A Smithsonian Book of Comic-Book Comics

When one thinks of the Smithsonian Institution, images of national treasures displayed in grand exhibits in Washington, D.C. come to mind.  To the fans of comic books, the Smithsonian also stands for a great collection of comic book treasures from the Golden Age. A Smithsonian Book of Comic-Book Comics features reprints of classic stories from 1938 through 1955, and represents almost all of the genres that appeared on the newsstands during those years.

A Smithsonian Book of Comic-Book Comics

A Smithsonian Book of Comic-Book Comics

This 336 page hard back volume that was first published in 1981 features superheroes, humor, funny animals, war and crime from a wide variety of publishers.  If you are interested in reading a broad spectrum of stories that were available during the early years of comic book history, you’ll really enjoy this book.  Here’s what you’ll find:

  • Superman from Action Comics #1 (1938) (Jerry Seigel and Joe Shuster)
  • The Bat-Man from Detective Comics #27 (1939) (Bob Kane and Bill Finger)
  • Scribbly from All-American Comics #s 20, 24 (1940-1941) (Sheldon Mayer)
  • Plastic Man from Police Comics #s 1, 13 (1941-1942) (Jack Cole)
  • Captain Marvel from Captain Marvel Adventures #100 (1949) (C.C. Beck)
  • Dr. Dimwit from Sub-Mariner #4 (1942) (Basil Wolverton)
  • Powerhouse Pepper from Tessie the Typist #8 (1947) (Basil Wolverton)
  • Jingle Jangle Tales from Jingle Jangle Comics #s 5, 24 (1942, 1946) (George Carlson)
  • The Pie-Face Prince from Jingle Jangle Comics #5 (1942) (George Carlson)
  • Little Lulu in At the Beach from Four Color Comics #74 (1945) (John Stanley)
  • Little Lulu in Five Little Babies from Little Lulu #38 (1951) (John Stanley)
  • Little Lulu in The Little Rich Boy from Little Lulu #40 (1951) (John Stanley)
  • Little Lulu in The Spider Spins Again from Little Lulu #81 (1955) (John Stanley)
  • Donald Duck in Letter to Santa by Carl Barks from Walt Disney’s Christmas Parade #1 (1949)
  • Albert Takes the Cake by Walt Kelly from Animal Comics #1 (1942)
  • Feelin’ Mighty Hale, and Farewell by Walt Kelly from Pogo Possum #3 (1950)
  • Cinderella and the Three Bears by Walt Kelly from Pogo Possum #8 (1952)
  • The Big Rock Candy Quarry by Walt Kelly from Pogo Possum #8 (1952)
  • The Spirit from August 10, 1941, September 5, 1948 & September 11, 1949 (Will Eisner)
  • Air Burst from Frontline Combat #4 (1952) (Harvey Kurtzman)
  • Corpse on the Imjin from Two-Fisted Tales #4 (1952) (Harvey Kurtzman)
  • Superduperman from Mad #4 (1953) (Wally Wood and Harvey Kurtzman)
  • Howdy Dooit from Mad #18 (1954) (Wally Wood and Bill Elder)
  • Master Race from Impact #1 (1955) (Bernie Krigstein)

This great work was edited by Michael Barrier and Martin Williams and contains a well written Introduction.  Each section features a short piece about the featured character or creator, designed to assist the reader in understanding their importance to the history of comic books.  There’s also a nice bibliography at the conclusion of the book.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to read a good cross section of stories that helped define comic books as we know them today.  This volume can be found on eBay and other used book sites.  I picked up my copy for $5 at a recent comic book convention, so it won’t be prohibitively expensive to acquire one for your collection.


About Bill Jourdain

Bill is the host of the Golden Age of Comic Books Podcast. Learn more about Bill in the "About Bill" page to this site.
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3 Responses to A Smithsonian Book of Comic-Book Comics

  1. Marc says:

    I just looked this book up, and it seems they have it at my local library. Thanks for the recommendation!

  2. Ltux says:

    This was one of the few books on the subject that were available in libraries when I was a kid. It’s easy to forget that not so long ago, library shelves weren’t filled with comic book histories and graphic novels.

    The Smithsonian book was graced my shelf for years. I credit it with introducing me to Scribbly — and specifically the original Red Tornado! And I’m still not sure if it was this book of Jules Feiffer’s that introduced me to Will Eisner’s fantastic world of The Spirit.

    Grab a used copy of this book while you can.

  3. I read a library copy when I was a kid. It was one of the only ways to read those old books with the exception of old 80 pg giant, the tabloids, and the 30’s to the 70’s books. I had completely forgotten about this book.
    Fr. Dan

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