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A Brief History of Comic Books and Heroes

by Kayla Aldrich, Read to Them staff


Hello, all! As we approach the halfway point of Flora & Ulysses, we hope you’re enjoying yourself and that you’re eager for all the adventures to come. Given that one of Flora’s top interests is comic books, we thought we might share a brief history of this colorful, action-packed medium. Enjoy!

With the prominence of Marvel and DC, it seems like comic books have been around forever. Believe it or not, though, the concept of a comic book only emerged in the 1930s when comic strips from newspapers were reprinted and published in monthly booklets. It wasn’t until the creation of one original hero that everything changed - Superman! His 1938 debut in Action Comics No. 1 brought the comic book to a place of popularity that hasn’t wavered in almost 85 years.

Cover by Joe Shuster

During the 1940s, comics became a mass-produced form of entertainment. They were inexpensive, and given the world was at war, heroes like Batman, Captain America, and Wonder Woman gained great popularity. What made these heroes so memorable? Well, they knew right from wrong, stood in as pillars of light in the midst of darkness, and they used their super powers and abilities to fight evildoers for the good of the people.

After World War II came to a close, comic book publishers branched out to different genres. Reading mysteries, westerns, romance, horror, and detective comics rivaled television as one of America's favorite pastimes.

Via Observer (https://observer.com/2018/11/stan-lee-showman-marvel-comics-jack-kirby-soul/)
Photo by Gerald Martineau

Come the 1960s, the dynamic duo of Jack Kirby and Stan Lee created some of the superheroes you likely know very well: Iron Man, Black Panther, Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men and so many more! These comics, in comparison to their earlier counterparts, showed heroes that weren't perfect. Misfits and mutants were much easier to identify with than the golden heroes of the 30s and 40s. Like Incandesto and his secret identity, Alfred T. Slipper, comic book readers were seeing heroes struggle with everyday problems on top of the pressure to save the world. It's something that made comic books beloved by both children and older audiences.

During the 70s, 80s, and 90s, comics took on an even more realistic approach. Heroes faced issues like pollution, racism and even social injustice, reflecting the waves of change taking on the world at this time. The rise of the anti-hero darkened a lot of the comic content created during this era. You might know a few of those heroes, too: Daredevil, the Punisher, and Wolverine.

Comics ultimately returned to lighter, uplifting themes. The modern heroes remained flawed, sure, but they were a nod to the Silver Age of comic books - character-driven and idealistic. Today, comics remain one of the most popular mediums in the world. The heroes on these pages are increasingly diverse and well-rounded, making it easier than ever to find yourself reflected in these miraculous, illuminated tales.

As you continue to delve into the story, be sure to share photos with us of you and your family reading along on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.. Looking for a community to talk about your thoughts about Flora & Ulysses, don’t forget to fly over to Flipgrid to share them with your peers. Be well, all, and happy reading!