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An American comic book is a thin periodical originating in the United States, on average 32 pages, containing comics. While the form originated in 1933, American comic books first gained popularity after the 1938 publication of Action Comics , which included the debut of the superhero Superman. This was followed by a superhero boom that lasted until the end of World War II. After the war, while superheroes were marginalized, the comic book industry rapidly expanded and genres such as horror, crime, science fiction and romance became popular. The 1950s saw a gradual decline, due to a shift away from print media in the wake of televisionand the impact of the Comics Code Authority. The late 1950s and the 1960s saw a superhero revival and superheroes remained the dominant character archetype throughout the late 20th century into the 21st century.
Some fans collect comic books, helping drive up their value. Some have sold for more than US$1 million. Comic shops cater to fans, selling comic books, plastic sleeves ("bags") and cardboard backing ("boards") to protect the comic books.
An American comic book is also known as a floppy comic. It is typically thin and stapled, unlike traditional books.American comic books are one of the three major comic book industries globally along with Japanese manga and Franco-Belgian comic books.
The typical size and page count of comics have varied over the decades, generally tending toward smaller formats and fewer pages.
Historically, the size was derived from folding one sheet of Quarter Imperial paper (15 in × 11 in or 380 mm × 280 mm), to print 4 pages which were each 7 1⁄2 by 11 inches (190 mm × 280 mm).[ citation needed ] This also meant that the page count had to be some multiple of 4.
In recent decades, standard comics have been about 6 5⁄8 by 10 1⁄4 inches (170 mm × 260 mm), and usually 32 pages.
The format of the American comic book has been adapted periodically outside the United States, especially in Canada and the United Kingdom.
While comics can be the work of a single creator, the labor of creating them is frequently divided between a number of specialists. There may be a separate writer and artist, or there may be separate artists for the characters and backgrounds.
Particularly in superhero comic books,the art may be divided between:
The process begins with the writer (often in collaboration with one or more others, who may include the editor and/or the penciller) coming up with a story idea or concept, then working it up into a plot and storyline, finalizing it with a script. After the art is prepared, the dialogue and captions are lettered onto the page from the script, and an editor may have the final say (but, once ready for printing, it is difficult and expensive to make any major changes), before the comic is sent to the printer.
The creative team, the writer and artist(s), may work for a comic book publisher who handles the marketing, advertising, and other logistics. A wholesale distributor, such as Diamond Comic Distributors, the largest in the US, distributes the printed product to retailers.
Another aspect of the process involved in successful comics is the interaction between the readers/fans and the creator(s). Fan art and letters to the editor were commonly printed in the back of the book, until, in the early 21st century, various Internet forums started to replace this tradition.
The growth of comic specialty stores helped permit several waves of independently-produced comics, beginning in the mid-1970s. Some early examples of these – generally referred to as "independent" or "alternative" comics – such as Big Apple Comix , continued somewhat in the tradition of the earlier underground comics, while others, such as Star Reach , resembled the output of mainstream publishers in format and genre but were published by smaller artist-owned ventures or by a single artist.
This so-called "small press" scene (a term derived from the limited quantity of comics printed in each press-run) continued to grow and diversify, with a number of small publishers in the 1990s changing the format and distribution of their comic books to more closely resemble non-comics publishing. The "minicomics" form, an extremely informal version of self-publishing, arose in the 1980s and became increasingly popular among artists in the 1990s, despite reaching an even more limited audience than the small presses.
The development of the modern American comic book happened in stages. Publishers had collected comic strips in hardcover book form as early as 1842, with The Adventures of Obadiah Oldbuck , a collection of English-language newspaper inserts originally published in Europe as the 1837 book Histoire de M. Vieux Bois by Rodolphe Töpffer.
The G. W. Dillingham Company published the first known proto-comic-book magazine in the US, The Yellow Kid in McFadden's Flats, in 1897. A hardcover book, it reprinted material—primarily the October 18, 1896, to January 10, 1897, sequence titled "McFadden's Row of Flats"—from cartoonist Richard F. Outcault's newspaper comic strip Hogan's Alley , starring the Yellow Kid. The 196-page, square-bound, black-and-white publication, which also includes introductory text by E. W. Townsend, measured 5 by 7 inches (130 mm × 180 mm) and sold for 50 cents. The neologism "comic book" appears on the back cover. Despite the publication of a series of related Hearst comics soon afterward, the first monthly proto-comic book, Embee Distributing Company's Comic Monthly, did not appear until 1922. Produced in an 8 1⁄2-by-9-inch (220 mm × 230 mm) format, it reprinted black-and-white newspaper comic strips and lasted a year.
In 1929, Dell Publishing (founded by George T. Delacorte, Jr.) published The Funnies , described by the Library of Congress as "a short-lived newspaper tabloid insert"and not to be confused with Dell's 1936 comic-book series of the same name. Historian Ron Goulart describes the 16-page, four-color periodical as "more a Sunday comic section without the rest of the newspaper than a true comic book. But it did offer all original material and was sold on newsstands". The Funnies ran for 36 issues, published Saturdays through October 16, 1930.
In 1933, salesperson Maxwell Gaines, sales manager Harry I. Wildenberg, and owner George Janosik of the Waterbury, Connecticut, company Eastern Color Printing—which printed, among other things, Sunday-paper comic-strip sections – produced Funnies on Parade as a way to keep their presses running. Like The Funnies, but only eight pages, this appeared as a newsprint magazine. Rather than using original material, however, it reprinted in color several comic strips licensed from the McNaught Syndicate, the Ledger Syndicate, and the Bell-McClure Syndicate. These included such popular strips as cartoonist Al Smith's Mutt and Jeff , Ham Fisher's Joe Palooka , and Percy Crosby's Skippy . Eastern Color neither sold this periodical nor made it available on newsstands, but rather sent it out free as a promotional item to consumers who mailed in coupons clipped from Procter & Gamble soap and toiletries products. The company printed 10,000 copies. The promotion proved a success, and Eastern Color that year produced similar periodicals for Canada Dry soft drinks, Kinney Shoes, Wheatena cereal and others, with print runs of from 100,000 to 250,000.
Also in 1933, Gaines and Wildenberg collaborated with Dell to publish the 36-page Famous Funnies: A Carnival of Comics, which historians consider the first true American comic book; Goulart, for example, calls it "the cornerstone for one of the most lucrative branches of magazine publishing". [ sic ] on the comic books".Distribution took place through the Woolworth's department-store chain, though it remains unclear whether it was sold or given away; the cover displays no price, but Goulart refers, either metaphorically or literally, to "sticking a ten-cent pricetag
When Delacorte declined to continue with Famous Funnies: A Carnival of Comics, Eastern Color on its own published Famous Funnies #1 (cover-dated July 1934), a 68-page giant selling for 10¢. Distributed to newsstands by the mammoth American News Company, it proved a hit with readers during the cash-strapped Great Depression, selling 90 percent of its 200,000 print, although putting Eastern Color more than $4,000 in the red.That quickly changed, with the book turning a $30,000 profit each issue starting with #12. Famous Funnies would eventually run 218 issues, inspire imitators, and largely launch a new mass medium.
When the supply of available existing comic strips began to dwindle, early comic books began to include a small amount of new, original material in comic-strip format. Inevitably, a comic book of all-original material, with no comic-strip reprints, debuted. Fledgling publisher Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson founded National Allied Publications, which would evolve into DC Comics, to release New Fun #1 (Feb. 1935). This came out as a tabloid-sized, 10-by-15-inch (250 mm × 380 mm), 36-page magazine with a card-stock, non-glossy cover. An anthology, it mixed humor features such as the funny animal comic "Pelion and Ossa" and the college-set "Jigger and Ginger" with such dramatic fare as the Western strip "Jack Woods" and the "yellow-peril" adventure "Barry O'Neill", featuring a Fu Manchu-styled villain, Fang Gow. Issue #6 (Oct. 1935) brought the comic-book debut of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, the future creators of Superman. The two began their careers with the musketeer swashbuckler "Henri Duval", doing the first two installments before turning it over to others and, under the pseudonyms "Leger and Reuths", they created the supernatural-crimefighter adventure Doctor Occult.
In 1938, after Wheeler-Nicholson's partner Harry Donenfeld had ousted him, National Allied editor Vin Sullivan pulled a Siegel/Shuster creation from the slush pile and used it as the cover feature (but only as a backup story)in Action Comics #1 (June 1938). The duo's alien hero, Superman, was dressed in a cape and colorful tights. The costume, influenced by Flash Gordon's attire from 1934, evoked circus aerial performers and circus strongmen, and Superman became the archetype of the "superheroes" that would follow.
In early 1939, the success of Superman in Action Comics prompted editors at National Comics Publications (the future DC Comics) to request more superheroes for its titles. In response, Bob Kane and Bill Finger created Batman, who debuted in Detective Comics #27 (1939).The period from the late 1930s through roughly the end of the 1940s is referred to by comic book experts as the Golden Age of comic books. It featured extremely large print-runs, with Action Comics and Captain Marvel selling over half a million copies a month each; comics provided very popular cheap entertainment during World War II especially among soldiers, but with erratic quality in stories, art, and printing. In the early 1940s, over 90 percent of girls and boys from seven to seventeen read comic books.
MLJ's Pep Comics debuted as a superhero, science-fiction and adventure anthology, but after the title introduced the teen-humor feature "Archie" in 1942, the feature's popularity would soon eclipse all other MLJ properties, leading the publisher to rename itself Archie Comics.
Following the end of World War II, the popularity of superheroes greatly diminished,while the comic-book industry itself expanded. A few well-established characters such as Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman continued to sell, but DC canceled series starring the Flash and Green Lantern and converted All-American Comics and All-Star Comics to Western titles, and Star Spangled Comics to a war title. The publisher also launched such science-fiction titles as Strange Adventures and Mystery in Space . Martin Goodman's Timely Comics, also known as Atlas, canceled its three formerly high-selling superhero titles starring Captain America (created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby), the Human Torch, and the Sub-Mariner, briefly reviving the characters in 1954 only to cancel them again shortly thereafter to focus on horror, science fiction, teen humor, romance and Western genres. Romance comics became strongly established, with Prize Comics' Young Romance and with Young Love , the latter written and drawn by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby; those two titles' popularity led to an explosion of romance comics from many publishers.
Dell's comic books accounted for a third of all North American sales in the early 1950s. Its 90 titles averaged a circulation of 800,000 copies per title for every issue, with Walt Disney's Comics and Stories peaking at a circulation of three million a month in 1953. Eleven of the top 25 best-selling comic books at the time were Dell titles.Out of 40 publishers active in 1954, Dell, Atlas (i.e. Marvel), DC and Archie were the major players in volume of sales. By this point, former big-time players Fawcett and Fiction house had ceased publishing.
Circulation peaked in 1952 when 3,161 issues of various comics were published with a total circulation of about one billion copies.After 1952, the number of individual releases dropped every year for the rest of the decade, with the biggest falls occurring in 1955–56. The rapid decline followed the introduction of the Comics Code Authority in the wake of Senate hearings on juvenile delinquency, which, ignoring the social problems caused by the wars of 1939–45 and 1950–52, sought to blame those problems solely on comics. While there was only a 9% drop in the number of releases between 1952 and 1953, circulation plummeted by an estimated 30–40%. The cause of the decrease is not entirely clear. Television had begun to provide competition with comic books, but there was also a rise in conservative values with the election in 1952 of Dwight Eisenhower. The Comics Code Authority, a self-censoring body founded to curb the juvenile delinquency alleged to be due to the crime and horror comics, has often been targeted as the culprit, but sales had begun to drop the year before it was founded. The major publishers were not seriously harmed by the drop in sales, but smaller publishers were killed off: EC (the prime target of the CCA) stopped publishing crime and horror titles, which was their entire business, and were forced out of the market altogether, turning to magazine publishing instead. By 1960, output had stabilized at about 1,500 releases per year (representing a greater than fifty percent decline since 1952).
The dominant comic book genres of the post-CCA 1950s were funny animals, humour, romance, television properties, and Westerns. Detective, fantasy, teen and war comics were also popular, but adventure, superheroes, and comicstrip reprints were in decline,with Famous Funnies seeing its last issue in 1955.
In the late 1940s and early 1950s horror and true-crime comics flourished, many containing graphic violence and gore. Due to such content, moral crusaders became concerned with the impact of comics on the youth, and were blaming comic books for everything from poor grades to juvenile delinquency to drug abuse.This perceived indecency resulted the collection and public burning of comic books in Spencer, West Virginia, and Binghamton, New York, in 1948, which received national attention and triggered other public burnings by schools and parent groups across the country. Some cities passed laws banning comic books entirely. In 1954, psychiatrist Fredric Wertham published his book Seduction of the Innocent , where he discussed what he perceived as sadistic and homosexual undertones in horror comics and superhero comics respectively, and singled out EC Comics due to its success as a publisher of these genres. In response to growing public anxiety, the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency held hearings on comic book indecency from April to June 1954.
In the wake of these troubles, a group of comics publishers, led by National and Archie, founded the Comics Code Authority in 1954 and drafted the Comics Code, intended as "the most stringent code in existence for any communications media".A Comic Code Seal of Approval soon appeared on virtually every comic book carried on newsstands. EC, after experimenting with less controversial comic books, dropped its comics line to focus on the satirical Mad —a former comic book which was now converted to a magazine format in order to circumvent the Code.
DC started a revival in superhero comics in 1956 with the October 1956 revival of its former golden age top-seller The Flash in Showcase #4. Many comics historians peg this as the beginning of the Silver Age of American comic books, although Marvel (at this point still known variously as both Timely and Atlas) had started reviving some of its old superheroes as early as 1954.The new Flash is taken symbolically as the beginning of a new era, although his success was not immediate. It took two years for the Flash to receive his own title, and Showcase itself was only a bimonthly book, though one which was to introduce a large number of enduring characters. By 1959, the slowly building superhero revival had become clear to DC's competitors. Archie jumped on board that year, and Charlton joined the bandwagon in 1960.
In 1961, at the demand of publisher Martin Goodman (who was reacting to a surge in sales of National's newest superhero title The Justice League of America), writer/editor Stan Lee and artist/co-plotter Jack Kirby created the Fantastic Four for Atlas, which now re-named itself Marvel Comics. With an innovation that changed the comic-book industry, Fantastic Four #1 initiated a naturalistic style of superheroes with human failings, fears, and inner demons - heroes who squabbled and worried about the likes of paying the rent. In contrast to the super-heroic do-gooder archetypes of established superheroes at the time, this ushered in a revolution. With dynamic artwork by Kirby, Steve Ditko, Don Heck, and others, complementing Lee's colorful, catchy prose, the new style became very popular among teenagers and college students who could identify with the angsty and irreverent nature of characters like Spider-Man, X-Men, and the Fantastic Four. This was a time of social upheaval, giving birth to a new generation of hip and more counter-cultural youngsters, who found a voice in these books. Because Marvel's books were distributed by its rival, National, from 1957 until 1968 Marvel were restricted to publishing only eight titles a month.This was a cloud with a silver lining, and proved the making of Marvel, allowing the company to concentrate its brightest and best talent on a small number of titles, at a time when its rivals were spreading their creative talents very thin across a huge number of monthly titles. The quality of Marvel's product soared in consequence, and sales soared with it.
While the creators of comics were given credit in the early days of comic books, this practice had all but vanished during the 1940s and 1950s. Comic books were produced by comic book companies rather than by individual creators (EC being a notable exception, a company that not only credited its creative teams but also featured creators' biographies). Even comic books by revered and collectible artists like Carl Barks were not known by their creator's name—Disney comics by Barks were signed "Walt Disney". In the 1960s, DC, and then Marvel, began to include writer and artist credits on the comics that they published.
Other notable companies publishing comics during the Silver Age included the American Comics Group (ACG), Charlton, Dell, Gold Key, Harvey Comics, and Tower.
Sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll were featured, as the anti-authoritarian underground comix made waves in 1968, following the publication of Robert Crumb's irregularly published Zap Comix . Frank Stack had published The Adventures of Jesus as far back as 1962, and there had been a trickle of such publications until Crumb's success.What had started as a self-publishing scene soon grew into a minor industry, with Print Mint, Kitchen Sink, Last Gasp and Apex Novelties among the more well-known publishers. These comix were often extremely graphic, and largely distributed in head shops that flourished in the countercultural era.
Legal issues and paper shortages led to a decline in underground comix output from its 1972 peak. In 1974 the passage of anti-paraphernalia laws in the US led to the closing of most head shops, which throttled underground comix distribution. Its readership also dried up as the hippie movement itself petered out in the mid-1970s.
Wizard originally used the phrase "Bronze Age", in 1995, to denote the Modern Horror age. But as of 2009 [update] historians and fans use "Bronze Age" to describe the period of American mainstream comics history that began with the period of concentrated changes to comic books in 1970. Unlike the Golden/Silver Age transition, the Silver/Bronze transition involves many continuing books, making the transition less sharp.
The development of the "direct market" distribution system in the 1970s coincided with the appearance of comic-book specialty stores across North America. These specialty stores were a haven for more distinct voices and stories, but they also marginalized comics in the public eye. Serialized comic stories became longer and more complex, requiring readers to buy more issues to finish a story.
In the mid-to-late 1980s, two series published by DC Comics, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen , had a profound impact upon the American comic-book industry. Their popularity, along with mainstream media attention and critical acclaim, combined with changing social tastes, led to a considerably darker tone in comic books during the 1990s nicknamed by fans as the "grim-and-gritty" era.
The growing popularity of antiheroes such as Wolverine and the Punisher exemplified this change, as did the darker tone of some independent publishers such as First Comics, Dark Horse Comics, and (founded in the 1990s) Image Comics. This tendency towards darkness and nihilism was manifested in DC's production of heavily promoted comic book stories such as "A Death in the Family" in the Batman series (in which The Joker brutally murdered Batman's sidekick Robin), while at Marvel the continuing popularity of the various X-Men books led to storylines involving the genocide of superpowered "mutants" in allegorical stories about religious and ethnic persecution.
In addition, published formats like the graphic novel and the related trade paperback enabled the comic book to gain some respectability as literature. As a result, these formats are now common in book retail and the collections of US public libraries.
In 2017, Ohio State University Press created the Latinographix Series to counter the underrepresentation of Latino creators and characters in American comic books. The imprint publishes in a variety of genres.
A comic book, also called comic magazine or simply comic, is a publication that consists of comics art in the form of sequential juxtaposed panels that represent individual scenes. Panels are often accompanied by descriptive prose and written narrative, usually, dialogue contained in word balloons emblematic of the comics art form. Although comics has some origins in 18th century Japan, comic books were first popularized in the United States and the United Kingdom during the 1930s. The first modern comic book, Famous Funnies, was released in the US in 1933 and was a reprinting of earlier newspaper humor comic strips, which had established many of the story-telling devices used in comics. The term comic book derives from American comic books once being a compilation of comic strips of a humorous tone; however, this practice was replaced by featuring stories of all genres, usually not humorous in tone.
Marvel Comics is the brand name and primary imprint of Marvel Worldwide Inc., formerly Marvel Publishing, Inc. and Marvel Comics Group, a publisher of American comic books and related media. In 2009, The Walt Disney Company acquired Marvel Entertainment, Marvel Worldwide's parent company.
A superhero or superheroine is a stock character that possesses abilities beyond those of ordinary people, who typically uses his or her powers to help the world become a better place, or is dedicated to protecting the public, and fighting crime. Superhero fiction is the genre of fiction that is centered on such characters, especially in American comic books since the 1930s, as well as in Japanese media since the 1930s.
The Silver Age of Comic Books was a period of artistic advancement and widespread commercial success in mainstream American comic books, predominantly those featuring the superhero archetype. Following the Golden Age of Comic Books and an interregnum in the early to mid-1950s, the Silver Age is considered to cover the period from 1956 to circa 1970, and was succeeded by the Bronze and Modern Ages.
Comics is a medium used to express ideas with images, often combined with text or other visual information. It typically takes the form of a sequence of panels of images. Textual devices such as speech balloons, captions, and onomatopoeia can indicate dialogue, narration, sound effects, or other information. The size and arrangement of panels contribute to narrative pacing. Cartooning and other forms of illustration are the most common image-making means in comics; fumetti is a form that uses photographic images. Common forms include comic strips, editorial and gag cartoons, and comic books. Since the late 20th century, bound volumes such as graphic novels, comic albums, and tankōbon have become increasingly common, while online webcomics have proliferated in the 21st century.
The Golden Age of Comic Books describes an era of American comic books from 1938 to 1956. During this time, modern comic books were first published and rapidly increased in popularity. The superhero archetype was created and many well-known characters were introduced, including Superman, Batman, Captain Marvel, Captain America, and Wonder Woman.
Maxwell Charles Gaines was a pioneering figure in the creation of the modern comic book.
Dell Comics was the comic book publishing arm of Dell Publishing, which got its start in pulp magazines. It published comics from 1929 to 1974. At its peak, it was the most prominent and successful American company in the medium. In 1953 Dell claimed to be the world's largest comics publisher, selling 26 million copies each month.
American comic book tropes are common elements and literary devices related to American comic books.
The Funnies was the name of two American publications from Dell Publishing, the first of these a seminal 1920s precursor of comic books, and the second a standard 1930s comic book.
Lloyd Victor Jacquet was the founder of Funnies, Inc., one of the first and most prominent of a handful of comic book "packagers" established in the late 1930s that created comics on demand for publishers testing the waters of the emerging medium. Among its other achievements, Funnies, Inc. supplied the contents of Marvel Comics #1, the first publication of the company that would evolve into Marvel Comics. Characters created by Jacquet's company include the Sub-Mariner and the original Golden Age Human Torch.
Joseph P. Gill was an American magazine writer and highly prolific comic book scripter. Most of his work was for Charlton Comics, where he co-created the superheroes Captain Atom, Peacemaker, and Judomaster, among others. Comics historians consider Gill a top contender as the comic-book field's most prolific writer. Per historian and columnist Mark Evanier, Gill "wrote a staggering number of comics. There are a half-dozen guys in his category. If someone came back and said he was the most prolific ever, no one would be surprised."
Motion Picture Funnies Weekly is a 36-page American comic book created in 1939, and designed to be a promotional giveaway in movie theaters. While the idea proved unsuccessful, and only a handful of sample copies of issue #1 were printed, the periodical is historically important for introducing the enduring Marvel Comics character Namor the Sub-Mariner, created by writer-artist Bill Everett.
Famous Funnies is an American comic strip anthology series published from 1934 to 1955. Published by Eastern Color Printing, Famous Funnies is considered by popular culture historians as the first true American comic book, following seminal precursors.
Superhero fiction is a genre of speculative fiction examining the adventures, personalities and ethics of costumed crime fighters known as superheroes, who often possess superhuman powers and battle similarly powered criminals known as supervillains. The genre primarily falls between hard fantasy and soft science fiction spectrum of scientific realism. It is most commonly associated with American comic books, though it has expanded into other media through adaptations and original works.
Comics studies is an academic field that focuses on comics and sequential art. Although comics and graphic novels have been generally dismissed as less relevant pop culture texts, scholars in fields such as semiotics, aesthetics, sociology, composition studies and cultural studies are now re-considering comics and graphic novels as complex texts deserving of serious scholarly study.
Superhero comics are one of the most common genres of American comic books. The genre rose to prominence in the 1930s and became extremely popular in the 1940s and has remained the dominant form of comic book in North America since the 1960s. Superhero comics feature stories about superheroes and the universes these characters inhabit.
Fifty Who Made DC Great is a one shot published by DC Comics to commemorate the company's 50th anniversary in 1985. It was published in comic book format but contained text articles with photographs and background caricatures.
Canadian comics refers to comics and cartooning by citizens of Canada or permanent residents of Canada regardless of residence. Canada has two official languages, and distinct comics cultures have developed in English and French Canada. The English tends to follow American trends, and the French Franco-Belgian ones, with little crossover between the two cultures. Canadian comics run the gamut of comics forms, including editorial cartooning, comic strips, comic books, graphic novels, and webcomics, and are published in newspapers, magazines, books, and online. They have received attention in international comics communities and have received support from the federal and provincial governments, including grants from the Canada Council for the Arts. There are comics publishers throughout the country, as well as large small press, self-publishing, and minicomics communities.
The history of American comics began in the 19th century in mass print media, in the era of sensationalist journalism, where newspaper comics served as further entertainment for mass readership. In the 20th century, comics became an autonomous art medium and an integral part of American culture.