Truth, Justice and Industrialisation of Comics part 2:
The early years : newspaper strips Popeye the Sailor US comics grew out of the newspaper industry. Popeye the Sailor was created by Elzie Crisler Segar, and first appeared in the daily King Features comic strip Thimble Theatre on January 17, 1929. Since then he has starred in animations, feature films (animated and life-action), and thousands of comic books.
The early years: Newspaper strips diversify Tarzan Funny animal and sit-com strips were joined by strips that grew out of literature and pulps, challenging the notion that they had to be funny. Tarzan (1929), Dick Tracy(1931) and Buck Rogers (1929) were all serialized for newspaper strips. They signalled a public need for strong hero types in thye face of the Depression.
Industrialisation of Comics part 2: The early years The Funny Papers The first American comic book, Funnies on Parade , was a giveaway promotional anthology of only 8 pages reprinting comic strips from the newspapers. Wanting to get rid of undistributed copies, the story goes, someone slapped a 10 cent tag on them and dropped them off at a few news-stands. They sold out in a flash and so, in 1933, the comics industry was born.
Industrialisation of Comics part 2: The first comic books Famous Funnies 1934: the 36-page Famous Funnies: A Carnival of Comics appeared. It is considered to be the first true American comic book. Distribution took place through the Woolworth's department store chain, although it is unclear whether it was sold or given away; the cover displays no price.
Industrialisation of Comics part 2: original content = The Golden Age of Comics DC Comics is born When the supply of available newspaper comic strips began to dwindle, early comic books began to include a small amount of new, original material in comic-strip format. Inevitably, a comic book of all-original material, with no comic-strip reprints, was released -- and with it, one of the greatest comics publishers was born. Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson founded National Allied Publications — which would evolve into DC Comics — to release New Fun #1 (Feb. 1935). An anthology, it mixed humor and funny animal features with such dramatic fare as the Western strip "Jack Woods" and the "yellow peril" adventure "Barry O'Neill", featuring a Fu Manchu-styled villain, Fang Gow. Other titles, and publishers, quickly followed suit. Pulp publishers particularly saw a new market for their content.
Industrialisation of Comics part 2: ‘adult’ content 30s… “ Dirty Comics” Most comics of the time mixed childrens and adult content. Pulp writers often also wrote comic plots and imported the standard pulp genres. One genre, however, was certainly not for children. Often called ‘Tijuana Bibles’ or ‘8-pagers’, these comics included explicit sexual content and were produced from at least the early 30s onwards. Although they often starred familiar childrens comic characters, they also often showed notorious gangsters, who were portrayed in a flattering light and always ‘got’ the girl. Popular film stars also made frequent appearances. These comics were an important influence for the underground comix of the 70s.
Industrialisation of Comics part 2: Birth of Superman Superman saves the day… Cover for Action Comics #1 (June 1938) Art by Joe Shuster. Considered the first superhero, Superman was the first huge comic publishing sensation. When the USA entered WWII, he was sent to fight against the Nazis. It quickly became clear that he was as popular amongst servicemen as amongst adolescents. Not only did more superheroes follow, but comics rapidly began to reflect their actual demographic. Within two years, most comic-book companies were publishing large lines of superhero titles, and Superman has gone on to become one of the world's most recognizable characters. Aficonados know the period from the late 1930s through roughly the end of the 1940s as the Golden Age of comic books. It is characterized by extremely large print runs (comic books being very popular as cheap entertainment during World War II); erratic quality of stories, art and print quality; and by being a rare industry that provided jobs to an ethnic cross-section of Americans, albeit often at low wages and in sweatshop working conditions.
Superman then and now Cover art for Infinite Crisis #5, by George Perez Cover of Superman #14 (Jan-Feb, 1942). Art by Fred Ray.
Batman <ul><li>Batman was co-created by artist Bob Kane and writer Bill Finger and first appeared in Detective Comics #27 in May 1939. He did not have super-powers, but was an extraordinary athlete and used technology to assist him in what was originally a spin-off from DC standard detective comics. Batman's primary character traits can be summarized as "wealth; physical prowess; deductive abilities and obsession". The details and tone of Batman's characterization have varied greatly over the years. </li></ul><ul><li>Kane, in his 1989 autobiography, detailed Finger's contributions to Batman's creation: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ One day I called Bill and said, 'I have a new character called the Bat-Man and I've made some crude, elementary sketches I'd like you to look at'. He came over and I showed him the drawings. At the time, I only had a small domino mask, like the one Robin later wore, on Batman's face. Bill said, 'Why not make him look more like a bat and put a hood on him, and take the eyeballs out and just put slits for eyes to make him look more mysterious?' At this point, the Bat-Man wore a red union suit; the wings, trunks, and mask were black. I thought that red and black would be a good combination. Bill said that the costume was too bright: 'Color it dark gray to make it look more ominous'. The cape looked like two stiff bat wings attached to his arms. As Bill and I talked, we realized that these wings would get cumbersome when Bat-Man was in action, and changed them into a cape, scalloped to look like bat wings when he was fighting or swinging down on a rope. Also, he didn't have any gloves on, and we added them so that he wouldn't leave fingerprints.” </li></ul></ul>Cover of Detective Comics #27 (May, 1939). Art by Bob Kane.
Batman The first issue of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, which redefined Batman in the 1980s. Pencils by Frank Miller. Detective Comics #327 (May 1964), debut of the "New Look" Batman. Cover art by Carmine Infantino & Joe Giella.
Wonder Woman <ul><li>Wonder Woman first appeared in All Star Comics #8 (December 1941), she is one of three characters to have been continuously published by DC Comics since the company's 1944 inception (except for a brief hiatus in 1984). </li></ul><ul><li>Marston, hired by DC as an educational consultant, decided that they needed anothre superhero. In the early 1940s the DC line was dominated by superpowered male characters such as the Green Lantern, Batman, and its flagship character, Superman. According to the Fall 2001 issue of the Boston University alumni magazine, it was his wife Elizabeth's idea to create a female superhero: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ William Moulton Marston, a psychologist already famous for inventing the polygraph (forerunner to the magic lasso), struck upon an idea for a new kind of superhero, one who would triumph not with fists or firepower, but with love. "Fine," said Elizabeth. "But make her a woman." </li></ul></ul>Cover of Sensation Comics #1 (Jan,, 1942). Art by Harry G. Peter.
Seminal Influences The Spirit The Spirit (Denny Colt) is a crime-fighting fictional character created by writer-artist Will Eisner. He first appeared in Spirit Section #1 (June 2 1940), a seven-page insert into American Sunday-newspaper comics sections. The stories range through a wide variety of styles, from straightforward crime drama and noir to lighthearted adventure, from mystery and horror to comedy and love stories, often with hybrid elements that twisted genre and expectations. Eisner’s superb art, daring ‘camera-angles’ and innovative techniques have made The Spirit one of the great seminal comics. Cover of newspaper comic-book insert "The Spirit Section", Oct. 6, 1946, art by Will Eisner
‘ Good Girl Art’ <ul><li>The rise of the adult market led to a new gene of illustration… ‘Good Girl Art’ </li></ul><ul><li>The term Good Girl Art describes the work of illustrators skilled at creating sexy female figure art; it is the art which is "good," not the girl. </li></ul><ul><li>Popular culture historian Richard A. Lupoff defined it as: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ A cover illustration depicting an attractive young woman, usually in skimpy or form-fitting clothing, and designed for erotic stimulation. The term does not apply to the morality of the "good girl", who is often a gun moll, tough cookie or wicked temptress.” </li></ul></ul><ul><li>During the peak period of comic book Good Girl Art, the 1940s to the 1950s, leading artists of the movement included Bill Ward (for his Torchy) and Matt Baker. Arguably the king of Good Girl Art, Baker was one of the few African Americans working as an artist during the Golden Age of Comics. Today, Baker's rendition of Phantom Lady is considered a collectors item, and much of his GGA is sought after. </li></ul>
Marvel Comics Marvel Comics #1was put out by Martin Goodman, a publisher of pulp magazines in 1939. Like most of its contemporaries in the burgeoning comic book industry, it was an anthology title with an emphasis on superheroes. It introduced The Human Torch, Sub-Mariner, The Angel, Ka-Zar and other characters to the comics-reading world — but more important, it introduced a company that would eventually grow to be an industry giant. 1940 The Human Torch 1940 Sub-Mariner. 1941 Captain America
Sub-Mariner 1939 -- today: The first known comic book antihero The character was created by writer-artist Bill Everett for Funnies, Inc., one of the first "packagers" in the early days of comic books that supplied comics on demand to publishers looking to enter the new medium. The son of a human sea captain and of a princess of the mythical undersea kingdom of Atlantis, Namor possesses the super-strength and aquatic abilities of the "Homo mermanus" race. Through the years, he has been alternatively portrayed as a good-natured but short-fused superhero, or a hostile invader seeking vengeance for perceived wrongs that misguided surface-dwellers committed against his kingdom.
The Human Torch 1939 Created by writer-artist Carl Burgos, the "Human" Torch was actually an android created by scientist Phineas Horton. He possessed the ability to surround himself with fire and control flames. In his earliest appearances, he was portrayed as a science fiction monstrosity, but quickly became a hero. Like many superheroes, the Human Torch fell into obscurity by the 1950s. In 1961 Marvel recycled his name and powers into a new, unrelated Human Torch, a member of the Fantastic Four.
Captain America 1941 -- today The company's first true editor, writer-artist Joe Simon, teamed up with soon-to-be industry legend Jack Kirby to create one of the first patriotically themed superheroes, Captain America. It was proved a major sales hit, with a circulation of nearly one million. An intentionally patriotic creation who was often depicted fighting the Axis powers of World War II, Captain America was Marvel’s most popular character during World War II. After the war ended, the character's popularity waned and he disappeared by the 1950s aside from an ill-fated revival in 1953. Captain America was reintroduced during the Silver Age of comics when he was revived from suspended animation by the superhero team the Avengers in The Avengers #4 (March 1964). Since then, Captain America has often led the team, as well as starring in his own series. Steve Rogers was killed in Captain America vol. 5, #25 (March 2007), although the Captain America series continues publication with Rogers' former sidekick, Bucky, having taken up the mantle. Right: Kirby/Simons 1941
Marvel: The death of the Superhero and the rise of genres Marvel exploited the superhero trend to the hilt — then dropped it like a hot potato when it was no longer paying off. By 1949, those titles were all dead or playing bit-parts. Only DC’s Superman, Wonderwoman, Batman and Fawcett Comic’s Captain Marvel still sold. Marvel’s superheroes were replaced by ‘gal’ titles, and genres such as westerns, horror and science fiction.
1962-65 Strange Tales Covers by Jack Kirby & Frank Giacoia
The rebirth of the superhero: dawn of the Silver Age <ul><li>DC Comics' success in reviving superheroes in the late 1950s and early 1960s, particularly with the Flash, Green Lantern, and other members of the team the Justice League of America, Marvel followed suit. </li></ul><ul><li>The introduction of modern Marvel's first superhero team, in The Fantastic Four #1 , cover-dated November 1961, re-established the company. </li></ul><ul><li>Comics historian Peter Sanderson wrote that in the 1960s, </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ DC was the equivalent of the big Hollywood studios: After the brilliance of DC's reinvention of the superhero ... in the late 1950s and early 1960s, it had run into a creative drought by the decade's end. There was a new audience for comics now, and it wasn't just the little kids that traditionally had read the books. The Marvel of the 1960s was in its own way the counterpart of the French New Wave.... Marvel was pioneering new methods of comics storytelling and characterization, addressing more serious themes, and in the process keeping and attracting readers in their teens and beyond. Moreover, among this new generation of readers were people who wanted to write or draw comics themselves, within the new style that Marvel had pioneered, and push the creative envelope still further. </li></ul></ul>Showcase #4 (Oct. 1956). The first Silver Age comic book. Cover art by Carmine Infantino & Joe Kubert.
The rebirth of the superhero: Marvel’s renaissance <ul><li>In 1961, at Marvel, in response to the success of DC's Justice League of America, Editor Stan Lee was ordered to come up with a superteam. </li></ul><ul><li>Lee in Origins of Marvel Comics (Simon and Schuster/Fireside Books, 1974), p. 16: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Martin mentioned that he had noticed one of the titles published by National Comics seemed to be selling better than most. It was a book called The [sic] Justice League of America and it was composed of a team of superheroes. ... ' If the Justice League is selling', spoke he, ' why don't we put out a comic book that features a team of superheroes?” </li></ul></ul><ul><li>His answer was Jack Kirby's Fantastic Four , which Lee scripted and edited for Kirby's entire run (more than 100 issues) and beyond. The Fantastic Four, a superpowered variation on the Challengers of the Unknown (a team Kirby had created in 1956 for DC), were a hit and soon more superpowered characters appeared in Marvel's comics: Spider-Man , by Lee and Ditko; and, from Kirby's fertile imagination, Thor, Iron Man, Hulk, Avengers and X-Men . </li></ul>So popular were the 1960s Marvels, the company could probably have become the industry's dominant publisher, if not for a distributor contract that limited the number of comics it could release in any given month. That limit came to an end in 1968, sparking a sudden explosion of new titles and characters. By the mid-1970s, Marvel was America's number one comic book company.
The Silver Age of US Comics Marvel's biggest innovation was a storytelling technique that would forever change American comics. Before Fantastic Four #1, comics stories had always been, with only a handful of exceptions, self-contained. Lee, Kirby and their collaborators created stories that not only continued directly from one issue to the next -- with subplots and cliffhangers -- of a specific title but, with increasing regularity, spilled over into the events of other series to build Lee's much-touted interlocking "Marvel Universe." Most of today's mainstream comics are written this way, but at the time this was a radical -- and popular -- change. DC's lateness in adopting the new style hurt its sales for many years.
1961-1972 The Fantastic Four Lee and Kirby recreated the image of the super-hero in a new mold that solidified the position of the costumed adventurer as the dominant element in modern comics, sweeping aside such older genres as romance, horror, western and war comics that still existed in abundance in the early sixties. In looking more closely at the development of Silver Age Marvel, an observer can see a certain progression of storytelling complexity as the company, helmed by editor Stan Lee, moved from an early determination to try something new, to a growing consciousness that it had stumbled onto something bursting with potential. At first unsure, except for this idea of unconventionality in approaching the super-hero, Lee would become more conscious of the larger potentialities of the new direction and eventually, the Fantastic Four would become the main vehicle for some of the most amazing advances in comic book storytelling. Elements of its success include: the elimination of gadgets, the lack of secret identities, no headquarters, no uniforms, the bickering among its members and the personal tragedies strange powers sometimes bestow on people.
1962-1963 The Incredible Hulk In Incredible Hulk # 1 (May 1962), teenager Rick Jones parks his car on a bet at a nuclear test site somewhere in the American southwest just as Bruce Banner's new gamma bomb is about to be tested. Rushing onto the field to rescue the boy, Banner is himself caught in the blast and as a result, turns into the Hulk, an almost mindless brute of incredible strength who becomes a virtual walking id. As a reader once pointed out, the Hulk was the true existential man! At first Banner would change into the Hulk with the rise of the moon, but the idea was quickly abandoned for another that relied on the emotional level of either identity to trigger the change, a circumstance more in keeping with the primal nature of the Hulk. With the creation of the Hulk, Lee had come up with the perfect vehicle for his new ideas of what it actually would be like to have super powers in the real world. Unfortunately, the blurred line between hero and villain didn't catch on with readers and the Hulk was soon canceled.
The Sympathetic Villain Blurring line between hero and villain was becoming an increasingly important point of exploration for Lee and Kirby. It began as early as the introduction of the Mole Man in FF # 1, and reached its culmination in the introduction of Dr. Doom in Fantastic Four # 5 (July 1962). A lab accident left Doom's face horribly disfigured. Sending himself into self-exile, he was last known to be wandering the Far East in search of still more dark secrets. From this sketchy origin, the story of Dr. Doom would grow, (with a full length origin story appearing in FF annual #2), until the readers came to sympathize at least in part over the reasons for his melancholy. With genius to rival that of Mr. Fantastic but without his sense of morality, Doom easily became the most dangerous man in the growing Marvel universe. Unfettered by notions of right and wrong and bounded only by his own needs, Doom became the personification of ruthlessness. Through him, the reader could perhaps glimpse the internal forces that had moved men of such historical villainy as Hitler and Stalin. Lee and Kirby would later play Doom like a harp, giving readers private moments showing his finer sensibilities and then veering him off into brutal villainy. In the blurred line between hero and villain, Doom was easily Marvel's most complicated creation.
Spiderman 1962-71 Virtually in the same month as FF # 5, Marvel introduced a new character that was destined to eclipse even the groundbreaking Fantastic Four in importance. As the story goes, Amazing Fantasy was a book on the verge of cancellation and with nothing to lose, Lee decided to throw in an idea for a character he'd had kicking around in his head for a while. Spider-Man would be the culmination of all the non-traditional super-hero ideas Lee had been exploring for the past year or more. In him, Lee would present a character even closer to reality than either the FF or the Hulk who were still too far removed from everyday life for the readers to really identify with. With Spider-Man, Lee would finally break all the barriers. He'd make him an unpopular teenager, a science wiz in high school whose interest in his studies alienated him from his classmates; an orphan being raised by a loving but too doting aunt; he'd have girl problems, money problems and even identity problems. Nothing would come easy for him and in fact, each issue of the later Spider-Man comic would end in a panel listing all his problems. As a hero, Spider-Man would have to wash and sew his own costume, pay for his own transportation to where the villains were, endure scathing attacks by the media and the fear and distrust of the public in general and his fellow super-heroes in particular. It all began in Amazing Fantasy # 15 (Aug 1962) with the pencils of Steve Ditko who was Kirby's polar opposite specializing in the common man and the anguished faces of ordinary people undergoing the full range of human emotion, a talent that would prove of crucial importance in the conveying the realistic world of Peter Parker. Coupled with Lee's flair for writing naturalistic dialogue, the story of Spider-Man's origin is told neatly in 11 pages as Peter Parker is bitten by a radioactive spider, gains incredible insectoid abilities and allows a crook to escape a pursuing security guard. It was this last incident that would provide the book with its motivating factor as Peter arrives home one night to discover how wrong he could be in believing that stopping the escaping crook was none of his business. With his beloved Uncle Ben dead at the burglar's hands, Peter learns that "...with great power, there must also come great responsibility." A lesson that has since become one of the most hallowed in comics.
The Marvel Method <ul><li>Lee became one of the best-known names in comics, with his charming personality and relentless salesmanship of the company. His sense of humor and generally lighthearted manner became the "voice" that permeated the stories, the letters and news pages, and the hyperbolic house ads of that era's Marvel Comics. </li></ul><ul><li>He fostered a clubby fan-following with Lee's exaggerated depiction of the Bullpen (Lee's name for the staff) as one big, happy family. This included printed kudos to the artists, who eventually co-plotted the stories based on the busy Lee's rough synopses or even simple spoken concepts, in what became known as the Marvel Method, and contributed greatly to Marvel's product and success. </li></ul><ul><li>Kirby in particular is generally credited for many of the cosmic ideas and characters of Fantastic Four and The Mighty Thor, such as the Watcher, the Silver Surfer and Ego the Living Planet, while Steve Ditko is recognized as the driving artistic force behind the moody atmosphere and street-level naturalism of Spider-Man and the surreal atmosphere of Dr. Strange. </li></ul>
DC <ul><li>Beginning in the 1970s, reflective of a changing social climate, the comics medium became a vehicle for more serious and complex themes and stories. Several DC Comics publications were at the forefront of this development, touching on issues such as drug abuse, pollution and racism. The series most notable at this time for employing these themes was a series called GREEN LANTERN/GREEN ARROW, by the award-winning writer/artist team of Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams. </li></ul><ul><li>In 1972, writer/artist team Len Wein and Berni Wrightson reinvigorated the horror genre with SWAMP THING and, in the early 80s, writer Alan Moore used this series to take comics to the next level by exploring psychological horror. </li></ul><ul><li>In 1986, WATCHMEN, by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons took a fresh and disturbing look at the super hero genre and has since become one of the best-selling comics of all time and claimed by most as one of the best comic stories ever done. </li></ul><ul><li>That same year, Frank Miller, Klaus Janson and Lynn Varley redefined Batman and attained world-wide attention with their BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS. </li></ul><ul><li>In 1988, the publication of SANDMAN #1, a radical defection from the traditional super hero genre, paved the way for the subsequent launch of Vertigo, a line devoted to more literary themes and mature subject matter. </li></ul><ul><li>DC began the 1990s with the launch of two groundbreaking imprints — Vertigo and Milestone. Vertigo was created as a venue for material of a more mature and sophisticated nature that did not fit easily with the traditionally superhero-dominated mainstream comics. Milestone was the first line of comics starring multicultural heroes and made its debut with the titles ICON, HARDWARE, and STATIC, the last of which endures as the current animated hit series STATIC SHOCK. To further expand the breadth of our publishing line, in 1998 DC acquired WildStorm Productions, a leading independent comics publisher whose books displayed a refreshingly modern take on action/adventure superheroes. </li></ul>