Comic Book Comics #1
Title: Funnies Get Famous
Writer: Fred Van Lente
Art: Ryan Dunlavey
Publisher: Evil Twin Comics
The team of Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey made names for themselves with the bizarre, entertaining, bizarrely entertaining comic Action Philosophers a few years back. With their follow-up series, Comic Book Comics, they turned their unique blend of education and comedy to the very medium that they were using to present their stories.
In Comic Book Comics #1, we see the birth of the comic book – not as an art form, really, but as a business. Van Lente and Dunlavey begin with the Yellow Kid, typically regarded as the first “Comic strip,” and from there show how his evolution influenced the creation of other strips, how this led to comic book publishing, and how the publishing practices of the industry led to things like the creation of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s Superman, and why Jack Kirby chose a pseudonym in the first place instead of continuing to work under his birth name. Will Eisner makes an appearance as well, and there’s a wonderful piece about the early rivalry between animators Walt Disney and Max Fleisher.
The comic book isn’t a narrative, exactly. It isn’t portrayed as a straightforward story in any way, but rather as an ongoing lecture by Van Lente’s narration, illustrated and sometimes acted out by the characters drawn by Dunlavey. In presentation, it actually reminds me quite a bit of Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics and its sequels, although the subject matter is somewhat different.
Regardless of how it’s presented, the book is wonderfully fun to read. The artwork is sharp and funny, the writing and dialogue is entertaining while still giving the reader plenty of useful information. I managed to get my hands on the entire six-issue run of the series at once, just after the final issue was released, and I’m glad I won’t have to sit through the long wait many readers did between issues. Now that I’ve done issue one, I can’t wait to get right into issue #2.