Tag Archives: Superman

Comic Club update: The Golden Age of Comics

Superman comicsThe Golden Age of Comic Books describes an era of American comic books from the late 1930s to the early 1950s.
The March meeting of the Marylebone Library Graphic Novel Club considered the various comic book eras including the Golden Age (1930 – 1955), Silver Age (1956 – 1970), Bronze Age (1970 – 1985) and the Modern Age (1986 – present) of comics and their influences.

In the Golden Age, modern comic books were first published and rapidly increased in popularity; the superhero archetype was created and many famous characters debuted, including Superman, Batman, Captain America, Wonder Woman, and Captain Marvel. Although Captain Marvel had the greatest sales of all the Golden age heroes with 1.4 million copies sold, Superman has been considered the archetype of the Superhero.

It’s unclear if this ‘reduced standard’ in the naming of the ages from Gold to Bronze represents a reduction in the quality of comics over the years, but it is clear that the style and content of comics has changed throughout each age due to external social influences at the time.

Established in the shadow of two world wars, the superhero represented clear ideas of morality, honor and justice that were uncompromising and unwavering in the face of overwhelming adversities. Social norms were represented to the young, male-dominated audience who consumed the medium and female characters were largely under-developed. As the Cold War became more apparent, the superhero became less popular in the face of new independent comic book companies creating various scenarios to analyse and criticise the society they lived in. Stories became more cynical, violent and  “adult”, leaving behind both young readers and the idea that the hero would save us.

Many voices in our group agreed that the superhero archetype, specifically Superman, was clichéd, outdated and unrepresentative of the views or realities of the modern age. Others argued that superheros are a creation of fiction and fantasy to escape reality, who inspire us to imagine a better world of gods and giants where we are the best version of ourselves.

In each case, the hero has evolved from being faster than a speeding train and leaping tall buildings, to outrunning bullets, flying and more recently releasing the energy of the sun. Only time will tell if the most recent incarnations of our classic heroes will survive the next age of the comic book.

Garth Ennis comicsEd Brubaker comicsRobert Kirkman comics Howard Chaykin comics Mark Millar comics

In the next meeting – this evening, 1 April – we’ll be discussing whether and why sex and/or violence is essential in comics. Over the course of our previous discussions, the recurring theme of violence and sex has appeared briefly within the context of specific works. The presence of scantily clad female characters, coupled with scenes of sometimes extreme violence is now almost a mandatory requirement for comic books; more so than any comedic characteristic to a story.

In this discussion we’ll be considering:

Come to Marylebone Library this evening at 6.30pm and join in.



Comic Club update – Breaking in to Comics and more

Breaking into comics event 2015At ‘Breaking in to Comics Vol.2: The Art of Self Publishing’ we were treated to a panel of industry experts including author Ilya Hilyer and illustrators Tom Pearce, Shango Edunjobi and David L Bannister.

Building on our previous installment of Breaking into Comics, this episode featured an open discussion with our panel lead by Ilya, with Q&As and a visual presentation.

In this sellout event with over 50 attendees, discussions ranged from how to get started and what materials to use to questions around copyright and the law. Please keep an eye out for the next installment this summer!

Breaking into comics event 2015

Gosh! is a comic speciality store in the heart of London Soho and the supplier of all Westminster Libraries’ Graphic Novels. In our recent visit, our aim was to select new titles to supplement our already healthy collection of graphic novels in addition to meeting our counterparts in the boroughs of Kensington & Chelsea and Hammersmith & Fulham. All three boroughs will be working closer together to deliver a comprehensive collection of graphic novels and related events.

Breaking into comics event 2015

After a fantastic month of shop visits and special guest panels we’ll be taking time at the next meeting to catch a breath and look back at some of the classic and iconic western titles from the golden age of comics.

The Golden Age of Comic Books describes an era of American comic books, from the late 1930s to the early 1950s. During this time, modern comic books were first published and rapidly increased in popularity. The superhero archetype was created, and many famous characters debuted, including Superman, Batman, Captain America, Wonder Woman, and Captain Marvel.

We now have a display shelf within Marylebone Library‘s graphic novel collection dedicated to our discussion topics, and currently featuring some recommended reading for this meeting.

The Golden Age of Comics: Classic superheroes and superheroines takes place on 4 March, 6.30pm at Marylebone Library – see you there.


May the force be with you: Six things you might not know about film composer John Williams

John Williams with the Boston Pops OrchestraJohn Williams has written some of the most unforgettable film themes of our generation; his iconic music has lit up the silver screen in films like Star Wars, Jaws and E.T. In an industry shifting away from large orchestral scores, John Williams is the last one standing among traditional film composers.

Here are six facts about the man and his music you might not know…

  1. He doesn’t own a computer.

In his small bungalow on the Universal Studio lot, John Williams composes using pencil and paper on a small writing desk next to his 90-year-old Steinway piano. He’s never owned a computer. Why not? He’s probably been too busy composing to ever learn to use one.

  1. He’s really busy.

He’s written over 120 film scores, a symphony, 12 concertos and numerous other symphonic and chamber works. He doesn’t let a day go by without writing something, and although his pace has slowed slightly, he shows no signs of ever stopping.

  1. Only one person has more Academy Award nominations.

And that’s Walt Disney. John Williams has received a total of 47 Academy Award nominations, but he’s only won five.

  1. He started as a jazz pianist.

You can hear him in Henry Mancini’s 1958 Peter Gunn theme playing the famous main riff:

  1. He’s scored all but one of Steven Spielberg’s feature films.

Their forty-year partnership started in 1972. Since then, they have had one of the most important film collaborations in history. Spielberg calls Williams a “chameleon of a composer” because of his ability to match the tone of any theme or subject matter. And the one he didn’t score? The Colour Purple, which was scored by Quincy Jones.

  1. We have recently added a number of John Williams’ orchestral scores to the Westminster Music Library collection!

Including: Music from Star Wars, March from Superman, the theme from Warhorse, March from Raiders of the Lost Ark, Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone and if you’re feeling ambitious and fancy performing a John Williams medley with your orchestra, we have a set of parts featuring music from Star Wars, Jaws, Superman, Harry Potter, Indiana Jones and E.T.

John Williams scores in Westminster Music Library

No orchestra? Then why not try The very best of John Williams arranged for piano solo. Realise the power of the Dark Side…


Man of Steel in the heart of (the) Metropolis

Staff and readers at Westminster Reference Library are well used to their evening studies being accompanied by the screams of movie fans and the occasional celeb – or indeed fully-garbed Imperial Stormtrooper – passing by in Leicester Square. On Wednesday it was the turn of the Superman fans to line the red (actually blue) carpet route in the pouring rain as the latest re-imagining of the now 75 year old superhero got its first UK outing.

All star Superman vol 1 by Grant MorrisonAll star Superman vol 2 by Grant MorrisonThe greatest stories ever told, vol 2, by Jerry SiegelSuperman: whatever happened to the man of tomorrow? by Alan MooreThe Superman Chronicles vol 2 by Jerry Siegel

One of the key features of the new film is its cutting-edge visual effects (“You’ll believe a man can fly!”) including the creation of Superman’s planet – Krypton, his home town – Smallville, and his city – Metropolis. Location is often fundamental to the mood of a superhero’s story – think Batman without Gotham City, Thor without Asgard or The Fantastic Four without Latveria. While apparently most of the comic book superheroes have visited London at some point in their stories (probably due to the preponderance of British comic book artists), in the main if you remove a superhero from his or her city a great deal of atmosphere is lost.

Vertigo: the strange new world of the contemporary city, by Rowan MooreResearch for Man of Steel’s Metropolis involved effects artists scaling the perilous heights of Chicago’s skyscrapers, held only by ropes and harnesses. But what might the less well-funded comic book artist or aspiring film maker do to find inspiration for their own superhero city? They could do worse than visit the library! In fact, popping around the corner from the excesses of the premiere would have afforded a range of resources to inform and delight.

Film Architecture: from Metropolis to Blade Runner [exhibition catalogue]They could begin with a look at the precedents: Film Architecture: set designs from Metropolis to Bladerunner might be a good place to start. This exhibition catalogue is held within the library’s amazing Performing Arts collection – a browse along the nearby shelves would reveal several more books on this and related topics. Moving over to the Art & Design collection they could browse books on the buildings of Chicago, New York and other cities around the world, plus books on different architects, architectural styles and movements.

London High by Herbert WrightOf course, there are not enough superheroes based in our own beloved city (in fact, are there any?). A bit of research into London’s architecture would seem to be in order.

Airborne heroine? London High might come in handy.

Lycra-clad hero? Take a look at The architecture of London 2012.

If you’re not planning to imagine your own city, but want to become immersed in the imaginations of the best of the comic book artists, then you can visit one of the city’s lending libraries and borrow some of our brilliant range of graphic novels and comics.

Action Comics SupermanJust as Man of Steel is intended as a ‘reboot’ of the Superman films, so DC comics have recently rebooted all their classic characters – including Superman – with The New 52‘, many of which we have available to borrow. We also have Terry Moore’s Strangers in Paradise, source of the “Look it up!” Librarian (yes, we all think we’re superheroes).
If you get really hooked, don’t forget you can meet with like-minded souls at the Marylebone Library Graphic Novel Club which meets monthly on a Wednesday.

[Ali, Clint, Psyche]

Onwards to 2013

Another year has come and (almost) gone, and what a splendid year it was – scarcely a month went by without a major anniversary. If it wasn’t Dickens, it was Captain Scott and if doomed explorers weren’t your scene, there were doomed Titanic passengers to read about. So let’s have a look forward to what we will be commemorating in 2013…

Titles by Jane Austen28 January sees the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s Pride And Prejudice. If your knowledge of the book is confined to seeing Colin Firth in a wet shirt, then you’re in for a real treat. It’s much funnier and more knowing about human nature than any novel has any right to be. And if you have read it, why not try one of the many, many spin-offs and sequels, some by very famous writers indeed. You can find all of Jane Austen’s books in Westminster Libraries as well as many biographies and volumes of criticism.

Giant molecules: from nylon to nanotubes, by WB Gratzer   24 February gives us an opportunity to celebrate the 75th birthday of nylon. The first commercial product made with nylon was not, as one might expect, stockings but a toothbrush. Previously, toothbrushes had been made with animal bristles so it’s a cause for celebration for pigs and badgers too. You can find out more about looking after your teeth on our Health page, including finding your nearest dentist via NHS Direct. For everything you could possibly want to know about nylon, have a look at the excellent HowStuffWorks via the Science Gateway page.

Books about David Livingstone19 March brings us the 200th anniversary of the birth of the Scottish missionary and explorer David Livingstone. You can read  about his life in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (log in with your Westminster Library card). It’s hard not to be impressed by the determination of young David who at the age of 10 worked for 12 hours a day in a Clydeside factory and studied for 2 hours every night at the village school, where he developed a lifelong interest in geology and herbal medicine.
One of the favourite heroes of the Victorians, Livingstone’s achievements in exploration (though he failed to locate the source of the Nile), anti-slavery work and promoting Christianity were considerable and, unlike many Victorian heroes, no scandals have been unearthed posthumously. Check out the Themes section of the ODNB for other Imperial Lives, some rather less attractive than Livingstone.

SupermanOn 18 April comics fans everywhere will be celebrating the 75th birthday of Superman and waiting patiently for the summer release of the latest movie retelling of the story: Man of Steel. You can find plenty of the graphic novels and films in Westminster libraries but even if cartoons aren’t your scene, you might want to try Michael Chabon’s masterpiece The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, a fictional look at the lives of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, the original Superman artists.

StravinskyHigh culture will be celebrated on 29 May when it is the centenary of the first performance of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. Riots at the ballet are, fortunately, quite rare, but the police had to be called, so outraged were the audience at the unusual  movements of the dancers and musical harmony (or lack of it). Log into Oxford Music Online to find out more about the piece and listen to it at Naxos Music Online (though if you think you won’t be able to refrain from throwing the furniture about, we’d rather you listened at home!)

Books about the SuffragettesMore controversy will be commemorated on 8 June, the centenary of the death of Emily Davison, the brave Suffragette who disrupted the Derby in 1913 and was tragically killed. You can read more about her life in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography and watch the British Pathe newsreel of the event.

The BeanoRather more cheerfully, on 30 July, we wish a Happy 75th Birthday to The Beano, greatest of all comics and home of Dennis the Menace, Minnie the Minx, Rodger the Dodger, Billy Whizz, the Bash Street Kids, Lord Snooty and many another childhood favourite. How many of these can you remember?

The Great Train Robbery8 August sees the 50th anniversary of the Great Train Robbery, not perhaps an event  to celebrate but certainly one that looms very large in the British public consciousness. The are no shortage of books on the subject as well as a number of films. You can see how newspapers at time reported the story by logging in to their online archives (The Times initially reported the theft as totalling £500,000 but it is now thought to have been nearer £2.6 million)

Books about Jesse Owens12 September brings the centenary of the birth of the great Jesse Owens, the outstanding athlete of the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, whose achievement in setting three world records and tying a fourth at an athletics meet in 1935 is unlikely to be bettered any time soon. You can read contemporary newpaper accounts of  his winning four gold medals at the Berlin Olympics and even see the events themselves in archive footage on YouTube.

One on every corner- Westminster pubs26 October sees the 150th anniversary of the formation of the Football Association, supposedly formed at a meeting in the Freemason’s Arms in Long Acre,  Covent Garden. Prior to that, different clubs, schools and colleges used their own rules which presumably led to some amusing complications when they played each other. Eleven London clubs and schools sent representatives to the meeting though, ironically, many of them now play rugby union. If you want to take up football yourself, why not check out some of the listings on the Sports page of the Gateway to websites. Or maybe you’re more of a pub person – Westminster Archives have published a splendid history of West End pubs called One on Every Corner.

Doctor Who books23 November is already marked as the key event in the Treasure Hunt Towers 2013 diary: the 50th anniversary of the first broadcast of Doctor Who. We don’t know yet what producer Steven Moffat has planned  – look at the BBC Dr Who site for the latest info, but also check our newspaper archives to  look back at its past history: The Times’ Toyshop Roundabout (22/11/65) suggested that the must-have Christmas toy for boys was the Anti-Dalek Neuron Exterminator, though it reported with some disappointment that another anti-Dalek weapon, the Fluid Neutralizer was just ‘our old friend the water-pistol’.

Crossword booksEverything will be a bit of an anti-climax after that excitement but, on 21 December, cruciverbalists everywhere will be celebrating the 100th anniversary of the first ever ‘wordcross’ puzzle being published in the New York World, created by a British journalist called Arthur Wynne (you can try it here). The first crossword in a British paper was published in the Sunday Express on 2 November 1924 with cryptic crosswords following soon after (though the Americans didn’t take to them until they were introduced to the New York Magazine by composer Stephen Sondheim in 1968).
Why not have a browse among some of the language resources on the Westminster site? Check the Oxford English Dictionary to find out where the word ‘cruciverbalist’ comes from and check Oxford Dictionaries Pro for help with grammar and punctuation as well as some more word puzzles. And if you go to Naxos Music Library, you can listen to some Sondheim while you solve The Guardian’s latest teaser.

There may be some other anniversaries coming up (we’ll all be very familiar with the works of Benjamin Britten by the end of the year) but I’m sure they won’t be as much fun as these…