The creator of Bane, Chuck Dixon, recently revealed two of his top comic book recommendations.
Dixon’s recommendations came on the latest episode of his Ask Chuck Dixon, which you can watch below.
In Ask Chuck Dixon #77, Johnny McCloskey asks Dixon, “You do a fantastic job of describing the art of storytelling. Are there any comics that you’d suggest reading, either that you’ve or someone else has written, that tells a great story? Do you have any artists that you’d recommend as great storytellers?”
Dixon answered, “It’s a big question with a lot of answers. There are so many great examples of storytelling in the world of comics and literally all over the world. But I’m going to concentrate on one. This is kind of one-stop shopping for everything you are looking for in great storytelling.”
Dixon then went on to reveal his top two recommendations, “EC Comics was famous or rather infamous for horror comics, but for my money, the best thing they ever produced were there two war titles, Frontline Combat and Two-Fisted Tales. These were produced during the time of the Korea War.”
He continued, “And they were probably the most brutally frank war comics ever produced in this country. Both books were created and driven and mostly written by Harvey Kurtzman, who at the same time was creating MAD magazine, an entirely different prospect from these two books.”
Dixon went on to discuss the books’ technical craft, “Because Frontline Combat and Two-Fisted Tales were…it’s pretty grim material. But it’s so wonderfully presented. Kurtzman would write the scripts and do layouts for his artists. And there’s a heavy emphasis unlike most American comic books at the time, there was a heavy emphasis on cinematic storytelling.”
He then proceeded to shower praise on the two books, “This is bravura comics storytelling. This is pure comics. Combination of words and pictures. Just enough words to allow the artist to carry the story visually and as you can see often no words. Kurtzman’s amazing use of sounds effects, amazingly effective use of sound effects. And it’s just great stuff. And Kurtzman often would also draw stories himself and provide covers.”
“Like I said it’s one-stop shopping for storytelling because not only is the craft here, and the stories are evocative. They’re easy to follow and the perfect balance of words and pictures, which I always emphasize is what pure comics are all about,” the comic book legend asserted.
Dixon then discussed the emotional appeal of the two books, “There’s also a lot of heart in these stories. Each eight page and sometimes seven page story is a mini epic on its own. It introduces its own ensemble cast, sets up the situation, the historic situation, be it conflicts in the Korean War, the Civil War, ancient Rome, you know all over the map. It’s very much historical adventure books, both of these books.”
He continued discussing the books’ storytelling craft, “But they set all of that up and they always tell a marvelous story often with a twist ending because that was EC’s style, but sometimes not. Sometimes a grim downer ending or an ending that evokes some sort of emotional catharsis.”
He went on to specifically highlight one specific story, “There’s a number of these stories which are deeply effective because they have so much heart. There’s a story called ‘Bellyrobber’ illustrated by Jack Davis that if you don’t tear up a little by the end of the story you simply have no heart. And that’s rare in comics for them to explore the range of emotional depth that Harvey Kurtzman and his artists managed to plumb here.”
Dixon then went on to recommend a number of war comics from DC Comics as well, “The only other examples I can think of are also in the war genre. Early 70s DC war comics, particularly those by Joe Kubert and Russ Heath written by Robert Kanigher, sometimes written by Russ Health. Also touch on all the things I talked about here. The craft of storytelling, the level of characterization, the depths of emotions and all the rest of it.”
Dixon concluded, “Check them out. They’re reprinted. They’re not hard to find in reprint form on eBay and Amazon. And anything by Kurtzman is worth looking at but in particular, for me, this is him at the peak of his powers.”
What do you make of Dixon’s recommendations? Have you read them before, are they as good as Dixon touts them? What are your top comic book recommendations?