1000 Comic Books You Must Read (Review)

Tony Isabella - Krause Publications

Feb 10, 2010 at 2:06 pm

Cataloguing a thousand of anything is an impressive, likely painstaking task. If there’s anyone fit to amass a list of 1000 Comic Books You Must Read, it’s prolific comic scribe/industry observer Tony Isabella. Per the title, Isabella (whose creative credits include scripting Black Lightning, Ghost Rider and Captain America) has the great fortune of not having to decide the thousand finest but rather the thousand that he finds compelling. This lends his hardcover a kaleidoscopic approach to deconstructing the evolution of the American comic rather than focusing on the creme de la creme alone.

With its chapters predominantly broken up by decade (“The Fighting Forties,” “The Fearful Fifties,” etc.), 1000 Comic Books provides short summaries (under 75 words) for each title as well as clear cover scans and creator/ publishing information. A plethora of obscure information is sprinkled through the book. Did you know that 1949’s Headline Comics #37 featured influential Marvel artist Jack kirby on the cover, or that 1954’s Panic #1 was banned in boston for its iconoclastic interpretation of The Night Before Christmas? A perceptive historian, Isabella catches all of the key stories (1963’s Justice League of America #21, featuring a notable crossover between the JLA and predecessors the Justice Society of America) as well as oddities (1973’s Plop #1) and independently published titles (1981’s Mendy and the Golem #1).

There is no discrimination of subject matter, and even the most ardent comic book reader is bound to learn something new (or at least remember something he or she forgot). Isabella’s voice deserves more room than short blurbs to shine, though. In a fantastic page-long essay, he revisits 1963’s Fantastic Four Annual #1 to discuss how it inspired him to write comics rather than simply read them. That moment is where the book is strongest, and it’s a shame that many selections aren’t afforded this detail. As he hints at the possibility of a sequel at the end of 1000 Comic Books, one hopes that Isabella receives an opportunity to investigate additional ephemera more thoroughly. Grade: B