Skip to main content


November 1, 2009

Behind the Scenes with Comics Historian and Editor Greg Sadowski


Greg Sadowski is one of comicdom’s great historians. As an editor, he’s won both the Harvey and Eisner Awards, and he’s just been nominated for YALSA’s Great Graphic Novels for Teens list for Supermen: The First Wave of Comic Book Heroes. Recently, he’s just announced he’ll be doing seven new books for Fantagraphics, beginning in June 2010. The upcoming titles include Four-Color Fear: Forgotten Horror Comics of the 1950s; Setting the Standard: Alex Toth at Standard Comics 1952–1954; The Road to Plastic Man; The Comic Book Frankenstein; and more. Here’s your chance to get to know Greg a little bit better.

Do you remember your first comic book or graphic novel? If so, what was it?
My older brother collected DCs during the late ’50s, early ’60s, so it was probably an old Superman or World’s Finest or something. He would kill me if he caught me reading them, which of course only increased their allure.
What do you love about the graphic novel as a format for storytelling?
Well, we all love storytelling, and comics are just another way to tell a story. I guess you could say it falls in the middle of prose and movies. The reader is more actively involved in comic-book storytelling than in movies because you have to actually read it; plus, you have to imagine what’s happening in between the panels.
Whose work do you admire?
When I was a kid reading my brother’s DCs, I noticed Curt Swan was a standout in comparison to the other artists. The rest all looked so stilted and old-fashioned. Then, after abandoning comics for several years, a friend of mine and I discovered EC Comics, and I fell in love with comics all over again. That entire group of artists, especially Kurtzman and Krigstein, blew me away. And around this time (the early ’70s), the undergrounds were appearing. That was when I began to see that this was a genuine art form.
Who do you read outside of the graphic novel format?
I love Thomas Hardy’s novels. Jonathan Lethem is great. Time and Rolling Stone have some excellent writers. I read a lot of nonfiction, biographies, book reviews, and such. There are a few sports writers gifted with staggering talent.
How many graphic novels do you read a month? How many of those are manga?
I rarely read comics unless it pertains to a book I’m working on. I had read some manga a few years ago when I designed a Comics Journal Special devoted to the subject, and I was very impressed by it. But I spend most of my spare time studying music.
How did you first get involved in the field professionally?
When I discovered the Bernard Krigstein collection in the early ’90s, I was determined to do a book about him, but I wanted complete control, so I had to learn digital layout and Photoshop, not to mention I had to figure out how to write. That first book was quite an education.
What kind of reaction do you get when you tell people what you do?
It’s hard to say. It kind of depends on whether or not they appreciate comics.
Do you collect comics? What is the most valuable piece of art, graphic novel, or comic book in your collection?
I don’t collect comics anymore. In fact, I’m slowly dispersing of my collection on eBay when I need the cash. I’ve already sold my most valuable books. The last big one I had was a Superman #4, which I sold a few months ago.
Is there something you covet adding to your collection?
Not really. Any comic I want to read I can borrow from one of the collectors I know. I don’t need to own them. As you get older, you realize the folly of having too many possessions.