After shattering all known records in the field of philosophy comics with Action Philosophers (surpassing previous big seller, 1995’s Camille Paglia’s Bad Grrrrl Force, by a wide margin), creators Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey have chosen as their next victim – er, subject – the history of the comics industry itself, from 1896 to the present, an irreverent-but-accurate journey that commences when Comic Book Comics #1 hits stands in March 2008.
Among the luminaries lovingly profiled and mercilessly made fun of within Comic Book Comics’ fact- and satire-soaked pages are Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Walt Disney, Roy Lichtenstein, William M. Gaines, R. Crumb, Winsor McCay, Will Eisner, Max Fleischer, R. F. Outcault, Dr. Fredric “Fun Boy” Wertham, Osamu Tezuka, Bud Fisher, Harvey Kurtzman, Gilbert Shelton, Art Spiegelman, Steve Ditko, Jack Jackson, Bob Kane, Julie Schwartz, Charles Biro, Harvey Pekar, Bob Wood, Joe Simon, Jim Warren, Alan Moore, anyone ever involved with Archie Comics, and, of course, Bert Christman.
Among the many raging industry controversies that will at last be laid to rest by the incontrovertible genius of CBC will be:
Ø Jack Kirby or Stan Lee: Who was more important in the creation of Marvel?
Ø Roy Lichtenstein: History’s greatest monster?
Ø Who is truly more annoying: Non-hygienic, nasal-voiced, nitpicking superhero fans or soul-patch sporting, snobbishly sneering, clique-blinded art school indy comics connoisseurs? And, more importantly, which should you bet money on in mud wrestling?
Having chosen to bite, or, more accurately, feed to a wood chipper the hand that feeds them, Van Lente and Dunlavey have already begun to prepare for the swift termination of their brief and largely undistinguished careers by taking second jobs.
We caught up to CBC writer Fred Van Lente to ask him if the planned candor — and just plain obnoxiousness — of Comic Book Comics might jeopardize his position as writer or co-writer of The Incredible Hercules, Wolverine: First Class, Tales from the Crypt, Power Pack: Day One, and other mainstream comics. He spoke to us while performing his duties at his “fallback” job as ticket-taker, usher, and vomit removal specialist at a Court Street cineplex.
“I think Ryan and I will be fine as long as people see, as they seemed to with Action Philosophers, that we’re being truthful about our subject, and giving praise and abuse in equal doses to everyone from the superhero to the underground to the manga ends of the spectrum,” Van Lente explained standing in a puddle of filth.
“’Malice to all’ is our motto, so I’m not worried,” he said, then added while picking up his mop and slop bucket, “Although it never hurts to plan ahead.”
CBC artist Ryan Dunlavey agreed while putting Goya products on the shelf of a corner bodega in his weekend role as part-time stock boy.
“The thing is that all past attempts to do comics history have reflected how tribal comics fandom really is,” Dunlavey said. “This guy is into Mad magazine, this gal likes Los Bros Hernandez, this one likes the X-Men. What we’re trying to do with Comic Book Comics is show how all those things are interconnected, and, to some extent, how they couldn’t exist without each other.
“Sure, I could lose some of the alternative street cred I built up co-editing Awesome: The Indie Spinner Rack Anthology that featured the work of Renee French, Nick Bertozzi, Al Columbia, Andy Runton and dozens more by talking about how Siegel & Shuster came up with Superman, but that’s a risk we’re willing to take to tell the true story of comics.
”Basically,” he said before excusing himself to price-check a can of frijoles negros, “we’re giving the comic book industry the Action Philosophers treatment. And isn’t that no less than it deserves?”
Not content to doom only their own careers, Van Lente and Dunlavey are dragging their friends at Comics Buyers Guide down with them. The crack price guide editors of CBG will be assisting the Evil Twins with a back-up feature, “World’s Greatest Comic Book Collection,” a kind of fantasy league for the non-athletic in which the current values and bibliographical info on all the historically important comics discussed in that issue will be listed, along the same lines of the popular “Recommended Reading for the Genius-on-the-Go” feature that appeared in the back of Action Philosophers.
One can preview Van Lente & Ryan’s pull-no-punches approach to funnybook history for free on-line right now: two complete Comic Book Comics stories are available at the series’ official website, which, shockingly enough, is http://www.comicbookcomics.com.
COMIC BOOK COMICS #1 (Diamond Order code: JAN08 3612) is written by Fred Van Lente and drawn by Ryan Dunlavey, a 40-page B&W comic shipping in March 2008 for $3.95. It is set to premiere on March 1 at STAPLE 2008, the alternative press and comics show in Austin, Texas.