THE GOLDEN AGE OF DC COMICS - 365 DAYS by Les Daniels, Chris Kidd & Scott

Spear; 2004; Harry H. Abrams Inc. publisher;  744 pages; list price $29.95
($19.77 discounted from; ISBN # 0810949695.

Book Review by Bill Henley

As the title would indicate, this review is technically off topic for the
Silver Age list.  I thought I would mention it, though, because it turned out to
be a lot of fun to read through after I found it in the Cleveland public
library.  It didn't look too promising at first, though.  In fact, my first
reaction upon picking it up was, "What nitwit designed THIS book?"  The problem-- or
so I thought at first-- is that it's a big, blocky book of odd dimensions--
9.5 inches wide, 6.7 inches high and 2.3 inches thick!    The format consists of
a double-page spread for each day of the year, with a cover or interior scene
from a Golden Age comic book on the right side, and explanatory text by
Daniels on the left. But because of the page dimensions, no page features a
complete comic book cover or page.  only a portion of the cover or splash page or a
few panels (sometimes a single panel blown up in size).  Les Daniels and Chip
Kidd selected the material together, Daniels wrote the text, Kidd was the
nitwit-- or maybe not-- that designed the book and Geoff Spear photographed the
comics images. 

In a foreword, editor/writer Daniels (author of numerous previous comics
history books including authorized corporate histories of both DC and Marvel
Comics) admits that the book's format is "counterintuitive as far as the shape of
comic books is concerned".  Apparently this is partly because the book is part
of a series of art books in the same format (though others are not named). 
But Daniels suggests that looking at a detail of a comics cover or page rather
than the whole page helps to see the comics "through a different set of eyes",
and it seemed to work for me, anyway.  I didn't generally miss seeing the
entire cover or page (though I did sometimes wish I could see an entire story). 

Daniels uses an expansive definition of "Golden Age", starting with the first
pre-Superman DC comics and going as late as 1955, thereby running straight
into the conventional start of the Silver Age (indeed, the December 30 page is a
scene from SHOWCASE #4, in which Flash-to-be Barry Allen catches a falling
tray of food).  He also defines "DC Comics" broadly as including all the
characters who were published by others during the 40's but whom DC later acquired--
thus, the Marvel Family, the Blackhawks,  Plastic Man and other Fawcett and
Quality characters are represented (Daniels seems to have a fondness for the
relatively obscure Ibis the Invincible from Fawcett, as several days are devoted
to him). 

I couldn't figure out any particular pattern to what character or scene was
assigned to which day of the year, except for a few obvious cases like a "Happy
New Year" cover from the very early MORE FUN #17, Jan. 1937, for Jan. 1, and
a patriotic flag cover from CAPTAIN MARVEL JR. #9, July 1943.   Otherwise, the
book skips at apparent random all though the 1935-1955 period, but the lack
of a distinct chronological scheme actually added to the fun of the book for
me, as there was no telling what I might find when I turned the page to the next
"day".    In addition to scenes of virtually every Golden Age superhero,
there are pages devoted to pre-Superman adventure characters (Slam Bradley, Clip
Carson etc.,), funny animal, teen humor, DC's mild attempts at crime and horror
comics (MR. DISTRICT ATTORNEY and HOUSE OF MYSTERY) romance (for some reason
all the examples are taken from one title, GIRLS' LOVE STORIES), Western, and
filler and education features.  Thanks to this variety, the book allows at
least a glimpse of a number of GA features and genres which have never been
reprinted before. 

I caught a fair number of errors on Daniels" explanatory notes; for example,
on a page dealing with the licensed funny-animal characters the Fox and the
Crow, he states that the duo first appeared in REAL SCREEN COMICS which later
turned into FOX AND CROW, when in fact the two titles were separate and appeared
concurrently for years. But in general the writing is accurate enough and
often amusing or insightful. 

By the way, I nominate as the most bizarre and memorable image in the book
the May 5 page, which features, from the "Tex Thomson" story in ACTION #  27,
Aug. 1940, a one-eyed Fu Manchu type oriental villain.  And no, I don't mean
that he has an eyepatch like Nick Fury. 

I don't suppose I'll actually purchase this book-- at least not unless it
shows up on a remainder table at a major discount-- but I appreciated the chance
to page through it, and I recommend it to any Golden Age comics fan who has
the same opportunity.