is very well deserved. I enjoyed these two books immensely. Both of these books are wonderful learning tools and I would recommend them to anyone regardless of their usual reading habits.
Despite being their second collaboration, I read Comic Book History of Comics first, mostly because the subject matter is more appealing to me personally. CBHC is a very thorough and straightforward history of the American Comic Book, from it's inception in the early 20th Century right up to the present day. This book is a veritable who's who of comics and is a great companion book to Marvel Comics The Untold Story. Though the two books are completely unrelated, they cover some of the same ground since, as we all know, Marvel plays a significant role in the history of comics. The two books do a good job of cross checking each other. I don't believe there were any facts in either book that contradicted the other, and in fact they both seem to corroborate the same story.
What I liked best about CBHC is that it's not just a history lesson. It's also a cheerleader for comics as an art form. The book does an excellent job of educating the reader exactly why comics is a unique and necessary expression. Van Lente and Dunlavey craft a beautiful book that is full of references to characters and creators alike.
ACTION PHILOSOPHERS! is a lot like CBHC, except instead of depicting he history of Comic Books, it outlines the history of philosophers (duh). Like CBHC, Van Lente and Dunlavey give us, not only the history of famous philosophers throughout history and their theories, but also helps to explain what the nature of philosophy is and why people pursue it. This book never seems to get too deep, but it does a good job of introducing different schools of thought and traces them all together though history and how they influence and relate to each other. What I got most out of ACTION PHILOSOPHERS! was the desire to do some heavy research into a whole slew of writers and philosophers that I previously only had passing knowledge of.