The Great Comic Book Heroes
by Jules Feiffer
(Dial, 1965; Fantagraphics, 2003)

When Jules Feiffer, author of The Great Comic Book Heroes, was 8 or 9 years old in the late 1930s, comic books were in their infancy. He knew at once that he wanted to be a comic book artist. He designed his own strips, drew the characters and wrote the dialogue; all of it was an excellent preparation for his life's work.

While Feiffer was serving his boyhood apprenticeship, the comic book industry was growing by leaps and bounds. The giants were elbowing out their imitators. Superman, Batman, Captain Marvel, Captain America and the Spirit became the stars of this new firmament. Feiffer describes these small dust-ups with humor and a certain audacity. There was plenty of room for stars and imitators alike.

From a savvy insider's position, Feiffer rates the artists and their creations. In a phrase or a sentence, he sums them up. Batman, he thought, was "better plotted, better villained, and better looking than Superman." Captain Marvel was "a perfect phantasy figure for, say, Charlie Brown." "Superman was the only one entitled to wear a cape." His comments are wonderfully quotable and will entertain a reader for pages on end.

Feiffer is a man of formidable talents. This essay is social commentary -- it's about history and a specific kind of popular entertainment. No one could have done it better. This book, a classic, was written in 1965. Feiffer went on to win the Pulitzer prize in 1986 for editorial cartooning. Readers may want to look for his children's books, which reflected a man fully at ease in any facet of writing and illustrating.

- Rambles
written by Jean Marchand
published 19 July 2003

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