Monday, January 16, 2017

The Silver Age Of Comic Book Art!

When The Silver Age of Comic Book Art by Arlen Schumer hit the bookshelves over a decade ago I admit I was intrigued by a book a which placed some of my favorite comic artists in such high esteem. As Schumer points out in his introduction, this is not a book about the Silver Age, the Silver Age heroes, nor even the Silver Age companies Marvel and DC.

Rather this is a distilled look (emphasis on look) the artwork which graced the narrative filled pages of the finest Silver Age books. Each of the primary artists identified is given several pages (both Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby get the most) showcasing artwork from various periods of their careers. The art is transformed and rearranged to make that which is sometimes all too familiar to us fans fresh and exciting all over again.

The other artists in addition to Ditko and Kirby highlighted are Carmine Infantino, Gil Kane, Joe Kubert, Gene Colan, Jim Steranko and Neal Adams. Also given a few pages each in a separate section called "More Masters" are Murphy Anderson, John Buscema, Nick Cardy, Curt Swan, and Wally Wood. That's a lot of great talent packed into what feels like very few pages. It's impressive.

This book apparently inspired by classics such as Jules Fieffers' The Comic Book Heroes and Jim Steranko's The History of Comics and began as a scheme for an art gallery presentation and that's really what the book feels like as you amble through its pages.

Here are some samples of what the pages (almost all presented as double-page spreads of one sort or other) look like. Enjoy!

I picked up this book for tiny money. I wouldn't pop for it at the original fifty dollar asking price, but if you can find it for a discount snap it up. It ain't just one comics lore volume to add to the dozens already out there. This is something different, something special. There is a revised edition out now, but I haven't seen that one.

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  1. Thanks for the heads-up, Rip - I'll keep an eye out for it.

  2. As display material for an exhibit in which the actual art is on view, I guess this faux pop art collage technique is okay. But the named artists are considered greats not only for their surface technique and dynamic figure drawing, which is about all we get, but for their mastery of panel continuity and page layout, which we get almost none of here. In fact, these spreads would imply to a curious novice that the comics are considerably more chaotic and less elegantly designed than we know them to be. It's like demonstrating how brilliant a vocalist Pavarotti is by handing us his severed lips. I don't think you can show respect to the comics medium by demolishing it like this. Even as a sort of memory book, this seems more about the art of Schumer than the art of Silver Age comics. I think someone like Steranko, who has better knowledge of the artists and a much better design sense, could've created a valuable book with the same budget and raw material. The pictures are colorful and perhaps resonant to an old comics fan, but this still seems like a wasted opportunity to me.

    1. Excellent points! The craftsmanship of storytelling is key and that is not on display, but the distinctive and immediately recognizable drawing styles are at least.

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