- By Gerard Jones

Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters, and the Birth of the Comic Book

  • Title: Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters, and the Birth of the Comic Book
  • Author: Gerard Jones
  • ISBN: 9780465036578
  • Page: 471
  • Format: Paperback
  • Men of Tomorrow Geeks Gangsters and the Birth of the Comic Book Animated by the stories of some of the last century s most charismatic and conniving artists writers and businessmen Men of Tomorrow brilliantly demonstrates how the creators of the superheroes gai

    Animated by the stories of some of the last century s most charismatic and conniving artists, writers, and businessmen, Men of Tomorrow brilliantly demonstrates how the creators of the superheroes gained their cultural power and established a crucial place in the modern imagination This history of the birth of superhero comics highlights three pivotal figures The storyAnimated by the stories of some of the last century s most charismatic and conniving artists, writers, and businessmen, Men of Tomorrow brilliantly demonstrates how the creators of the superheroes gained their cultural power and established a crucial place in the modern imagination This history of the birth of superhero comics highlights three pivotal figures The story begins early in the last century, on the Lower East Side, where Harry Donenfeld rises from the streets to become the king of the smooshes soft core magazines with titles like French Humor and Hot Tales Later, two high school friends in Cleveland, Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel, become avid fans of scientifiction, the new kind of literature promoted by their favorite pulp magazines The disparate worlds of the wise guy and the geeks collide in 1938, and the result is Action Comics 1, the debut of Superman For Donenfeld, the comics were a way to sidestep the censors For Shuster and Siegel, they were both a calling and an eventual source of misery the pair waged a lifelong campaign for credit and appropriate compensation The New Yorker

    1 thought on “Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters, and the Birth of the Comic Book

    1. Let me start with a couple of caveats. The focus of this book is not for everyone. It will likely be of some interest to those generally interested in popular culture and 20th century history. It's primary audience, however, consists of the geeks alluded to in the subtitle. (I count myself as a geek wannabe.)Organized primarily around the evolution of Superman, Men of Tomorrow branches out to consider the cultural influences and the interpersonal relationships that shaped the growth of the comic [...]

    2. Smart, concise history of how comic books became a thing and doesn't leave out any of the good stuff. Re-emphasizes the argument that all American forms of mass entertainment media in the 20th century are on permanent loan from the street culture of New York City -- a place that seems to own stock in every American cultural enterprise this side of the Civil War and will always get the big chair in the shareholder's meetings, even if the product under discussion isn't their own. Author is here to [...]

    3. I read this as background for Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. Research soon turned into fascination with the true story of the origins of the comic book and the superheroes that made the genre a cultural phenomenon. Well written and documented, Men of Tomorrow is an important social history of the comic book in America. Jones has done a fine job of interweaving the stories of the creators (writers and artists) and the publishing entrepreneurs who made the comic bo [...]

    4. In the depths of the Depression, out of the crowded tenements of New York and Cleveland, the comic book superhero leapt into being. Out of a mix of geekiness, science fiction, and outsider yearning, a crew of young men from working-class Jewish neighbourhoods and shady backgrounds created a series of blue-eyed, chisel-nosed crime fighters and adventurers who quickly captured the imaginations of young and old. Within a few years their creations had spawned a new genre that still dominates youth e [...]

    5. I read this a few months before I read The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay and I think I benefited from it. This book is the "real life" version (inspiration) of Chabon's novel - essentially following Jerry Siegel (and to an extent, Joe Schuster), all through the Golden Age of comics and beyond. Along the way we get stories from all of the major workhouses in New York, including some great anecdotes about Will Eisner (like his marathon run to finish a comic with his bullpen in he middl [...]

    6. Growing up in the so-called “Silver Age” of comic books (‘50s-early ‘60s) and being such a geek that I attended San Diego Comic Con before it moved to the convention center, it’s a wonder I didn’t read Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters and the Birth of the Comic Book before. This history rings true for the limited information I have on comic book history (reading Wertham’s Seduction of the Innocent many years ago, working for a company which briefly published comics (Ziff-Davis), d [...]

    7. It is hard to praise enough this detailed (perhaps an edge too much so in the very first chapters), well researched, well sourced, well judged and readable account of the creation of the comic books industry.Jones balances the human, creative and business stories and makes a convincing case for this being a peculiarly Jewish-American phenomenon grounded initially (though not today) in a particular milieu.Comic book production in New York in the 1940s was a classic case of an urban centre of exce [...]

    8. More like 4.5, but I'm in a good mood today and rounding up. This is basically the nonfiction version of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. It's easy to read and I think Jones and Chabon are friends. And so I kept having these weird flashbacks of "wait, where do I know this story from???" and many of the vignettes in Kavalier & Clay are things that really happened. Anyway, if you couldn't get through that one for stylistic reasons but are interested in the subject, I'd give this [...]

    9. I have read Men of Tomorrow a couple of times and use it for research and a starting point for my own research. What I like best about the book is that it is not only easy to read and very well written but I love the fact that Gerard places the history of comic books within the larger frame of historical events. It makes so much of the history more compelling and understandable. I know Gerard because there is information about my grandfather, Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson in this book. The inf [...]

    10. A mind-blower, and an essential one. One of the great history books I've read; not just a "comic book book" or a book on "media/popular culture" as the back cover itself asserts (tho it is that also), but an exhaustively researched, masterfully written, searing saga of the 20th century as it only could have unfolded in beautiful, brutal America. From the streets teeming with immigrant children literally fighting their way thru childhood to the corporate conglomerates & mega mergers of the '6 [...]

    11. Phenomenally well-written book. Beyond disappointing to learn that so many iconic characters were mostly the composite result of decades of greed though. Yet such may be the very nature of trash: Meaningful material developing only after way long bouts of money-grubbing, ignoring original creators, failing to compensate writers, etc.

    12. A very pulp-y style tell-all of the lives of the earliest superhero comics creators, with quite a few dashes of sexism thrown in; women in comics are barely mentioned and mostly villified as demanding wives and mistresses to whom the comics creators had to work so hard to support. If you are really interested in the details of how the creators worked and fought together, this is for you.

    13. I really enjoyed this book! It's a history of comic books in America, and although it covers comics all the way through the late 1990s, its primary focus is on the early origins, the creation of Superman and other aspects of the Golden Age. By the time the narrative reaches the end of the Second World War, the story accelerates and moves away from the detail that the earlier years received. The Silver Age is covered from a high-level overview, and the years following the Silver Age receive even [...]

    14. Long and Meandering, yet interesting and fulfilling in the end. Lots of bits and pieces regarding the history of American pop culture, mostly surrounding the artists and publishers that of what is now DC Comics. The largest portions are about Shuster and Siegel and Jack Liebowitz and their saga for intellectual property. I enjoyed it but wished it included more about the other companies.

    15. Gerard Jones writes:No other fad in entertainment has ever paralleled real-life events as closely as the superheros paralleled World War II. Superman fist drew attention in the summer of 1938, as war fears grew out of the Czechoslovakia crisis, and it was after the war really began late the next summer that the superhero fad took flight. By 1941, as America moved inevitably into the war, the heros grew rapidly in number, popularity, variety, and aggression, and some of the most popular were taki [...]

    16. The subtitle of Men of Tomorrow promises that it tells "the TRUE STORY of the BIRTH of the SUPERHEROES". In many ways, it achieves this goal. But the narrative thrust of this history is not the creation of superheroes, although there is much discussion and some psychoanalysis of that phenomenon. The hook of the story, its beginning and its end, is the dispute regarding the credit for the creation of Superman and the battles Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster had to endure to be recognised as his creat [...]

    17. Jones writes of the early comic industry with the prose of authority even as some of his narrative conflicts with other accounts of the industry, and is thus in itself guilty of some of the same skeptical embellishment as the historical figures mentioned in the book. As an overview of an industry, it's a good read with wonderfully evocative prose even if its greatest strengths are also its greatest weaknesses.

    18. Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters and the Birth of the Comic Book, Gerard Jones, Basic Books, 2004This book is a history of that ubiquitous part of contemporary American adolescent life, the comic book.In the early part of the 20th Century, there were an entire generation of male geeks and outsiders who enjoyed reading this crazy literature called science fiction. Mainly Jewish, and usually living in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, they combined their fantasies and youthful traumas into the sq [...]

    19. I originally picked up this book because I figured it would have a different take on the comic book industry's history. I've only read one other book on the subject but it was focused on the "Seduction of the Innocent" controversy. This book also touches on that but instead focuses on the earliest history of the comic book. The path through pulp fiction and newspaper comic strips and the birth of science fiction was extremely interesting to read about. How much of the industry was started by men [...]

    20. For any true fan of comic books or someone fascinated in the industry, this book is absolutly essential. I find it almost impossible to accurately discuss the origins or intentions of any comic book character/title without knowing what is recorded in this book. With so many loose/new fans to the industry there are so many opinionated assumptions being thrown around on what the original verson of certain heroes were supposed to be. None of these assumptions are usually close to the truth, but thi [...]

    21. This is a great sort of "group biography" that tracks many of the founding generation of superhero comics and tries to cut through the myths and legends that have grown around them. Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, and Jack Liebowitz receive the most amount of attention, although others such as Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Bob Kane, Bill Finger, Gardner Fox, and others receive a little bit of coverage too.The big revelations here are just how wide Liebowitz's business efforts were -- he was involved in quite [...]

    22. You know those books that make your eyes just sort of slide through the words? Your reading them, a narrating voice in your head is spitting the syllables out to you, but you're gaining no conscious understanding of what's actually been written? Countless times I found myself thinking about other things, what I was going to do tomorrow, what the weather was like, the chores I had to do, rather than slog through the drudgery that is this book.In effect, this book is what I despise most about non- [...]

    23. I have seen two three-hour documentaries on comic book history, but they each just barely skimmed the surface and put a glossy sheen on the circumstances leading up to the birth of the comic book phenomenon and subsequent developments.  Gerard Jones' book (originally published in 2005) scrapes off a bit of the surface polish to show how the original creators of what we now know as comic books were a mixed bag of earnest writers and artists who wanted to express their interests, and the sometime [...]

    24. I can't help it: I'm a natural student. So it stands to reason that with all the comics I've been reading, I'd eventually get around to reading a history of the comic industry. I heard of this book in a review of a DC documentary I saw recently; the reviewer said you should read this instead and be done with it. I agree whole-heartedly. Jones' writing is superlative. He makes a topic that is admittedly sometimes boring - even for die-hard fans - all riveting, all the time. The story of comics is [...]

    25. This is an awesome and informative book and well worth the time it took to read as well as the discounted purchase price I paid for it. This one chronicles the creation and subsequent RIPOFF of Superman from his creators, as well as the basic history of where comic books came from and how organized crime managed to use the comic book industry as a front for smuggling and money laundering.In many ways, this one would make a great movie along the lines of MONEYBALL it is FANTASTIC moving and the s [...]

    26. I have been a reader of comics for as long as I can remember and a collector of American comics, in one form or another, for over thirty-five years and have always been interested by the history of the characters, creators and the industry itself. This book fills in the details of stories that I have only ever known as broad brush strokes, telling how Jewish immigrants started the whole industry off, by way of gangster gangs, pornography and the pulps.Detailed histories of the early days of the [...]

    27. Men of Tomorrow tells the pretty fascinating true story of the comics book industry. The heart of the book is the story of Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, and their long struggle to get credit for the Man of Steel. Even though I read this book off and on over a few months, it was largely this narrative that kept me coming back.For me, the book starts a bit slow, providing a lot of history about a variety of people who -- while important to the comic book industry's conception -- [...]

    28. Pretty fascinating, pretty absorbing. Not quite an all-encompassing portrait of the golden age of comics; Jones focuses on a few key figures and tells their stories in detail, while giving only brief sketches of others. At first this irritated me, but as I got deeper into the book I realized that it was a wise choice on Jones' part. If he tried to cover everything, it would have felt like a pedantic slog. Instead, he sticks to the most important and memorable people and it gives the book a stron [...]

    29. I've had an advanced reader copy of this book floating around my house for almost 10 years and recently rescued it from my high "unread" pile of books. What a great read! It came out a couple years after Kavalier and Clay and offers a broad history of the comic book industry, the culture it arose from, its creators, distributors and fans. There may be other good books along these lines but this one was fascinating, working in what I felt to be an objective way to dispel old myths and treat the s [...]

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