in the 20th century they have taken the world by storm
“I have no idea where I’m going to be tomorrow. But I accept the fact that tomorrow will come. And I’m going to rise to meet it.”
Wonder Woman - Donna Troy

Comics combines words and pictures into a perfect balance. But in 19th century comic strips were mainly satirical publications. The comics superhero mania that is still popular today started a bit later.

At the beginning

- 1938

Towards the end of the 19th century, the comic book culture began developing on three major soils on a global scale, the United States, Western Europe (France and Belgium) and Japan. Histoire de M. Vieux Bois (1837), Hokusai manga (1814), The Yellow Kid in McFadden’s Flats (1897) can illustrate what the comics looked like then.

Picture from Rodolphe-Topffer comic
Yellow Kid 1897
Page from Hokusai manga
Tintin and Snowy by Herge

In 1928 Mickey Mouse first debuted in the short film “Steamboat Willie”. In 1929 Tintin first saw the World. Although comic books found their large audience in Europe and Japan, it is the American comics that have had the biggest influence on popular culture. Their history in the New Continent even has been divided into entire Eras.

Mickey Mouse comic (1930)

golden age

Wonder Woman #1 cover (1942)
Detective comics #27 cover (1939)
Capain America WW2 poster

In the 1930-1950s the world in America and beyond lived in The Golden Age of Comic Books.

The debut of Superman in Action Comics #1 (1938) was a milestone
    During the War many comic books were destroyed because almost any paper was needed for the war effort. And today the number of Golden Age books available to the collectors market is very small.
for an original copy of the Action Comics #1

Famous even today superheroes like Superman alongside Batman, Wonder Woman and Captain America occupied human minds.
In the 1950s the Moomins family of white round fairy tale characters with large snouts appeared in European newspapers.
In post-war Japan, manga became popular, with Astro Boy (original name Mighty Atom) first appearing in 1952. Then Astro Boy has been adapted into popular anime series.

Moomins family

silver age

Flash (1956)
Fantastic Four comic cover
Amazing fantasy comic cover with Spiderman
The X-Men comic cover

Showcase #4 (DC), that introduced the redone Flash in 1956, is known as the start of the Silver Age.

Justice League original team

DC entered the new era with many classic characters revitalized and updated. Today most of these great characters are still around, and thriving (Flash, Green Lantern, the Atom). In 1960 the Justice Society of America was reimagined as the Justice League of America.

The most famous Gauls in the World from the Adventures of Asterix series first appeared in the Franco-Belgian comics magazine Pilote on 29 October 1959.

Asterix and Obelix (1959)

In Japan the first full story in the Doraemon manga series was published in January 1970. The adventures of the earless robotic cat, who travels back in time from the 22nd century to aid a boy named Nobita Nobi.

Marvel began publishing new titles like Fantastic Four, Spider-Man and Hulk. The Avengers made its debut in 1963. The same year brought us one of the most successful franchises - The X-Men.
Spiderman by Stan Lee and John Romita
Avengers #1 (1963) comic cover

bronze Age

Storm from X-Men
Green Lantern / Green Arrow comic cover
First appearance of Blade in Tomb of Dracula comic
Luke Cage comic cover

The beginning of the Bronze Age of Comic books is marked by the murder of Peter Parker’s girlfriend Gwen Stacy in 1973.

Socially conscious stories became more numerous. Green Lantern and Green Arrow fought against racism, pollution, and social injustice, while Iron Man came to terms with his alcoholism. Female empowerment issues became a trend and new heroes appeared: Red Sonja, Ms. Marvel, Spider-Woman.

Wolverine 1974
  It’s him!
Even if he looks a bit not like Hue Jackman

In 1984 the first part of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise was born, a comic book series.

Illustration from Star Wars The New Hope comic (1977)
Luke Skywalker

Star Wars comics have been produced by various comic book publishers since the debut of the 1977 film Star Wars. No more words needed.

One of the most significant developments became a rise in the number of non-white superheroes: Luke Cage, Storm, Blade, Monica Rambeau, Misty Knight, Shang-Chi, Vixen, Green Lantern John Stewart, Bronze Tiger, Cyborg, Black Lightning.

dark age

Watchmen comic cover
Ghost in the Shell manga cover
Art Spiegelman's Maus novel cover

Antiheroes were popular from the mid-1980s to the early 1990s. Dark, pessimistic stories reigned.

In Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns a 55-year-old Batman has retired from crime-fighting, leaving criminals to terrorize Gotham City, and in Alan Moore’s Watchmen a world looks down on once mighty superheroes.
The Dark Age also saw the publication of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Maus, Art Spiegelman’s moving, autobiographical tale of a Jewish family in Poland during the Nazi Era.

Hellboy face
Next Men #21 (1993) was the first color appearance of Hellboy.
V for Vendetta cover

A British graphic novel V for Vendetta, written by Alan Moore and illustrated by David Lloyd, depicts a dystopian and post-apocalyptic future history version of the United Kingdom.
A seinen manga series Ghost in the Shell (1989), written and illustrated by Masamune Shirow, told the story of the fictional counter-cyberterrorist organization.
The trend of creating characters with more depth also affected supervillains.

Joker from Death in the family

The Joker, Batman's nemesis, was portrayed less as an evil criminal and more as a mentally ill man who cannot control his actions.

Modern Age

Iron Man
Justice League International comic cover
The X-Men #8 (2020) comic cover
Avengers Ultimates comic cover

Which we still live in

The publication of Alex Ross’s Kingdom Come in 1996, which looked back to the optimism and strength of Silver Age superheroes, starts the Modern Age.

Naruto and Sasuke
Kingdom Come comic cover
Alucard from Hellsing manga

In 1997 started their way three worldwide popular manga series - One Piece, Hellsing and Naruto. One Piece now is the best-selling manga series in history and one of the highest-grossing media franchises.

One Peace manga cover

In 2000 the first X-Men film started the era of modern superhero movies.

X-Men movie poster (2000)
Superman from Unity Saga poster

Over eighty years since the debut of Superman passed. Digital delivery systems for comics content and web-comics came with computers and mobile devices. Comics heroes live now not only on paper pages but in movies and video games.

“They (comic books) really document what we’ve been interested in for most of the 20th century and beyond. It’s also a reflection of the good and the bad of our society.”

- Georgia Higley, Head of Serial and Government Newspaper Section, Library of Congress

Captain America art