The Golden Age of DC Comics : 1935-1956

Author: Paul Levitz

dcI am so in awe of this book, I don’t really know how to begin except to say – I’m gobsmacked! My delight when I first found it nestling against my front door is nothing compared to my delight on opening it. Even better, this promises to be the first of a chronological series of five volumes, produced by major art publisher Taschen tracing the history of DC against the backdrop of its social, political and cultural times. Best of all, the illustrations and comic artwork reproduced are of outstanding quality, carefully chosen and lovingly printed in a monster size to enable full appreciation. These five volumes will be a detailed expansion of the previous publication ’75 Years of DC Comics’ including 1,000 new images across the five volumes. It’s a big 416 pages and for the paltry price of £34.99, it is worth every single one of your hard earned pennies if you are a classic comic fan.

This bumper gold volume is a fully comprehensive look at the golden years of DC in its first few decades, focusing on the beginnings of some of their best loved characters such as Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern among many others including comics, developmental artwork, studio photographs, background essays on the key artists and writers as well as film stills and even collectibles. I loved the early covers, the behind the scenes photos of the production studio and workroom and the early character sketches. Obviously in a book like this the comics themselves are the absolute highlight and rightly so, but the gem of this publication is how they tie these beautifully reproduced pieces of art with the creators, artists and American cultural history.

The exclusive interview with legendary artist Joe Kubert is a real highlight, as are the standout sections on Superman creators Siegel and Schuster, Batman creator Bob Kane and Wonderwoman creator William Mouton Marston. The development of each superhero character is explored in fantastic detail and explored in parallel alongside the development of other comic genres of the time such as westerns and adventure titles. I loved the section on the development of Wonderwoman, which works as a fascinating mirror of a time when women’s lives and their place in society changed forever during WWII and yet they were still living in a society before the ‘second wave’ of feminism. The development of superhero comics through the war years was really enlightening. It  was fascinating to see how they reflected the fears and sentiments of a nation as well as acting as an inspiration, reinforcing national identity and the sense of being on the side of the ‘good’. I had no idea that Superman for instance, was used the US war-bonds campaign, encouraging Americans to give 10% of their pay over to war bonds to ‘get the Japanazis off the earth’!! There is also time to look at the development of the first sci-fi comics, particularly focusing on space exploration and even the first 3d comic.

This 5-part series promises to be a comic geeks wet dream if this first volume is anything to go by – buy it immediately or regret it forevermore! Consider yourself warned. Don’t make me come round your house okay?

Claire Hyypia

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