Fred van Lente & Ryan Dunlavey’s “Action Philosophers” are some of the first digital comic books that I read on my iPhone back in Comixology’s early days. I was very impressed at how well they handled topics like Freud vs. Jung vs. Campbell and the wackiness of Ayn Rand’s Objectivism. When I heard that the duo had compiled a history of the comic book in comic form, it was an automatic purchase for me.
The hours I spent reading the book earlier today testifies to the amount of material contained within. With over 220 pages packed with facts, figures, and asides, this is a volume that you’ll spend some time with and get your full money’s worth. Employing their trademark “Action Philosophers” technique, the authors do a wonderful job of compiling a ton of historical data to create a compelling narrative that scales from the macro level of the comic industry down to the personal stories of individuals like Jack Kirby, William Gaines and Osamu Tezuka. Rather than lionizing the personalities that came before, van Lente & Dunlavey expose the hypocrisies and shady dealings along with the successes and collaborations in this dynamic and personality-driven business. I felt like I came away from the book with a well-rounded perspective on the industry.
For anyone remotely interested in comics books, this is a must read. For those looking for an interesting history, I’d recommend this to them as well. This isn’t just a good book on comic books, but compelling work of historical scholarship and deserves to be recognized as such.