Book Review of The DC Vault: A Museum in a Book (Mania.com)

By:Tim Janson
Review Date: Wednesday, October 15, 2008

 

Last year Running Press gave comic book fans the very cool Marvel Vault, a “Museum in a Book” as they refer to it. This year Running Press is back with the DC Vault. If you haven’t seen the Marvel Vault these books are part history book and part collectible. It comes packed with over two-dozen pieces of reproduction memorabilia from DC’s decades-long history, all secured in clear plastic sleeves.
 
DC’s history is an incredible story in itself. You’ll read about the foundation that was laid for the modern comic book as far back as 1929 when publisher Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson tried to start up his own newspaper feature syndication while Harry Donenfeld and Jack Leibowitz were making a name publishing lurid pulp magazines. Bt perhaps the most important character in developing what we know as modern comics was M.C. “Max” Gaines. Gaines was the man largely responsible for Superman eventually seeing the light of day in Action Comics #1 after his creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, had been turned down from newspaper syndicates.
 
You might be interested to know that Superman was not the first work that Siegel and Shuster did for DC. The book contains pages of pre-Superman work by the duo including the characters Slam Bradley and Dr. Occult. One of the rarest Super/Batman Comics is New York World’s Fair #1 1940. On July 3, 1940, the World’s Fair featured a Superman Day. The book contains rare color photos taken at the fair of Siegel and Shuster along with others, enjoying the day and having fun. As the golden age history of DC reveals itself, you’ll get to see house ads promoting new characters and titles that have not been seen for decades.
 
The first bit of reproduction material in the book is a copy of an ashcan edition of Double Action Comics #2. Ashcan editions were dummy copies of titles used for nothing more than to secure a copyright to a title. Only three ashcan editions of Double Action #2 are known to exist. If you’re a fan of 40s and 50s nostalgia, you’ll find yourself positively giddy over the vintage product and merchandise ads that re-reprinted in the book. Kellogg’s long defunct “Pep” cereal feature a Superman comic strip, and there’s also ads for Superman sweatshirts, bubblegum cards, and moccasins.
 
The second grouping of memorabilia items includes a Batman promotional mask created for the Philadelphia Record newspaper, a Wonder Woman sticker based on a button that was offered in Sensation Comics #5, and a Justice Society decoder that you received for joining the Junior Justice Society. Needless to say if you had the originals they’d be almost priceless. A check of eBay turned up exactly ZERO decoders!
 
By the 1950’s Superheroes were all but gone and DC was publishing a variety of different comics including humor, westerns, war, romance, sports, and movie and TV tie-in comics. It’s practically a forgotten era and Pasko does a remarkable job of giving the reader a feel for the times with so many examples of the period.
 
Among the other more interesting bits of nostalgia contain within the Museum in a Book is a Superman Promotional booklet created for a hospital fund in 1948, a Batman and Robin postcard from 1960, a reproduction sketch by artist Joe Kubert for Brave and the Bold #43 (1962), a fold-out notice announcing DC’s new address on Fifth Ave (1980), and reproduction cover pencils to Wonder Woman #63 (1992) by artist Brian Bolland.
 
The book is a large, spiral bound hardcover book, which makes it very easy to thumb through the pages and examine all of the little treasures inside. Yes it’s $50, but it is well worth the price and you can certainly find it discounted at the usual sources. A perfect holiday gift as well!


Mania Grade: A
Book: The DC Vault
Author: Martin Pasko
Publisher: Running Press
Pages: 192
Price: $49.95