Last week I reviewed Matthew Manning’s Batman: A Visual History, which told the story of 75 years of dark knighting through perhaps every issue of DC Comics to feature The Dark Knight and his multitudinous co-stars. Manning patterned his book after another visual history he helped to write four years ago. DC Comics: A Visual History is at once more ambitious and less ambitious than its Batman-focused predecessor. It is more ambitious because it has to cover so many different titles, characters, and genres, and less because that plethora of themes means it can get away without being so exhaustive. Instead of the complete histories of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, The Green Lantern, Hawkman, Hawkgirl, and the rest, we hit the major beats (no surprise that Batman and Superman still dominate).
What I found more interesting than these summarized superhero histories were the ways DC detoured from its defining superhero genre on a very regular basis. The comic mega-company isn’t just a peddler of capes, cowls, and anti-crime crusades. DC has put out a slew of titles covering a slew of genres: cute animal stories for kiddies, preachy religious comics for kids with obnoxiously strict parents, comedy titles starring Bob Hope and Jerry Lewis, ones based on properties as diverse as Hot Wheels toys and Sgt. Bilko, mushy romances aimed at girls, pimply teen comics aimed at the “Archie” set, historical comics, cowboy comics, war comics, horror comics—just about any kind of comic you could think of. DC even dabbled in pop music with a magazine called Teen Beat, which featured The Monkees on its inaugural—and penultimate— cover.
An all-new edition of DC Comics: A Visual History takes the company’s story right up to this past July, and is very much a twin of Batman: A Visual History. It too comes in a heavy slipcase, sports a pocket containing a couple of prints (one of the Dark Knight; one of the Man of Steel), and is lushly illustrated with covers. The format only differs with the inclusion of some very pretty double-page artwork spreads and a timeline that runs throughout the book to give you an idea of what was happening in the real world when Robin first died or Jerry Lewis first landed on the moon.
Get the new edition of DC Comics: A Visual History (Updated Edition) on Amazon.com here: