Book Review: Our Gods Wear Spandex

One from the To Read Pile…

OUR GODS WEAR SPANDEX

by

Christopher Knowles

with illustrations by

Joseph Michael Linsner

IMG_0690

I’ve been a comic fan my entire life, except for the first three years, and a period of about 5 years in the 90s when comic stories and art became so dire and horrible, and everything was about ‘alternate covers’ and bonus crap and every hero was covered in armour and/ or carried guns.

Some comic boffins refer to this as the ‘Chromium Age’ of comics due to the fact the very worst of comics ended up with thick awful garish metallic covers that promised to be worth a million dollars in the future, but whose content… let’s be honest, sucked.

Coincidently, this very topic is how Christopher Knowles book, Our Gods Wear Spandex begins as it discusses the highs and lows of the comics industry: how the highs usually come after a great tragedy like World War II and how the lows are generally when the industry itself becomes a parody of itself, like when every single comic, including the leaders in DC and Marvel, imitate fads like that of Rob Liefeld’s comic ‘art’ in the early 90s.

The book then goes into a quite interesting assessment of how today’s mythical gods are superheroes whom are all in some way based on ancient myths and legends and how subsequent heroes are based upon these. For me, the revelation that my idol Jack Kirby based two of his characters looks, in Thor and OMAC on that of Shazam’s Captain Marvel! (sorry DC, no matter how much you wish to refer to the Big Red Cheese as ‘Shazam’, he’ll always be Captain Marvel to me!)

The book also details the origins of some of comics big storylines and from where historically or myth0logically they are influenced. It details how everything from religious orders and secret societies, to ideas proposed by Niezche and Einstein and have sparked creative fires in the minds of everyone from Siegal and Shuster, to Lee and Kirby, and even to the aforementioned Liefeld and his Image co-conspirators, though their ideas more are borrowed from other, better comics, rather than classic literature or intellectual thought.

Not only do we have a cavalcade of mythical tales summarised within these pages, various writers from the 19th and 20th century, those at the birth of science fiction and detective stories like Poe, Lovecraft, Wells, Verne and their contemporaries are also discussed, albeit briefly.

The comparison of these myths and theories and how they influenced the character from the pulp novels like The Spider and Doc Savage, and then how they in turn influenced comic characters and stories is fascinating, but the best thing is, Christopher Knowles has made it accessible and the language in which its written is relaxed and enjoyable. The book also has really nice illustrations by Cry for Dawn’s Joe Michael Linsner, though I must say I prefer his color art to his line art. If you are a long time comic fan, and have ever thought,” where did they get that ideas from?”, this book is for you.

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