Monday, February 21, 2022

Auteurs of the Graphic Novel

Uncle Pogo So-So Stories, Theb Flintstones on the Rocks, Don Martin Steps Out

Nowadays every issue of a comic book is a temporarily embarrassed graphic novel.

My definition of graphic novel: A book using original comics material in narrative. The important word here is book, so length isn't a criterion--"novel" encompasses collections (like A Contract with God, by the way). A magazine isn't a book, so His Name Is Savage, for instance, doesn't meet the definition. And if it isn't limited to original material, the floodgates open for an appalling number of titles from comic strips and comic books. Note that these three Pogo books are the original-material ones among, otherwise, collections. I say "in narrative" to omit single-page gags of the "talking in pictures" sort, although fumetti would otherwise fit--for instance, in the 70s, Richard J. Anobile's Fotonovels. (And so if we were including magazines, Charlton's 1963 full-length Black Zoo would predate the 1968 His Name Is Savage anyway.)

Mansion of Evil and It Rhymes with Lust are each dated just 1950, so which one is the first modern graphic novel is a question--but it's one or the other.

I'm pushing the definition of "original" with Passionella, but one of the four stores is original and the others have been revised and redrawn for the book. I dithered over the six 1962 Tintin books form Golden Press--they are new American translations--and decided not to include them. Belmont's High Camp Superheroes and My Son the Teenager I left off too, as the new material in them was prepared for the comics and by luck came out in the paperbacks first.

Can you think of any I'm missing through 1970? UPDATE--2 days later--The Monkees occurred to me when I happened to be thinking of the more usual TV tie-in comics and novels. FURTHER UPDATE: OtherEric in his comment contributed The Pogo Poop Book.

1940s-60s American Graphic Novels
abbreviations: mass market paperbacks, hardcovers, trade paperbacks

1950  Mansion of Evil  Fawcett pb
   It Rhymes with Lust St. John digest
1953  Uncle Pogo So-So Stories S&S hc, tp
1954  The Pogo Stepmother Goose S&S tp
1955  The Pogo Peek-a-Book S&S hc, tp
1959  Passionella and Other Stories McGraw-Hill tp
  Harvey Kurtzman's Jungle Book Ballantine pb
1960  The Flintstones on the Rocks Dell small tp
  Huck and Yogi Jamboree Dell small tp
1962  Don Martin Steps Out Signet pb
    [and many more MAD originals]
1966  Christopher Lee's Treasury of Terror Pyramid pb
  Dracula Ballantine pb
  The Monkees Popular Library pb
  The Great Society Comic Book Parallax small tp
  Bobman and Teddy Parallax small tp
  Kosher Comics Parallax small tp
  The Pogo Poop Book S&S tp
1967  The Man from M.O.T.H.E.R. Parallax smaller tp


  1. The Pogo Poop Book is another all-new Pogo book from 1966, and quite a few of the other Pogo books have a new story in addition to the reformatted collected strips. I can try to figure out exactly which books have the new material if you want.

    Thank you for what you do here, it's fascinating and I wish I had discovered it earlier.


  2. Thanks, OtherEric. We can probably consider it "and more Pogo originals" for this post. The Pogo Poop Book certainly does help consolidate 1966 as the year that graphic novels really started taking off.

    1. Ted Carroll published a "graphic novel" in 1947 -- Ring Career of Joe Louis & Jack Dempsey

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  4. Yes, I see on eBay that's in a format like the Armed Services editions, which qualifies it as a book.

    I can't update this post with it, as I just found that I lost access to my Google account and thus the blog's dashboard when I lost the phone number I need for verification. And of course Google has no help desk. I've continued the blog as Who Created the Comic Books 2.