It’s no secret that I’m a lifetime comic book fan.
I can trace my love of the form — comics that is; women were a few years later — back to the mid-1960s when my grandfather and I were on our way to catch a Suburban Bus back to New Brunswick, New Jersey, from the Port Authority in Manhattan and we stopped at a newsstand. He wanted a New York Daily News and he pointed me toward the comic book section so I could read something on the ride home, too.
My eyes went right to the latest issue of The X-Men. I knew nothing about them — yet — but they looked so cool. And I remember that moment of discovery like no other.
There were other opportunities to read piles of comics in the years that followed; my cousin Fred Sirotkin lived in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, and his entire basement was given over to his alphabetized collection of what I recall to be mostly Archies.
KEITH DALLAS podcast excerpt: “Think about the more recent uproar when DC and Marvel raised comic book prices from $2.99 to $3.99. It was essentially the same thing in the 1960s to go from a dime to 12 cents.”
And my older male cousins on my father’s side, Mark and Scott Shoham, always had a stack of Marvel and DC superheroes in the basement of their Bloomfield, Connecticut, house to divert me from their more mature teen pursuits whenever we visited.
In the 1970s, I built my own substantial collection of thousands of comics, less for their collectible value and more for the sheer joy of reading and re-reading.
My first paid writing assignment, at age 13, was about the growing popularity of comics, produced for a Midwest hobbyist newspaper. And I wrote dozens more stories, paid and unpaid, about comics throughout high school, developing a style and speed at a very young age.
All of which is my way of saying that when I heard about the first volume of TwoMorrows Publishing’s new series, American Comic Book Chronicles, I had to see it.
Curiously, the book starts off with the years 1960-64, skipping almost 30 years of history that came before. To be honest, that’s fine with me; I was born in 1960. Did anything really exist before me? I find that hard to believe.
Volume One, written by John Wells and edited by my guest today, Keith Dallas, is packed with industry anecdotes and behind-the-scenes tales of not just the birth of the Marvel Age and the rebirth of DC Comics, but it also tells many stories I hadn’t read before involving lesser publishers such as Charlton, Dell, Gold Key, Harvey and ACG. Those are important because they employed so many creators — such as Steve Ditko and Neal Adams — who went on to be huge influences on the decades to come.
Enough of me; let’s talk comics!