Golden Age of Comic Books

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Golden Age of Comics)
Jump to: navigation, search
Golden Age of Comic Books
Superman, catalyst of the Golden Age: Superman #14 (Feb. 1942). Cover art by Fred Ray.
Time span c.1938 – c.1950
Related periods
Followed by Silver Age of Comic Books (1956 – c. 1970)

The Golden Age of Comic Books describes an era of American comic books from the late 1930s to the early 1950s. 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 America, Wonder Woman, and Captain Marvel.

Origin of the term[edit]

The first recorded use of the term "Golden Age" was by Richard A. Lupoff in an article, "Re-Birth", published in issue one of Fanzine's Comic Art in April 1960.[1]


An event cited by many as marking the beginning of the Golden Age was the 1938 debut of Superman in Action Comics #1,[2] published by Detective Comics[3] (predecessor of DC Comics). Superman's popularity helped make comic books a major arm of publishing.[4] Companies such as Timely Comics, Quality Comics, Harvey Comics and MLJ created superheroes of their own to emulate Superman's success.[citation needed]

Comic-book cover with a caped, red-costumed Captain Marvel throwing a car into a wall
Whiz Comics #2 (Feb. 1940), with the first appearance of Captain Marvel. Cover art by C. C. Beck.

Between 1939 and 1941 Detective Comics and its sister company, All-American Publications, introduced popular superheroes such as Batman and Robin, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Green Lantern, the Atom, Hawkman, and Aquaman.[citation needed] Timely Comics, the 1940s predecessor of Marvel Comics, had million-selling titles featuring the Human Torch, the Sub-Mariner, and Captain America.[citation needed]

Although DC and Timely characters are well-remembered today, circulation figures suggest that the best-selling superhero title of the era was Fawcett Comics' Captain Marvel with sales of about 1.4 million copies per issue. The comic was published biweekly at one point to capitalize on its popularity.[5] During World War II heroes battled the Axis powers, with covers such as that of Captain America Comics #1 (cover-dated March 1941) showing the title character punching Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.[citation needed]

Comic books were published in a variety of genres, featuring humor, Western, romance, and jungle stories.[citation needed] Dell Comics' non-superhero characters (particularly the licensed Walt Disney animated-character comics) outsold the superhero comics of the day.[citation needed] The publisher featured licensed movie and literary characters such as Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Roy Rogers and Tarzan, and Donald Duck writer-artist Carl Barks is considered one of the era's major talents.[6]

After the war[edit]

The educational comic book Dagwood Splits the Atom used characters from the comic strip Blondie.[7] According to historian Michael A. Amundson, appealing comic-book characters helped ease young readers' fear of nuclear war and neutralize anxiety about the questions posed by atomic power.[8][page needed]

Long-running humor comics debuted during this period, including EC's Mad and Carl Barks' Uncle Scrooge in Dell's Four Color Comics (both in 1952).[citation needed] The United States Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency was created in 1953;[citation needed] after the publication of Fredric Wertham's Seduction of the Innocent the following year, comics publishers such as EC's William Gaines were subpoenaed to testify.[citation needed] The Comics Code Authority was created by the Association of Comics Magazine Publishers;[citation needed] EC canceled its crime and horror titles, and focused on Mad.[citation needed]

Shift from superheroes[edit]

Comic-book cover, with red-white-and-blue Captain America defeating the red Human Torch
1940s comics were called "Golden-Age" by 1963, as on the cover of Strange Tales #114 (November 1963).

During the late 1940s, the popularity of superhero comics waned. To retain reader interest, comic publishers diversified into genres such as war, Westerns, science fiction, romance, crime, and horror comics.[9] Many superhero titles were cancelled or converted to other genres.

In 1946, DC Comics' Superboy, Aquaman and Green Arrow were from More Fun Comics into Adventure Comics so More Fun could focus on humor. In 1948 All American Comics, featuring Green Lantern, Johnny Thunder and Dr. Midnite, was replaced with All-American Western. The following year, Flash Comics and Green Lantern were cancelled. In 1951 All Star Comics, featuring the Justice Society of America, became All-Star Western. The next year Star-Spangled Comics, featuring Robin, was retitled Star Spangled War Stories. Sensation Comics, featuring Wonder Woman, was cancelled in 1953. The only DC superhero comics to continue publishing through the 1950s were Action Comics, Adventure Comics, Detective Comics, Batman, Superboy, Superman, Wonder Woman, and World's Finest Comics.

Plastic Man appeared in Quality Comics' Police Comics until 1950, when its focus switched to detective stories. Timely Comics' The Human Torch was canceled with issue #35 (March 1949)[10] and Marvel Mystery Comics, featuring the Human Torch, with issue #92 (June 1949, when it became the horror comic Marvel Tales).[11] Sub-Mariner Comics was cancelled with issue #32 (June 1949) and Captain America Comics, by then Captain America's Weird Tales, with #75 (Feb. 1950). Harvey Comics' Black Cat was cancelled in 1951.[citation needed] Lev Gleason Publications' Daredevil was edged out of his title by the Little Wise Guys in 1950.[citation needed] Fawcett Comics' Whiz Comics, Master Comics and Captain Marvel Adventures were cancelled in 1953, and The Marvel Family was cancelled the following year.[citation needed] The Silver Age of Comic Books is generally recognized as beginning with the debut of the first successful new superhero since the Golden Age, DC Comics' new Flash, in Showcase #4 (Oct. 1956).[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Quattro, Ken (2004). "The New Ages: Rethinking Comic Book History". Archived from the original on September 5, 2015. Retrieved September 12, 2015. ... according to fanzine historian Bill Schelly, 'The first use of the words "golden age" pertaining to the comics of the 1940s was by Richard A. Lupoff in an article called'"Re-Birth' in Comic Art #1 (April 1960). 
  2. ^ "The Golden Age of Comics". History Detectives: Special Investigations. PBS. Retrieved February 18, 2015. The precise era of the Golden Age is disputed, though most agree that it was born with the launch of Superman in 1938. 
  3. ^ "Action Comics #1". Grand Comics Database. Retrieved 2015-02-16. 
  4. ^ Goulart, Ron (2000). Comic book Culture: An Illustrated History (1st American ed.). Portland, Oregon: Collectors Press. p. 43. ISBN 978-1-888054-38-5. 
  5. ^ Morse, Ben (July 2006). "Thunderstruck". Wizard (179). 
  6. ^ "Donald Duck "Lost in the Andes" | The Comics Journal". 2012-01-24. Retrieved 2015-11-16. 
  7. ^ "Dagwood splits the atom | The Ephemerist". 2007-05-14. Retrieved 2015-02-02. 
  8. ^ Zeman, Scott C.; Amundson, Michael A. (2004). Atomic Culture: How We Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb ([Nachdr.] ed.). Boulder, Colo.: University Press of Colorado. ISBN 9780870817632. 
  9. ^ Kovacs, George; Marshall, C. W. (2011). Classics and Comics. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 109. ISBN 978-0199734191. 
  10. ^ "The Human Torch". Grand Comics Database. Retrieved 2015-02-03. 
  11. ^ "Marvel Mystery Comics". Grand Comics Database. Retrieved 2015-02-03. 

External links[edit]