In March 1970, 145 people attended the Golden State Comic-Con, which would eventually grow into the phenomenon now known as San Diego Comic-Con. This is just one of the gorgeous comic book infographs from Tim Leong's new book Super Graphic.
Years ago, Leong ran the magazine Comic Foundry, a culture magazine spanning newspaper strips, superhero comics, indie books, and more. After the magazine folded, Leong says, "I had a pretty big hole in my life — a comics-sized hole in my life. I really missed being part of that community and having those comic book interactions. So I've always wanted to do another comics-related project." While working at Wired, Leong became more adept at creating eye-popping infographics. Eventually, he decided to combine his love of comics with his love of data visualization, and Super Graphic: A Visual Guide to the Comic Book Universe was born.
The book is packed with more than 100 pages of comic-themed infographics, ranging from the alliterative names of Archie Comics characters and the Scrooge McDuck family tree to evolution of the Green Lantern oath and a chart of oppression and rebellion in Persepolis. Some of the charts are hugely informative (such as the massive fold-out chart of comic book movies, comparing their box office earnings and Rotten Tomatoes scores), while others dip into the trivia of comic book history (such as the Venn diagram of "Stan Lee's Nicknames for the Marvel Bullpen," which includes the categories "Alliterative," "Vaguely Sexual" and "Words I Had to Look Up"). Still others are unabashedly goofy: the charts of "What Makes Nick Fury So Intimidating," "Reasons to Like Cyclops," and why the other Ninja Turtles make fun of Donatello are in the form of their respective subjects' faces.
Sometimes, the charts revealed something about the comics that surprised even Leong. "One that I kind of realized, but was just staggering to see the actual data of it was I did a kill counter for The Walking Dead, for the first 100 issues," Leong explains. "I think when you think about The Walking Dead, you think, 'Oh, you've got to watch out for these zombies.' But it's not the zombies! It's not the zombies killing people; it's the people because they're crazy. It think it's 79 or 80 percent of the deaths that are from humans. So I think people who have watch the show will have come to that conclusion themselves, but to see the actual numbers?"
Although Leong acknowledges that superhero comics have a long history that makes them particularly well suited to data visualization, he aimed to include a wide range of comics in the book. After all, he reads a wide range of comics — he even has a chart cheekily tagged "Full Disclosure" that breaks down the publishers sitting on his bookshelf. While the book leans toward superhero infographics, Leong is hoping to appeal to the ecumenical comic reader with charts about manga, underground comix, and a healthy dose of Tintin. "No matter how long you've been reading comics, there are still lots of great comics that you haven't read," Leong points out, "which is pretty awesome."
No matter the genre, Leong feels that data visualization and comics are a natural fit. "What's great about comics," he says, "besides the comics themselves, are the fans, the readers — because the readers are super meticulous and they obsess about the details. And that's kind of what the whole point of the book was: that they embrace and appreciate that obsessiveness. And I think it's because of the readers, because they're such hardcore fans, they just love the material so much; I think it's fantastic."
Super Graphic: A Visual Guide to the Comic Book Universe is available now.