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Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters, and the Birth of the Comic Book
Reviewed by Mark Finn, © 2004

Format: Book
By:   Gerard Jones (author)
Genre:   Nonfiction
Released:   Published October 30, 2004
Review Date:   November 12, 2004
RevSF Rating:   10/10 (What Is This?)

Over the last 20 years, I've actively sought out books and articles on comic book history. I've read dozens of books, biographies, articles, essays, and encyclopedias, many of which faithfully and self-referentially repeat the same legends and lore that make up the story of what comics are and how they came to be. After a while, the books that have new and different information in them move to the top of the pile; read enough of this stuff, and even a rumor or hint of scandal becomes the most interesting tidbit in the book.

Men of Tomorrow is full of interesting tidbits. It's also full of exclusive interviews, all-new information, and biographical data on the most critically important and overlooked people in the comic book business: the moneymen. No one prior to Jones ever gave them much thought; after all, what would they have to do with the creation of Superman?

Well, Jones contends, just about everything.

Comics are a Gordian knot. It's impossible to unravel everything that went into their unique creation, but Men of Tomorrow makes a valiant go at it. Jones' prose is both authoritative and readable. He draws on his vast knowledge of the industry to drop in a lot of the familiar information, but manages to place it in the larger framework of his own project. Jones is not above throwing a snarky aside or a barb here and there, and that balloon-puncturing judgementalism is part of what makes this such a great read. Jones is involved in the subject, and his comments are our clues as to which side of the argument he chooses to take.

This is the best comic book history I've read in a decade. It's an irreverent, gripping page-turner of a book with surprises on every page. The comic books' creators' stories are equal parts early 20th century American history and The Sopranos. Thankfully, Jones gives full disclosure on what he could and could not verify, so the book steers deftly away from wild speculation and focuses on what was said and what was done. If you have any interest in the modern comic book industry, you must read this book to understand how it got that way. Men of Tomorrow is really that good.

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