Review: 75 Years Of DC Comics: The Art Of Modern Mythmaking

Kwanzaa came a month early this year in the Brown household, and I’m not just talking about rediscovering that Janto Christmas tree ornament I bought last year off Etsy. The day after Thanksgiving there came a ringing at my door, which was even more surprising since our doorbell hasn’t worked in months. I hauled my leftovers-engorged body out of the recliner only to find a very tired looking mail carrier looking at me with an expression of such deep resentment that, for a moment, I feared I might never receive my Netflix again. In his arms he held a box, a massive, unwieldy, mailman-infuriating box. With a glare that could blot out the sun he thrust the box at me and trudged off, leaving me collapsed on my doorstep under the weight of the mighty mystery package.

What was this thing that I ordered? Could it be that copy of the Neil Gaiman Duran Duran biography? Surely there couldn’t be that much titillating information on a band that sang about hungry wolves. Or maybe it was my long-delayed AFP Ukulelehead orange vinyl? No, wait, didn’t I just order volume 6 of The Walking Dead? And then it dawned on me. My heart skipped a beat in anticipation, and with superhuman force I ripped open the box and came face to face with 75 Years Of DC Comics: The Art Of Modern Mythmaking.

At 720 pages, 75 Years of DC Comics is really more of a tome than a book. Published to honor the 75th anniversary of DC comics, this collection contains well over 2,000 original illustrations, photos, stills, covers, and on and on and on. It was compiled and written over the better part of a year by Paul Levitz*, a man who has worked in the comics industry as an editor, publisher, and writer, and was an exec at DC for nearly 38 years. He’s as big of a geek as the rest of us, albeit one with the hefty backing of a company so cool that it thought to itself, “Why yes, we should publish a book so large it makes a normal man look like The Atom in comparison.”

*Levitz did an in depth interview with The Comics Journal about the making of 75 Years of DC Comics in three parts starting here.

The collection covers everything from the pre-comic days all the way through the modern era. And it’s not just vintage reproductions of old comics covers. There are historical photographs, rarities, collectibles, old art and other related paraphernalia, as well as extensive historical notes, fold-out timelines, and glossy section pages. The production value here is incredible, and not a detail is out of place.

The timelines themselves are perhaps my favorite part of the tome. They fold out several feet in length and are so utterly crowded with factoids that it can take a good half hour just to process it all. I’ve had this thing for nearly two weeks and still haven’t made it out of the Golden Age. There’s just so much information and it’s all completely fascinating, even the stuff I don’t particularly care about.

75 Years of DC Comics

Neil Gaiman blogged about it’s praises a few weeks back saying:

It’s published by Taschen with production values that I’ve never seen from a comics publisher… The majority of the text (although, probably not all—there are captions, timelines and suchlike as well) is by Paul Levitz, who knows where the bodies are buried, and is too much of a gentleman to tell all, but tells more than I ever thought he would.”

He also mentioned wanting to do a “Complete In One Volume All 2000 Pages of Sandman book, like the one that I’ve suggested over the years to DC Comics. They’ve always looked at me and shivered whenever I’ve suggested it. (It could have its own carrying case. Or wheels. Or screw-on legs for making it into a table.)

To which I can say nothing because my heart has asploded from the anticipatory squee.

As goes Mr. Amanda Palmer so goes my bank account. After he mentioned it I couldn’t not buy it, and now that I have it I can’t imagine how I ever considered not buying it. It’s on a steep discount on Amazon, but you can also find it at your local independent bookseller or local comic book shop. You can also pick it up direct from Taschen, and they also have the first hundred pages online.

I know I have a habit of gushing about things, but, seriously, 75 Years of DC Comics is an epic piece of work. The detail Levitz goes into, the notes and secrets he reveals, and the production levels are all utterly stellar. I’m tempted to buy a coffee table just to have a place to display it. Hell, even the carrying case is all kinds of nifty.

This isn’t some collection slapped together to squeeze as much cash as possible out of some nerd’s wallet. It is beautiful and heavy and glorious and heavy and cost me way more than I really should’ve spent and heavy. It is 15lbs of pure comic geek heaven, and is now part of a small collection of my books that I actually get nervous about touching for fear of damaging their delicate perfection. This is a work of publishing art. And, trust me, it’s worth every single penny.

Alex Brown is an archivist in training, reference librarian by profession, Rob Gordon and Randal by paycheck, novelist by moonlight, and all around geek who watches entirely too much TV. She is prone to collecting out-of-print copies of books by Evelyn Waugh, Jane Austen, and Douglas Adams, probably knows far too much about pop culture than is healthy, and thinks her rats Hywel and Odd are the cutest things ever to exist in the whole of eternity. You can follow her on Twitter if you dare…


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