I don't intend to do many reviews or product plugs, but I have to make an exception for this one.
The book is Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters and the Birth of the Comic Book, by Gerard Jones.
The gritty history hinted at by Michael Chabon's fictional Adventures of Cavalier and Clay is fully realized and expanded upon by Jones, as he explores the beginnings of the industry we only think we know so well.
What I found most fascinating was the historical prelude we normally don't get in the more sugar-coated histories of the comics biz, namely its strange pairing of shady pornographers with the nascent sci-fi geek culture of the 1930's. The lives and fortunes of a handful of key individuals are traced through the ensuing decades, such as the dimunative publishing "giant" Harry Donnenfeld and his right-hand man Jack Liebowitz, counterbalanced by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, the creators of Superman. Many other recognizeable names are touched upon as well (scrappy Jack Kirby's offer to beat up a mob goon is a classic), going all the way through to the modern corporate culture of the 1970's.
When I bought the book last year, I couldn't put it down. It had information and anecdotes I'd never heard before....amazing considering the number of histories I've read. It's at once exhilarating, illuminating, hilarious, and heartbreaking. If you're a fan of comics and their creators, this book is a "must" for your collection. Click on the Amazon link below to get yourself a copy! Do it....before Jack Kirby punches you out!