The Golden Age of Comics
In the beginning comics didn’t come in their own books like they do today. Superheroes got their start in comic magazines that would house several different stories, much in the way Manga is presented today. The dawn of the Golden Age of Comics came with Action Comics #1 and the appearance of Superman. Superman is the first comic book superhero and had many heroes follow in his footsteps. That is why this is considered the start of the Golden Age, it’s when comics went from being a simple comedic storytelling device to the hero fueled genre it is today.
While comics did start in the early 1930’s they weren’t yet the cultural juggernaut that they unpredictably came to be. The success of Superman spurned the creation of more superheroes and Namor and Batman soon followed suit. Other notable heroes to come out of the Golden Age are Wonder Woman, Captain America, Plastic Man, original Green Lantern(Alan Scott), and original Flash (Jay Garrick). But believe it or not the most popular character during the Golden Age was actually Captain Marvel. That’s right Billy Bastion and the spirit of Shazam frequently sold more issues than any other hero.
The Golden Age also saw the rise of alternative press comics such as horror and crime comics. These quickly became a strong medium for storytelling and proved to be some of the most popular titles. This was also the era where comic books were completely unregulated so comics were allowed to depict things in a more adult manner regardless of the standard age of their readers. So it was common for superheroes to kill villains and villains were often depicted as cold calculated killers. Yes those rumors of Batman throwing guys of roofs are true. Of course comics weren’t all fun and games, a large part of the reason the government was so lenient in regulating comics is because they were the perfect medium to deliver wartime propaganda. There were many pages in comics showing the “evil” of the axis powers and other things of similar nature.
But war also spawned the likes of heroes like Superman, Captain America, and Sgt. Rock. The latter of which were soldiers that went on to fight alongside our troops. Comics were shown to boost morale and were valuable forms of entertainment. It seemed there were comics for everyone during this era. There was even one comic about teen life that was so popular it prompted its publishing company to change their name to match the character. That company is now Archie Comics which started out as MLJ Magazines. This was quite the bold move for a company but the adventures of Archie, Betty, and Veronica proved to be unstoppable.
This era of comics would continue strong up until the enactment of the Comics Code Authority. While the official end of the Golden Age is a topic of debate, I feel that the comics of the time stopped being what they were when the Comic Code became official. The code prevented publishers from printing certain things in comics. Many of these restrictions caused the cancellation of many titles due to there being no substance with the given restrictions. Some say the end happened in the mid 1950’s when Barry Allen debuted as the new Flash, because that is what is considered to be the start of the Silver Age. When the Golden Age really ended is ultimately up to you, but next time you find yourself doing some extended reading pick up a Golden Age title from before the Comic Code, and then read the same title from after the Code. I guarantee you’ll notice a difference.