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Comic Book Culture: An Illustrated History    by Ron Goulart order for
Comic Book Culture
by Ron Goulart
Order:  USA  Can
Collectors Press, 2007 (2007)
* * *   Reviewed by Lance Victor Eaton

There have been numerous histories written about the comic book - the business, the culture, art, etc.. None of them could be considered definitive and each has its strengths and weaknesses. Comic Book Culture is no different in this respect. It is certainly an impressive book at just over two hundred pages, with hundreds of comic book covers and excerpts speckled throughout. Its coffee-book shape offers readers oversized pages overflowing with several covers and often dazzling backgrounds. Intertwined with covers and captions are essays addressing various trends of comic book culture.

While the book addresses some of the typical comic book history, it also strays from the traditional narrative. Most writers ramble on and on about the superheroes and comic books that are still around today such as Superman, Batman, or Captain America. They retell how fast Superman comics took off (at millions of copies, it certainly was faster than a speeding bullet) and how the entire industry almost crumbled under the words of Frederick Wertham.

Though Goulart does include some of that, he does not hesitate to explore other genres and series that did not have the same lasting power. He examines the range of genres - from action and adventure to the humorous and light-hearted - while also highlighting the talent and industry decisions behind the many different titles. While one could easily flip through the pages and thoroughly enjoy this book regardless of the essays, it would be a great loss. The essays add a level of depth the captions certainly won't, especially when the text refers to specific covers found throughout the book.

One understated element of the book seems to be how the covers themselves were almost incestuous in their replications and reproductions. Regardless of genre or publisher, the poses and positioning of characters can be seen to be outright duplicates or just lightly adjusted. Additionally, some might argue that some pages are completely wasted on new chapters, which feature an extreme close-up of a particular comic strip. So close up, the art almost assumes an Impressionist design. One or two of these pictures would be great, thereby leaving space for more covers or even essays.

Those looking for a definitive history of comic books may not be particularly impressed. However, Comic Book Culture provides a decent overview for non-hardcore fans or general pop culture addicts. Most readers will certainly get their money's worth from this colorful and intriguing book.

Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.

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