Summary of American Comic Book History 

The Begining

history1The American Comic book form, first began in 1929 with the crash of the stock market. During this Great Depression, with the cost of everything high and the incomes low, many people found the need to escape from the trials and tribulations of this period in time. They needed a break from their stress and found relief and solace in the escapism of myth, hope and adventure in stories. Designed to be cheap to print, quick and easy to read, the comic book soon became a popular form of portable literature for many readers, and the standard in design and construction that was created then, remains largely the same today.

The first series of stories started with Flash Gordon, Dick Tracy, Tarzan, and Prince Valiant. In Dick Tracy readers could catch the bad guys as Tracy, a policeman, thwarted and captured mobsters, reminiscent of the Al Capone era and the early Mafia of the time. Flash Gordon offered the wonderful escape fantasy of space and people could leave planet Earth altogether, along with their troubles, and fly unlimited through outer space. Tarzan too, offered an escape from the noisy hustle and bustle of the modern world, in exchange for the tranquility of a jungle garden of eden. Prince Valiant provided yet another escape to another place and time, as an ancient warrior of the past, fighting for good, as a good and kind knight. Sound familiar?

history2The Superhero

In 1939 The American comic book came into it’s own with the invention of the Superhero. Superman was first created by Siegel and Shuster and started what is known as the Golden Age of the American Comic Book. This is the time when the modern American Myth was created. Not having as rich a story telling tradition as many other cultures, this is the advent of what we can call American literary culture.

Superman has existed for almost 80 years and is considered the definitive American cultural icon, representing the now established American ideals of Truth, Justice and the American Way. Other super heroes followed, such as Batman by Bob Kane, who created his superhero by combining Da Vinci’s Flying machine with the story of Zorro.

CC Beck created Captain Marvel who was a young boy, who could magically transform into the superhero Captain Marvel by saying the magic word; “Shazam”. The word Shazam is an acronym of the names of the gods and historically famous people with great powers;

* Solomon- wisdom

* Hercules- Strength

* Atlas – Power

* Zeus – lightning bolt and ability to withstand attacks

* Achilles – Inner strength and will

* Mercury – Speed

Another character that was a favorite was Thor: the God of Thunder, taken from traditional stories in Scandinavian folklore and soon became a favorite superhero in America.

The War Years

A lot of characters were enlisted and went to World War II, and comic books became ideological weapons to increase the soldiers’ and people’s morale during the war period. The greatest icon of the war days is Jack Kirby’s and Joe Simon’s Captain America. To say the least, in the cover of his first magazine, Captain America battled none other than Adolf Hitler himself. …

history3From 1940-1945 some 400 different super heroes were created mostly based on Superman. … About this time there were great comic books coming of age in other places besides the US.

After WWII

In France and Belgium in particular, but they were barely known outside of these countries. Of particular interest is Belgium’s most famous comic book creator Herges Tintin, who pioneered a very clean line drawing style, and had lots of followers. The American Comic Book is the most popular book format of the modern age, perfected in the late 20th century. Synonymous with the need for mythical storytelling in a world-wide culture of the machine-age and fast-paced living.

Having greatly influenced not only Western culture but also many other cultures. A simple format of few words, combined with animated evocative graphic imagery, makes it a perfect delivery vehicle for the modern era. In France a country not starved for great literature, 1 out of every 8 books sold today is a comic book.

Interesting Trivia

There are 35 pages and 124 illustrations in the average comic book.

A single issue can range in price from $1.00 to over $140,000.00.

Every day in the US over 172,000 comics are sold and in a year over 62,780,000.

The average comic book collector owns 3,312 comic books and will spend approximately one year of his or her life reading them.