October 30, 2019
One in a weekly series of enthusiastic posts, contributed by HILOBROW friends and regulars, on the topic of our favorite comic books, comic strips, and graphic novels.
ACTION COMICS #460
From a historical perspective, there’s nothing particularly noteworthy about this issue of Action Comics. It came out in June 1976, a rather fallow period in American comic book publishing, and the same month I turned five years old. I distinctly remember my mother buying this particular issue for me on a trip to the Los Angeles farmers’ market on Olvera St.; it monopolized my attention for the entire 45-minute drive home to Orange County. I’m not even sure I could read it; the plot of the issue had no effect on me whatsoever and before I re-read it to write this piece, I couldn’t have told you a single thing about what happened in the issue.
Nonetheless, this unassuming comic sparked a revelation to my novice eyes that would hold sway over my imagination to this day. It wasn’t the first comic book I’d ever owned and nor was it even the first Superman comic I’d owned — a copy of Action Comics #451 from late 1975 was already in my burgeoning collection. But this was where I connected the dots and realized that these things were actually drawn by people! In this case, the iconic Curt Swan, who seemingly drew every Superman story published during my childhood. Even before I was literate enough to read the credits of the issue, I noticed certain tics in Swan’s artwork that connected these two issues — the way he drew faces, in particular (I soon learned that faces were a typical “tell” in discerning individual styles).
From that point on, my appreciation of the craft of drawing comics flourished, to the point where my primary focus in collecting comic books because less about particular characters or stories and more about who drew them; a major shift in my purchasing habits (or my mom’s, anyway). If I wasn’t intrinsically attracted to the artwork itself, I wasn’t interested. To this day, I can glance at most mainstream comics from the 1970s through the 1980s and identify who penciled and/or inked them.
As an adult who now publishes comics, my tastes have evolved considerably. The best comics are not necessarily the “best” drawn. What matters is a personal vision and a clarity in storytelling. Yet I still regress to those same, visceral, five-year-old responses to style when initially engaging a comic — before I’ve ever read a word.
SERIOCOMIC: Mimi Lipson on LITTLE LULU | Sara Ryan on AMPHIGOREY | Gary Panter on THE NUT BROS./THE SQUIRREL CAGE | Gordon Dahlquist on POGO | Robert Wringham on VIZ | Matthew De Abaitua on CAPTAIN BRITAIN | Jessamyn West on FUN HOME | Bradley Peterson on HELLBOY | Stephanie Burt on KITTY PRYDE RETURNS | Jenny Davidson on OOR WULLIE | Luc Sante on MARSUPILAMI | Susan Roe on BLOOM COUNTY | Marilyn Berlin Snell on CHARLES ADDAMS | Deb Chachra on ARKHAM ASYLUM | Judith Zissman on ERNIE POOK’S COMEEK | Alexandra Lange on BETTY (ARCHIE) | Catherine Newman on VERONICA (ARCHIE) | Josh Glenn on SPIRE CHRISTIAN COMICS | Adam McGovern on THE CREW | William Nericcio on ERRATA STIGMATA | Chelsey Johnson on DYKES TO WATCH OUT FOR | Sherri Wasserman on TANK GIRL | Tom Nealon on MEGATON MAN | Erin M. Routson on THE WEDDING OF SCOTT SUMMERS & JEAN GREY | Douglas Wolk on FRANK IN THE RIVER | Annie Nocenti on DICK TRACY | James Parker on 2000 AD | Adrienne Crew on NUTS | Vanessa Berry on MEAT CAKE | John Holbo on WITZEND | Michael Campochiaro on SPIDER-WOMAN | Miranda Mellis on RED SONJA & BÊLIT | Michael Grasso on THE NEW MUTANTS | Ty Burr on BINKY BROWN | Bishakh Som on AMAR CHITRA KATHA | Mark Kingwell on CLASSICS ILLUSTRATED | Brian Berger on JIMBO | Kenya (Robinson) on AGENT 355 | Seth on THE ETERNALS ANNUAL | Susannah Breslin on SLASHER | Lisa Kahlden on JACK CHICK TRACTS | Mandy Keifetz on KRAZY KAT | Tom Devlin on DUM-DUM POSSE READER | Eric Reynolds on ACTION COMICS #460 | Rick Pinchera on EIGHTBALL #16 | Juan Recondo on DAYTRIPPER | Elizabeth Foy Larsen on ROZ CHAST | J.E. Anckorn on HALO JONES | Deborah Wassertzug on GREAT POP THINGS | Peggy Nelson on MAD MOVIE SATIRES | Holly Interlandi on ANGEL SANCTUARY | Karen Green on THE SMITHSONIAN COLLECTION OF NEWSPAPER COMICS.
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