The Golden Age


1937/1938: Beginning of the “Golden Age” of American Comics
» The first regularly published ten-cent comics appear.
» Detective Comics is first published in 1937 by DC Comics. The series goes on to feature Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and numerous other iconic superheroes.
(A more in-depth month-by-month history of DC Comics can be found here.)
» Action Comics introduces Superman in its first issue in 1938. (Read the first Superman comic here.)
» Superheroes in this era tend to be of the “do-gooder” type with little internal struggle and superhero teams get along well in storylines (with the exception of altercations between The Human Torch and the Sub-Mariner as well as the pulp fiction type mood of early Action Comics featuring Batman).

1939-1940
» The number of “comic book” publishers nearly doubles in these two years, with each appearing on the scene introducing their own new superheroes. Many new superheroes are introduced, including: The Flash, Green Lantern, The Shadow, The Spirit. At the same time, funny animal comics like Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories are also being printed as well as westerns, crime stories, and war comics.
» Detective Comics introduces Batman in issue #27. Today it is one of the most valuable comic books in existence. (Check out this awesome video of the covers of DC #27-100.)

1941
» With the war on the collective conscience of the masses, numerous comic books turn to distinctly patriotic themes. Several “real-life” biographical comics are published, adapting the lives and exploits of certain war heroes or events into comic book stories. America and other countries publish war propaganda that takes the form of “comic books” and graphic pamphlets.
» Joe Simon and Jack Kirby create Captain America. A patriotic creation, the character is featured fighting against the Axis alliance during World War II. He becomes the most popular comic book character of the war period in the U.S.
» Classic Comics begins publishing adaptations of classic literature.

1942: Teen Humour
» Characters created by John L. Goldwater become popular and appear in comics published by Archie Comics Publications (founded by John L. Goldwater, Louis Silberkleit, and Maurice Coyne and first established in 1939).

1950
» Super heroes are on the decline. This year marks the end of Captain America.
» The American “Golden Age” of comics draws to a close. Readers become less interested in superheroes and more interested in themes of romance, crime, exotic adventures, and horror.
EC (Entertaining Comics) begins publishing adult-oriented horror, true crime, and science fiction comics that are hugely successful. Titles such as Tales from the Crypt, Weird Fantasy, Mad, and The Haunt of Fear are especially popular.
» 54% of of all comic book readers are adults over the age of 25.

1954: The Seduction of the Innocent
» Dr. Frederic Wertham publishes his infamous book Seduction of the Innocent (read an online edition here). This book emphasizes what Wertham describes as the ill-effects on young people of being exposed to the violent, criminal, and perverse undertones of many comic books. He places the blame for juvenile delinquency squarely on the shoulders of comic book publishers. This book ultimately leads to the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency (an investigation into comic books and juvenile delinquency) and the Comics Code. (Read the 1954 code.)
» Wertham is often accused of having been partially motivated to create his infamous work by a personal anti-Semitic regard for comic book publishers, many of which were Jews.

1955
» All published comics must comply with the incredibly stringent content restrictions outlined in the Comics Code and are required to obtain the Comics Code Authority seal of approval. Many smaller publishing companies go under. Numerous horror and true crime series are cancelled.

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Sources:

Benton, Mike. (1989). The comic book in America: An illustrated history. Dallas, TX: Taylor Publishing Co.

Oropeza, B.J. (Ed.) (2005). The gospel according to superheroes: Religion and popular
culture
. New York, NY: Peter Lang.

Tychinski, S. (2004). A brief history of the graphic novel. Graphic Novels. Retrieved from
http://web.archive.org/web/20080603041720/http://www.graphicnovels.brodart.com/history.htm

Zanettin, F. (Ed.). (2008). Comics in translation. Manchester, UK: St. Jerome Publishing.