Fri 05 Nov
It’s fuckin’ gloomy around here. Everyone’s pissed off or depressed or angry or sulking. To get a little respite, I’m retreating to the fantasia of the comic book world with Gerard Jones’ “Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters and the Birth of the Comic Book.” I picked it up over the weekend while browsing the aisles at my local bookstore, stocking up on fodder for my culturally elitist reading list (my duty, as a citizen of a blue state). I’ve never really left behind the familiar comfort of comic books, in part because they almost bring me back to the less prickly reality of childhood, but these days I think I enjoy the idea of them more than anything; I’d rather read about comic books than actually read them.
That’s why this well-crafted history of the early comic book industry is perfect for me. It’s less a scholarly history than a biography of the personalities and circumstances that led a small population of Jewish boys into creating some of the defining myths of modern America. But it has its share of historical revelations, too:, Jones traces the origins of the comic book industry back to the hard-scrabble realities of New York’s Lower East Side in the early part of the century, and shows how famous gangland names like Meyer Lansky played their part in bringing about this early pop medium. Just like a comic book, there’s no knowledge in this tome that will prove particularly useful in the real world — it’s just bracingly entertaining — and it has virtually nothing to do with what’s going on today. Which is why it’s such a pleasure to read.