Friday, March 12, 2010

1000 Comics that you must read by Tony Isabella

Everyone loves comic books when they are kids, and in your lifetime, you've probably read a lot of comics, but, if you had to choose 1000 comics for someone else that they just *had* to read, what would they be? Well, Tony Isabella, writer of Marvel Comics such as Black Lightning and Captain America, was asked that very question, and his first response was... "Only 1000?"

With 1000 choices, Mr. Isabella picked a wide variety, showing the range of comics. Everything from Superheroes, kids comics like Richie Rich, Casper, Archie, Betty and Veronica, to movie and TV tie-ins, comics for Teenaged Girls like Millie the Model and even educational comics like "Pete Learns All About Crohn's and Colitis" (and yes, that's a real comic).

The comics are arranged in Chronological order and show individual issues, each with a scanned cover, info on the creative team responsible and a short blurb about why the comic is memorable, readable and why it deserves placement in the list. The book starts out with Superman in the 30's, and moves on to the "Fighting Forties", "Fearful Fifties", "Swinging Sixties" and so on, right up to today with "The New Millennium". Occasional pages will focus on various issues near and dear to the author's heart, and a page at the beginning of each section recaps what was going on in America and in Comics at the time, allowing each section some historical perspective to inform readers why, say, horror comics were considered bad for readers, and so on.

Most of these historical issues are covered in greater detail in other books about comics, but a short overview here doesn't hurt, and gives even the casual reader greater context. The author isn't shy about tooting his own horn, either, as a number of comics he has written or been involved with made the list of the 1000. Nor is he shy about attracting feedback- inside the book is the address of a website where readers will be allowed to nominate their own favorite comics for another book, if this one sells enough copies.

Readers are sure to disagree with the content of the list- I know I certainly did. But this list was created not to showcase the 1000 best comics, or even the most influential 1000 comics, but to show the wide range of comics available in the past and even today.

I enjoyed reading this book, but I do have to say that 1000 issues of comics are a lot to take in. It took me longer to read it than I thought it would- not that this is necessarily a bad thing- it's just a very long book. And, of course, there were stories and issues left out that I thought deserved to be in there- like "The Great Darkness Saga" in the Legion of Superheroes and the "Fruits Basket" series (because yes, Manga does make it into the book, it's not just a "Big Two" lovefest (i.e. Marvel and DC).

Again, this is a big book, almost coffee-table sized. It's difficult to simply read it through because of the way it is presented. It's more something you read for a while, go off and digest while doing something else, then come back for some more reading.. My main problem with the book is that, even though it's been out for a while, the website in the books still isn't completely up. Going to the address given in the book shows that reader submissions aren't yet allowed- you're going to have to wait for that. But how long? The site gives no clue.

I did enjoy this book- reading it in stages over about a day and a half. But even with 1000 comics, there are plenty that readers will disagree with, and many they will want to add to the list. It's a pity that the website trumpeted in the book is not yet fully working, and if and when they finally get it up and running, I can't wait to see what other comics readers will suggest for inclusion. Recommended.

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