All Things Printed & Recorded: Bam! Pow! The Heroic Rise of Comic Books

EDITOR’S NOTE: This year in our HPB calendar, we’re celebrating all things printed and recorded—and played, solved, watched, etc. In other words, all the cool stuff we buy and sell in our stores. For September, we’re getting our hands dirty with a look at the history of comic books, graphic novels and manga.

Two Comic Books

1933  Famous Funnies: A Carnival of Comics, the first modern American comic book, is published.
1938  The superhero archetype is born with the debut of Superman in Action Comics #1.
1964  The first underground comic, Frank Stack’s The Adventures of Jesus, debuts.
1992  Art Spiegelman’s Maus becomes the first graphic novel to win a Pulitzer Prize.


  • The Adventures of Obadiah Oldbuck (1837) featured art in sequential panels and corresponding text below, making it a precursor to the modern comic book.
  • The Comics Code Authority was formed in 1954 in response to public concern over graphic content in comics. Titles from major publishers bore the CCA seal until the early 2000s.
  • Japanese comics known as manga exploded in popularity after the Second World War.

Want to dive deeper? Check out these great products!

book The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabo
book The Origins of Comics: From William Hogarth to Winsor McCay by Thierry Smolderen
book The Great Comic Book Heroes by Jules Feiffer
book Comic Book Nation: The Transformation of Youth Culture in America, Bradford W. Wright
book The Spectacular Sisterhood of Superwomen: Awesome Female Characters from Comic Book History by Hope Nicholson
book A History of Underground Comics by Mark James Estren
book Graphic Novels: Everything You Need to Know by Paul Gravett
book Comics and Sequential Art by Will Eisner
book Manga: Sixty Years of Japanese Comics by Paul Gravett
book Manga! Manga!: The World of Japanese Comics by Frederik L. Schodt
slate_film-512 American Splendor
slate_film-512 Crumb
slate_film-512 Comic Book Confidential
music-note-21 Comic Book Heroes, Rick Springfield

Movies Based on Comic Books: Underrated Favorites

This Friday one of the most anticipated movies of the season will be released – Marvel comic book heroes unite in the new movie, The Avengers. This will be a big money maker regardless of critics’ reviews. If you are a fan of action-packed comic book movies, here are my recommendations among the best lesser-acclaimed films based on comic books.
Blade (1998) – Blade, played by Wesley Snipes, was born a half-breed vampire and has the ability to move around by day, something other vampires cannot do. Blade, being left for dead as a child, is determined to rid the world of the evil vampires, so now the battle is on. This is an energetic movie with plenty of fun vampire culture to satisfy the horror fans, including the great opening scenes at a vampire nightclub. Just guess what is pumping through the sprinkler systems!

300 (2007) – Critics were not kind to this film. Based on Frank Miller’s graphic novel, the film is what you would expect– very dark in all aspects. However, every frame of this film is treated as if you are looking at an illustration and is beautifully shot the entire way through. This is an action-packed romp of swords and sandals. Be sure to check this one out if you haven’t already.

Ghost World (2001) – Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson) and Enid (Thora Birch) have just graduated high school and both are debating what to do with their lives. This is a fantastic film about coming of age, through the eyes of Enid, a counterculture rebel and her record-collecting friend played brilliantly by Steve Buscemi.

There are some other obvious choices for films based on comic books such as Batman Begins (2005), The Dark Knight (2008), Superman (1978) and Spiderman (2002), but I thought I would go beyond the classics and look a little deeper through my collection to offer up some films you might not have seen.

What are your favorite comic book films? Drop me a note and lets talk film! Also, comic book fans: Don’t miss the Comic Book Giveaway tomorrow at your local HPB.
And as always, no talking or texting during the feature presentation.
— Jim

40 Comic Book Heroes Worth Cheering For

I have to admit,  don’t know much about comic books.  In fact, if it hadn’t been for my brother (and Hugh Jackman), I would never have known anything about the X-MEN. (My brother is also responsible for my knowledge about Hot Wheels and Lincoln logs, but that’s another topic.)  However, with the Avengers assembling on the big screen this weekend, I thought it might be good to know a little more about comic books and their heroes.

Did you know that comic books and graphic novels have been around since 1837, when “The Adventures of Obadiah Oldbuck” was first published by Switzerland’s Rudolph Töpffer?  “The Adventures of Obadiah Oldbuck” then came across the pond in 1842 as the first comic book published in the United States.  

However, comics used to have the picture panels above and all the text below, like most political cartoons still do today.  So some consider Richard Outcault’s “Yellow Kid” from 1895 to be the first real comic since it was the first comic strip to use the speech bubbles, or balloons,  that permeate today’s comic books.  However it wasn’t until the introduction of Jerry Siegeil and Joe Shuster’s Superman in 1938 that comic books turned into a major industry. Apparently, the hero makes a big difference.

Today, there are more than 300 million comic books worldwide and more that 500,000 comic book characters. (That’s a lot.) So, which comic books should you read?  Which heroes should you be cheering for? To answer these questions, I turned to those HPB bibliomaniacs for some help. So, without further ado, here are 40 comic book heroes worth cheering for.

1. Captain America – 2. Wonder Woman –  3. Batman – 4. Wolverine – 5. Spiderman – 6. The Tick – 7. Rick Grimes – 8. Rouge – 9. Nightwing – 10. John Constantine – 11. Gambit – 12. Jean Gray – 13. Thor – 14. Bigby Wolf – 15. Flash – 16. Iron Man – 17. Hellboy – 18. Luke Cage – 19. Daredevil – 20. Conan – 21.  Deadpool – 22.  Hank McCoy (Beast) – 23. Barbara Gordon (Batgirl) – 24. Hal Jordon (Green Lantern) – 25.  Hulk – 26. Judge Dredd – 27. Invincible – 28. Fone Bone – 29. Rorschach – 30. Silver Surfer – 31. Aquaman – 32. Iceman – 33. Colossus – 34. The Thing – 35. Nightcrawler – 36. Doctor Manhattan – 37. Superman – 38. Punisher – 39. Storm – 40. Spawn

Don’t miss our Comic Book Giveaway on Saturday, May 5 at all HPB locations. Get a FREE comic book* with any in-store purchase while supplies last. See your neighborhood store for other special events.

— Julie

*From a pre-selected collection. See store for restrictions and details.

Meet the Avengers

The Avengers debuts in theaters this week. Need a refresher before you go? Get an introduction to the characters by watching these films first.

Who are the characters in The Avengers? Iron Man (Tony Stark), Captain America (Steve Rodgers), The Hulk (Bruce Banner), Thor (The God of Thunder), Black Widow (Natasha Romanoff), Nick Fury (Director of S.H.I.E.L.D.), Hawkeye (Clint Barton), Phil Coulson (S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent), Maria Hill (S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent), and Loki.

Hope you enjoy the movie. I am not looking for award-winning performances on this one. Just want to be entertained. Show up early to get your popcorn, and as always…

No talking or texting during the feature presentation. — Jim

8 Ways to Experience Comic-Con (If You Can’t Make Comic-Con)

Comic-Con is this weekend! Are you going? No? Perhaps this just wasn’t your year and you had to miss out on that road trip to San Diego once again? As a consolation, I have found that sometimes HPB can be the perfect place to get in the Comic-Con-ish spirit. So if you are stuck at home instead of going to California via Batmobile, here are my suggestions on how to shop our store with the Comic-Con spirit

Awesome “Walking Dead” employee at HPB in Louisville KYStep 1)  Dress up as your favorite sexy/tough/scary super-hero and/or villain and enter bookstore with unabashed fervor!

Note: If you want to shop around for longer than about 3 minutes, no weapons! And, please cover your offending parts so as not to be asked to leave — this is a bookstore after all.

Step 2) Bring a camera; you never know when you might see a celebrity in a bookstore. Trust us…we’ve seen them. You also never know when someone will want to take a picture with you!

Step 3) Take a leisurely stroll through the science fiction section. You may not be looking for anything in particular, but you may find a friend who knows who you are dressed as, and that might make you feel like a hero for the day.

Step 4) Walk briskly through the Romance section for these shoppers will be the most fearful.

Step 5) Spend most of your time in graphic novels and comics. You’ll be a conversation starter… you may even find the love of your life (perhaps she/he is reading this post and digging in the closet for a Hobbit outfit as well?) Check for some Charlie Huston or Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles. Give us some time and eventually we’re sure to get Supergods. I personally can’t forget to grab an Ultimate X-Men or two for a little weekend reading.

Step 6) Make sure to peruse the DVDs… I was just in one of our Texas stores last week and saw Season 1 of Dexter for a great price. You never know what you will find! Maybe your ex-girlfriend took off with your entire TNG collection or you are gathering up The Big Bang Theory season by season– never fail to check for your favorite series or movie. If you are feeling really retro, check out the VHS section– they practically give those away and that little top-loader VCR in your garage is just aching for a hook-up.

Step 7) Ask someone, anyone, if they want your autograph. It’s just fun.

Step 8) Get a recommendation from your nearest bookseller. If you hate his/her recommendation, you can scoff heavily and storm off (or you could actually love it and check it out).

All right– I’m not fooling anyone; I know it’s no Comic-Con, but it beats the lines and the entry fee is FREE! If you are one of the lucky ones, have fun in San Diego, but if you aren’t… maybe I will see you in the Sci-Fi section this weekend. Now, where’d I put my Princess-Leia-buns headband?

What Comic-Con-type books or movies are you shopping for this weekend?

 — Becky