Give Our Regards to the Atom-smashers!: Writers on Comics

Sean Howe, Editor . Pantheon $24.95 (228p) ISBN 978-0-375-42256-0

As we always knew, 1950s scaremongers were wrong: not only does overindulgence in comic books not dissuade young readers from prose, but some very famous writers grew up addicted to comics. Howe has lined up a remarkable bunch of essayists, including Luc Sante, Greil Marcus, Jonathan Lethem and Brad Meltzer, to write about their favorite funny books. Many revisit the comics of their youth with amused distance—the Marvel vs. DC rivalry, the wonders of Jack Kirby's cosmology and Steve Ditko's crabbed mysticism. A few analyze specific series: Steve Erickson takes on Howard Chaykin's boundary-pushing '80s title American Flagg , and Gary Giddins traces how Classics Illustrated celebrated a part of the literary canon that was dying. Some of the most striking contributions, though, are very personal pieces by self-consciously comics-obsessed writers: Glen David Gold recounting his tormented attempts to buy original comics art from a dealer who'd have nothing to do with him; Sante explaining the power of the "clear-line" style of Tintin cartoonist Hergé on his boyhood self; and Meltzer (who's now a comics writer and novelist) discussing his near-sexual fascination with a mid-'80s New Teen Titans story line. The book includes some of today's most elegant writing on comics, a worthy companion to Lupoff and Thompson's All in Color for a Dime (1997), the previous standard in the field. (June)

Correction: In the review of Robert Leuci's All the Centurions (Forecasts, May 17), it should have been made clear that the author never aided the Knapp Commission and never worked for the NYPD as an informant against his fellow police officers.

Reviewed on: 06/14/2004
Release date: 06/01/2004
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