“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.”
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.
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.
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.
In the 1930-1950s the world in America and beyond lived in The Golden Age of Comic Books.
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.
Showcase #4 (DC), that introduced the redone Flash in 1956, is known as the start of the Silver Age.
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.
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.
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.
In 1984 the first part of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise was born, a comic book series.
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.
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.
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.
The Joker, Batman's nemesis, was portrayed less as an evil criminal and more as a mentally ill man who cannot control his actions.
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.
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.
In 2000 the first X-Men film started the era of modern superhero movies.
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