Comic Books: The Original Form of the Superhero Movie You Just Saw

The comic book genre has been around since the early 1900’s, and is still kicking today. Just like movies, comics have transformed from black and white pictures with basic storylines, to graphic novels featuring computerized animations and dynamic plotlines. While comic books today are associated with “nerds” or children, this assumption is wrong. Almost every member of the current generation has watched something that was based off a comic book. The most popular movies and TV shows of the past five years have been based off of comics, such as 300, The Walking Dead, The Dark Knight, The Avengers, Kick-Ass, and Thor. All of these movies have been blockbusters because of their solid storyline adapted from a comic book.


The history of the comic book transcends a whole century, making it one of the newer members of the entertainment industry. The first comic strip was unmasked as early as 1837, featuring stories and pictures for children. It was not until 1922 that the first monthly comic book came out, costing only ten cents. Sales drastically increased and,in 1929, the first comic book was distributed along with newspapers like comic strips are to this day. In 1932, a sales manager named Harry I. Wildenberg thought comics would be a good outlet for advertising. The biggest comic ad deal was sold to Procter and Gamble (P&G).  They signed up for an eight by eleven format comic book called Funnies on Parade, featuring coupons for P&G. They went through all one million copies in a few weeks. While authors and artists did not have rights to their characters or storylines yet, this period did pave the way for comics to be in almost every American household.


By 1936, comic books had changed from using everyday characters and plots with little to no author recognition, to concentrating on a single character and storyline. The composition of the comic book characters began to change as well. Lee Field was the first author to reveal the costumed hero in The Phantom, a comic strip that is still running today. Other authors expounded upon this idea; Superman emerged in 1938 with Batman following in 1939. Superman almost did not make it to print, as his character was an alien, picture-perfect, and had superpowers. Conversely, Batman was a normal human who hid his face to protect his identity, made mistakes, and used detective skills instead of super-strength to solve crimes. Two important companies also emerged during this time which were DC Comics and Marvel. These two kings have ran the chessboard of the comic book industry since the beginning, and still have competing characters today.


With these new developments, comic book popularity shot up. Superheroes continued to be produced from the 1940s to 1960s, such as Wolverine, The Fantastic Four, The Avengers, and Spider-Man. In 1970, some comic book writers made a daring move: they published a Superman comic book that mentioned drug use, which did not have the CCA (Comics Code Authority) rating. This seal had donned every comic book ever published up until this point. This defiance made the CCA back down. This action spurred new kinds of comics to emerge, such as gritty and dark The Daredevil by Frank Miller. Anti-heroes were soon to follow with the Wolverine in 1974. Comic book authors began to worry less about what was ‘right’ and more on what they wanted to write. In 1984, The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles came out, which was quickly adopted into a very popular TV show that began running in 1987 and is still being produced today. The first Batman movie came out in 1986, with the more recent installments of The Dark Knight netting billions of dollars from a worldwide audience. The Dark Knight comic was originally developed by Frank Miller in 1986. In 1991, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby developed a new X-Men comic that sold more than eight million copies, with movies following different characters in 2000, 2003, 2006, 2009, and a new Wolverine movie to come out later this year. This franchise has made in total over one billion dollars.


These incredible monetary feats would have never been reached without the foundation set by many comic book authors and illustrators over the past century. What began as a creative idea to sell ads quickly grew into a larger market, complete with whole graphic novels with accompanying toys, games, and movies. These same authors challenged the rules about what they could and could not write, delving into storylines featuring regular and superhumans fighting off evil and saving the world. Some storylines may seem cliché, but not enough to adapt into movies that make millions of dollars. Comic books are for anyone that loves to read and be swept away into other worlds for a few hours, just like when you watch a good movie.



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