It's been a while since I've posted, but fear not! Neither am I dead, nor do I no longer have anything to write! Just the opposite, as it turns out...I've never had more going on with comics than I do right now. At least I think so. Whatever. Anyway, let's turn our attentions to what, for all intents and purposes, serves as a precursor to the vaunted Thing sketchbook, an item from years past the I got during my formative years. It's Les Daniels's DC Comics: Sixty Years of the World's Favorite Comic Book Heroes
hardcover! And what a treat it is.
I got this book soon after it arrived in bookstores in 1995, and it served as a source of inspiration for years. In its covers, comic book historian Les Daniels briefly recalled the history of DC Comics, from its early 20th century beginnings to the arrival of Superman to Crisis and beyond. Now that I look back on it, it's easy to see the book's flaws, but at 14 this was something that I just reveled in.
During my first few trips to the Pittsburgh Comicon in the mid-to-late '90s, I took this book with me and got signatures from anyone who had ever worked at DC Comics. Looking back at this, it's easy to see how much the convention has changed. In the 1990s, the Pittsburgh Comicon was home to a number of legendary Golden Age artists, many of whom I didn't recognize at the time but have since come to revere them for their contributions to the comic industry. As I was just starting my comic collection and didn't have many books to get signed, this hardcover was a great alternative and, as you can see, it took on a life of its own after a while.
Let's look at the title page:
This is still pretty impressive to me some 15 years after I got my last signature into the book. In fact, it makes me wonder why I stopped collecting autographs, as it became quite the eye-catcher. But I guess I moved on to other things. In any case, there are two things that stand out upon first glance of this spread: the DC Comics logo and the giant Hawkman image on the left side:
This image, drawn by Steve Lieber, was one of first - if not the actual first - entries into the book, probably from 1997 or '98. If I'm remembering correctly, I saw Lieber draw a similar sketch for someone else, and I decided to press my luck. The gamble obviously paid off. Once I took the book around to other creators, they were of course confronted by this intimidating image, and many of them then decided to add their own sketches into the book. Pretty lucky on my part.
Beau Smith is a writer who espoused his manliness in a tongue-in-cheek fashion in all of the comics he wrote. Instead of drawing a comic character, he decided to draw himself, which is pretty awesome and manly.
Here's Dan Davis, an inker on, among other things, Stars and S*T*R*I*P*E.
draws the Superman "S" in a number of places. Roger Stern, writer on Action Comics for a good, solid run, does the same.
This classic Batman is by Dan Gotlieb.
Matt Wagner had a great Sandman run, and here is a great image of said character.
Stuart Immonen added this Superman bust.
Peter Palmiotti drew this bearded Aquaman!
Pittsburgh Comicon stalwart Scott McDaniel drew the DC character he's most recognized for: Nightwing.
Darryl Banks was just starting out with his dollar sign signature in '99. He's best known for co-creating the Kyle Rayner Green Lantern, and he added the symbol here.
Here's Howard Porter's Batman. Porter had a great run on JLA with Grant Morrison.
Ron Frenz drew the electric Superman symbol.
Right smack in the middle of the title page are autographs from some legendary Golden and Silver Age creators who have since passed on. I'm so glad that I got their signatures while I had the chance, and I wish that I had the wherewithal to realize just who was signing my book at the time...the follies of youth, I suppose. Julius Schwartz, Shelly Moldoff, Irwin Hasen, Dick Ayers...all very important creators from the early days of comics.
The inside of the book featured brief articles on a number of topics. At times, the book became more of a coffee table-style pictorial book as the pictures heavily outweighed the text. But it was informative and interesting, especially to someone who really had little knowledge of comics before 1992.
Mart Nodell, co-creator of Green Lantern, was also a staple of the Pittsburgh Comic-Con in the 1990s. I met him and his family a few times and came away with fun stories almost every time.
Here's a page on the Legion of Super-Heroes. What stands out on this page?
Why, it's a Shrinking Violet sketch by W.C. Carani. The picture doesn't do it justice - he meticulously inked this until it was perfect, and he did a great job of using negative space in the image. It's hard to tell that the final product doesn't belong in printed book.
Once the front spread started to fill up, I started going to specific pages in the book to have creators signed. Here's the second autograph from Julie Schwartz.
And, the greedy bastard that I am, I got another Steve Lieber Hawkman sketch.
Here's a fuzzy picture (sorry) of an autograph from Carmine Infantino, who just passed away a few years ago.
Once I figured that I couldn't possibly fit any more names or images in the front of the book, I moved to the back pages. It wasn't quite the same and I eventually lost interest, I suppose. The pages look a little sad and bare now that I look at them...perhaps I'll have to rectify that at some point. Anyway, the back pages butted up against a recreation of the origin of Batman. When artist Rags Morales saw where I was asking him to sign, he added in this funny disclaimer.
The back does have a quick Lobo sketch by Mark McKenna!
At some point, I decided to get a certificate of authenticity from the Pittsburgh Comic-Con. I think they were three buck each at that point, so I guess I decided to get my money's worth as I had them load up on all of the signatures I had at the time. As you can see, the person filling the certificate out struggled to list all of the names.
I took this book with me to a lot of different places at one time, but it mostly sits on a shelf these days. Still, it's fun to take it out and look at it every once in a while, and it's astonishing to see some of the signatures I was able to get as a dumb kid who didn't know who he was talking to.