The Golden Age Of Comics
Comics have been in existence since the end of the 19th century, but it was after the depression that the popularity of newspaper cartoons expanded into a major industry.
The precise era of the Golden Age is disputed, though most agree that it was born with the launch of Superman in 1938. Created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, Superman is possibly the most recognizable comic book character to this day.
The success of Superman spawned a series of spin-offs and created a whole new genre of characters with secret identities, superhuman powers and colorful outfits – the superhero. Batman and Robin, Wonder Woman, Plastic Man, Green Lantern and Flash were amongst those who followed.
Captain Marvel proved to be one of the most popular superhero comics of the Golden Age, regularly outselling the adventures of Superman during the 1940s.
The sales of comic books increased markedly during World War II. They were cheap, portable and had inspirational, patriotic stories of good triumphing over evil. The tales very much reflected the events and values of the time. Pro-American characters were popular, particularly Captain America, a superhero whose entire creation was based on aiding the country’s war effort.
Sporting the stars and stripes as his costume, Captain America was pictured battling Adolf Hitler on the cover of the very first issue.
Though the superhero comics were the top sellers, other genres emerged during the Golden Age.
Horror and crime were popular, notably The Spirit, a masked detective who captured villains and dispensed justice.
Science fiction and Western-themed comics were some of the new styles of story-telling that started to appear. The teen genre was also gaining interest. A comic strip featuring a red-head named Archibald "Archie" Andrews debuted in 1941, becoming so popular the company that created it changed its name to Archie Comics in 1946.
Animal and jungle themed comics were led by Walt Disney, featuring Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Tarzan.
After the war, the superhero genre lost steam, marking what many consider to be the end of the Golden Age. The era itself, though, left an indelible mark on comic books with many of the characters remaining popular almost 70 years later. The first superhero, Superman is still alive and well in popular culture today.
Perhaps one of the most important impacts of the Golden Age was the cementation of the comic as a mainstream artform, with its own defined language and creative conventions.