In 1976, champion player Roger Sharpe stepped up to a pinball machine in a Manhattan courtroom. The New York City Council had convened to consider lifting the city’s ban on pinball―a game that had been outlawed since 1942 for its supposed connections to gambling and organized crime. Sharpe was there to prove that, unlike a slot machine, pinball wasn’t a game of chance designed to fleece its players―it was a game of skill that required a measure of patience, coordination, and control. To prove his point, he proclaimed that he would launch his ball into the center lane at the far end of the playfield―much like Babe Ruth famously pointing to the fences. Sharpe pulled back the plunger and released, and the fate of this industry and art form hung in the balance.
Thus opens Jon Chad’s comprehensive graphic novel to the history of the captivating, capricious―and at times infuriating!―game of pinball. Tracing pinball’s roots back to the Court of King Louis XIV, through the immigrant experience of early 20th century America, the post-War boom and bust, right up to the present day, Chad charmingly ushers readers through the myriad facets of this most American of pursuits―capturing not just the history but also the artistry, cultural significance, and even the physics of the game.