16 Books That Reveal the Interesting Historical Oddities of Comic Books

For many years comic books skulked in the shadows of culture, considered juvenile at best, or outright dangerous at worst. Only in the last few decades has there been a serious effort to treat them as the art form they are, and to study their history in a serious way.

I’ve gathered some of the best non-fiction looks at comics history below, from overviews of the medium as a whole, to detailed biographies of key comics creators. Go forth, learn some history, and let us know if we left any of your favorite comics histories out!

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Of Exiles and Fairy Tales: The Swan Book by Alexis Wright

For Oblivion Ethyl(ene), aka Oblivia, the future is a world of suffering, imprisonment, and isolation. In Alexis Wright’s devastating novel The Swan Book, humans have pushed the earth to its breaking point. “Mother Nature? Hah!…People on the road called her the Mother Catastrophe of flood, fire, drought and blizzard. These were the four seasons, which she threw around the world whenever she liked.” Humans lost contact and connection to the land and so the land punished them for the betrayal.

Bella Donna of the Champions, a white woman from Europe, the sole survivor of a massive floating refugee camp attempting to cross the ocean from north to south to escape the worst effects of climate change, rescues an Aboriginal girl from a deep sleep within the hollow of a gum tree. The girl has no name, no past, and no voice, but as the story unfolds we learn she’d been the victim of a terrible sexual assault and was abandoned and forgotten by her people. Bella Donna names her Oblivia and fills her mind with fairy tales from her homeland of swans. Together they live on an derelict warship on a desolate swamp behind the fence set up by the Army to segregate the Aboriginal people from the rest of Australia.

[“Ignis Fatuus = Foolish Fire. That’s you Oblivion!”]

Fiction Affliction: July Releases in Science Fiction

July brings twenty-four new science fiction books, from the best of Ben Bova to The Year’s Best Science Fiction, Star Trek to Star Wars, new series kickoffs and series finales. Jeff and Ann VanderMeer present The Big Book of Science Fiction (it’s truly giant), Chuck Wendig continues his Star Wars: Aftermath trilogy, and Pauline Gedge’s Stargate gets reissued. Your summer reading is definitely here.

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The Big Sheep Sweepstakes!

We want to send you a copy of Robert Kroese’s The Big Sheep, available now from Thomas Dunne Books!

Los Angeles of 2039 is a baffling and bifurcated place. After the Collapse of 2028, a vast section of LA, the Disincorporated Zone, was disowned by the civil authorities, and became essentially a third world country within the borders of the city. Navigating the boundaries between DZ and LA proper is a tricky task, and there’s no one better suited than eccentric private investigator Erasmus Keane. When a valuable genetically altered sheep mysteriously goes missing from Esper Corporation’s labs, Keane is the one they call.

But while the erratic Keane and his more grounded partner, Blake Fowler, are on the trail of the lost sheep, they land an even bigger case. Beautiful television star Priya Mistry suspects that someone is trying to kill her—and she wants Keane to find out who. When Priya vanishes and then reappears with no memory of having hired them, Keane and Fowler realize something very strange is going on. As they unravel the threads of the mystery, it soon becomes clear that the two cases are connected—and both point to a sinister conspiracy involving the most powerful people in the city. Saving Priya and the sheep will take all of Keane’s wits and Fowler’s skills, but in the end, they may discover that some secrets are better left hidden.

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Rowling Reveals That American Wizards Have Slytherin to Thank For Their School

We now have a nice long story as background on the Potterverse North American wizarding school, Ilvermorny. But how does it all break down? Fans have been concerned about how this tale would unfold, following some upset over Rowling’s “History of Magic in North America” piece, but this is the first substantial glimpse we’ve been given into the more recent magical system in the United States and history of the school.

So let’s do this.

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The Swarm

The first invasion of Earth was beaten back by a coalition of corporate and international military forces, and the Chinese army. China has been devastated by the Formic’s initial efforts to eradicate Earth life forms and prepare the ground for their own settlement. The Scouring of China struck fear into the other nations of the planet; that fear blossomed into drastic action when scientists determined that the single ship that wreaked such damage was merely a scout ship. There is a mothership out beyond the Solar System’s Kuiper Belt, and it’s heading into the system, unstoppable by any weapons that Earth can muster.

Earth has been reorganized for defense. There is now a Hegemon, a planetary official responsible for keeping all the formerly warring nations in line. There’s a Polemarch, responsible for organizing all the military forces of the planet into the new International Fleet. But there is an enemy within, an enemy as old as human warfare: ambition and politics. Greed and self-interest. Will Bingwen, Mazer Rackam, Victor Delgado and Lem Juke be able to divert those very human enemies in time to create a weapon that can effectively defend humanity in the inexorable Second Formic War?

Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston return to their Ender’s Game prequel series with this first volume of an all-new trilogy about the Second Formic War in The Swarm—available August 2nd from Tor Books!

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Elder Gods Just Wanna Have Fun: Manta Aisora and Koin’s Haiyoru! Nyaruani

Welcome back to the Lovecraft reread, in which two modern Mythos writers get girl cooties all over old Howard’s sandbox, from those who inspired him to those who were inspired in turn.

Today is our hundredth post! To celebrate just how weird Weird Fiction can get, we’re watching varying amounts of Haiyoru! Nyaruani, a TV series based on a Japanese light novel by Manta Aisora (writer) and Koin (illustrator). The light novel (manga series) was published by Soft Bank Creative between April 2009 and March 2014. The flash series aired October 2009–March 2010; the follow-up series aired December 2010–February 2011, and April 2012–June 2013. Spoilers ahead.

[“The pagan gods’ hearts are all slimy.”]

Series: The Lovecraft Reread

Big Patrick Rothfuss Fan Lin-Manuel Miranda Definitely Earned His Pipes

While many of the high-profile Hamilton audience members have tended toward the musical and/or political spheres, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony Award-winning musical seems to have surprise celebrity guests at nearly every show. For instance, The Kingkiller Chronicle author Patrick Rothfuss popped backstage this weekend for a selfie with a starstruck Miranda.

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Political Popularity and World Peace: Icon by Genevieve Valentine

Last time we met Suyana Sapaki she had managed to survive an assassination attempt that lead to her popularity soaring amongst the general public, but falling to extremely dubious and complicated levels among the other Faces—official diplomats in a celebrity-obsessed near-future society.

The young woman who, it turns out, had always been a double agent of sorts, is back in Genevieve Valentine’s Icon, the follow up to last year’s wonderful Persona.

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Boundaries Are Conventions: Cloud Atlas is Easily One of the Most Ambitious Films Ever Made, Flaws and All

Saying that a film version of Cloud Atlas is an ambitious project is like saying that translating Midnight’s Children into Zulu when you don’t know the language is an ambitious project. It’s not ambitious, it’s kind of impossible. Yet the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer did just that in 2012.

This is a complicated one. Let’s work through it together.

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Series: Wachowski Rewatch

Lose Yourself in the Art of Night Gallery!

Rod Serling has long been acknowledged as one of the true geniuses of television. The Twilight Zone wasn’t just a work of sci-fi art; it was a socially conscious, fiercely moral show, that tried to nudge its viewers into new ways of thinking as it entertained them. It was also a decent hit. Unfortunately Serling’s follow up, Night Gallery, was only allowed three seasons before higher ups started interfering, so it was never able to attain The Twilight Zone’s heights. However it does have one extra last, one lasting, wonderfully creepy, legacy.

[Surely the boy will only use his power for good?]