When I started this column I talked a little about what independent comics were, but not how we got here. Presently there are two major “mainstream” comics publishers in the United States: DC and Marvel. DC also produces comics under the Vertigo imprint. There are a handful of other large publishers, also working in the superhero genre, who are considered mainstream for a combination of size and content (though some of their titles are “creator owned”): Dark Horse, Image, Valiant, and so on. It wasn’t always this way.
Before there was the independent comics of today, there were the alternative comics of the 1970s and 80s. Before that, we had underground comix, bringing all of the sex and drugs and violence the Comics Code Authority (formed in 1954) banned from mainstream comics. Before that was twenty years of transition from comic strips to comic books to angry parents and preachers burning comic books in defiance of their wicked depictions.
We call that the Golden Age of comics.
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REVIEW SUMMARY: A unique and interesting resource when looking at history.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Science Fiction tends to be closely linked with contemporary history in more ways than one would expect. In this collection of papers, historians examine the parallels between real-world history and the Star Wars franchise.
PROS: A neat and interesting way of looking at history.
CONS: Oversteps its bounds at points.
BOTTOM LINE: Know a Star Wars fan who’s having trouble with history? This volume might be the best way to get them interested.
When I was in grade school, I had trouble reading early on: the books that I had for my classes weren’t doing it for me, and it wasn’t until my parents gave me a couple of youth mystery novels (Encyclopedia Brown and the Hardy Boys), that my appetite for reading was realized, and I began consuming books with an ever increasing pace. I bring this up because this was the first thing that sprang to mind while reading through this history text: this is THE book for any kid in high school who’s struggling with the basics of history, and simply needs to look at it in a different light.
Star Wars and History examines various types of real-world history by comparing it to the events in the Star Wars franchise, and for the most part it works. As a fan of George Lucas’s franchise and as a professional historian, the mere existence of this book is exciting, because it combines two passions. On the face of it, it looks like a bit of a strange mash up much like those Victorian era novels juxtaposed with zombies or androids. But, the book reaffirms my belief that science fiction is an inherently political and relevant genre at the time of it’s creation: Star Wars being no exception. Cobbled together from a variety of source material, this book links a number of connections between the franchise and the real world. The topics are pretty far reaching, too: subjects such as insurgency and rebellion are covered, women in warfare, the American Civil War, leaders and power, trade and a whole host of others.
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