Previously on E.A.T.comics: Most historians and scholars say the idea of “comics” began in the late 19th century with The Loves of Mr. Vieux Bois (Topffer) and Hogan’s Alley (Outcault).
The success of Outcault’s Hogan’s Alley inspired other cartoon artists to work with newspapers and magazines, popularizing the concept of the comic. Fast forward about 30 years, just before the second World War and comics like Little Orphan Annie (Harold Gray, 1924), Popeye (Elzie Crisler Segar, 1929) and other “pulp heroes” were sold like mini-comic books, at 10 cents a book. Then, in 1938 a new kind of comic was released. Action Comics #1 introduced Superman, “the man of steel”. Written by Jerry Siegel and illustrated by Joe Shuster, Clark Kent/Superman is an alien from the planet Krypton, who works as a journalist at the Daily Planet, uses his various superpowers to protect mankind from the forces of evil. Siegel and Shuster’s creation opened the gates to superhero comic books and the Golden Age of Comics. About a year after Superman
made his debut, a bored socialite turned vigilante came onto the scene. Creators Bill Finger and Bob Kane introduced the world to Batman in Detective Comics #27. Unlike Clark Kent, Bruce Wayne does not possess superpowers. He gained popularity with American audiences because he didn’t need superhuman strength or heat vision. Instead, he relied on his gadgets and detective skills. Since their creation, Batman and Superman have become two of the most popular superheroes, both with complicated storylines and a host of villains to save the world from. (Many years later the publications that supported Action Comics and Detective Comics merged and eventually took on the name DC Comics.)
“The Man of Steel” and “The Dark Knight” weren’t the only big name superheroes in the fight against evil. “The First Avenger”,
aka Captain America, was launched in 1941 by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby of Timely Comics (later Marvel). Unlike the DC heroes, Cap premiered in a comic under his own name (Captain America #1). Once a scrawny boy desperate to join the army, Steve Rogers was created to be a super soldier in the midst of WWII. His all-American boy persona and Nazi-fighting adventures were hugely popular with American audiences. These three superheroes have graced the panels of comic books for nearly 80 years. Not only did they pave the way for other superhero stories, but other comic book genres as well. All three have sold thousands of issues, had TV shows and movies, and remain popular figures in current pop culture.
While the years of the era are disputed, most agree that the Golden Age started around 1938 with Superman and ended in the early 50s. Superhero comic books’ popularity began to decline after WWII. But comic books did not die here. They continued to flourish, giving rise to genres such as westerns, sci-fi, romance, crime and horror.
Who is your favorite Golden Age superhero?