Author George Khoury's passions lead to 'Comic Book Fever'
Longtime writer, interviewer and author George Khoury takes a look at the era of comics that made him a fan with his recent book "Comic Book Fever."
The book, subtitled "A Celebration of Comics 1976 to 1986," looks at a decade of comic books near and dear to many Gen Xers. Painter Alex Ross ("Kingdom Come") provides the cover and the introduction to the book.
Khoury is perhaps best-known as the author of two books that in whole or in part focused on the works of "Watchmen" author Alan Moore: "The Extraordinary Works of Alan Moore" and "Kimota: The Miracleman Companion."
In "Fever," Khoury takes a wide-angle look at the comics and comics culture of the era, looking at the rise of the direct comics market, the black-and-white comics boom, the often-wacky ads of the era and much more.
Creators from Stan Lee to Los Bros Hernandez get a focus in the book, which is a well-crafted nostalgia trip that examines and celebrates an era.
Khoury answered questions for The Oklahoman about the book, published by TwoMorrows.
Q: How did you decide to create “Comic Book Fever”?
A: Desperation. I desperately wanted to revisit the era that made me fall in love with comics. After 19 years of covering comics (in various books and articles), I wanted to come back home to the comic book creators and comic books that made me ... love this medium so much. And I wanted to capture this era as true as possible in my new book.
Q: What is it about this time period that's so compelling?
A: This is the period that made me a fan of comics. It's when I became cognizant of all of it. This is when I discovered the unbelievable experience of comic books and everything that entails. It was the point of no return.
Also, this is an important time because the entire nature of the comics industry changed during the years covered inside the book.
Q: Who do you recommend read the book? What is your short pitch for it?
A: This book is written for everyone — the comic book fans and the beginners. And it's meant to be a shared experience. If you ever wanted someone — your spouse, your child, a friend — to understand your passion for the comics medium, "Comic Book Fever" would be a great place to start.
Q: What were some of the major changes in this era?
A: As popular comic book creator Alex Ross wrote in the introduction: “The flashpoint era of 1976 to 1986 was when one age ended and another began. This book is a testament to that period when most of the popular concepts we follow today were born, thrived and became legend.”
The era covered in "Fever" shows the end of the Bronze Age and the beginning of the Modern Age. We see how the medium evolved and matured away from a medium just for children. We see the birth of the direct market and rise of comic book stores. We see the rise of independent comic book creators. And we see how the entire industry became what it is today.
Q: How did you decide what to include and what not to include?
A: Much of it came from memory, because I remember the era so well, since I was very impressionable as a child. Discovering comics was one of the most exciting things in my life. I fell hard for all of it.
Content-wise, I focused on most of the books and people that had a profound impact on this era. Also, I didn't want to limit the topics to solely Marvel and DC Comics, because I wanted to capture our industry's spontaneity. To do so, I wanted to get across that overwhelming delight that comes with discovering an entire world of appealing titles from all types of genres in all types of styles.
Q: The focus on things like the Hostess ads, Street Ball ads and Grit magazine helped really capture the era. Do you think these advertisements reflect anything about the collectors of the period? How does it compare to current comics readers?
A: Comics were never disposable entertainment to me. The stories, the editorial page, the letters page and the wonderful ads were all a part of the comics reading experience. To me, everything inside a comic is one. If you reread these books as much as I did as child, that became more apparent.
Today, the ads inside current comics just don't have the charm of yesteryear. They are much more predictable and bland and come straight (out) of today's marketing playbook. The old Hostess ads (featuring comic book characters) felt more like bonus comics material than advertisements shilling snack cakes.
Q: What would you say is one of the more interesting things you learned in creating the book?
A: That we can learn much about ourselves from revisiting the comics, people, moments and places that we engaged as children. It definitely gives you some perspective and humility to revisit all of the things that shaped you as a child.
Also, I learned that the key to longevity in pop culture is to create something that remains relevant forever. It's not a small feat, but when you put your heart and soul into your work ... you'll have a much better shot of making something that'll last forever.