Comic Books have always been a medium well utilized by people to spread messages and to entertain. The medium to use pictures to portray something has been used since the ancient times stretching back to the Romans and the Egyptians. Comics in their current form; pictures with captions, trace back to the 19th century, and ever since it has been a powerful medium.
The first comic strip was published in 1826 in The Glasgow Looking Glass, which ridiculed contemporary politics and fashion. It had all the hallmarks of what later would become to be known as comics; pictures displaying a continuous narrative, use of speech bubbles and captions. The first comic to feature a recurring character was Ally Sloper’s Half Holiday in 1867. The character became very popular leading to him getting his own separate comic, which went by the same name.
The golden age of comic books is thought to have started in 1938 with the creation of Superman in Action Comics 1. The success of superman allowed comic books centered around a single character to become a major form of publishing. Many other iconic superheroes, which are a part of today’s culture, were created in this time such as Batman, Robin, Wonder Woman, Human Torch and Captain America.
A widely cited reason for the popularity of comic books in this time, especially in America, is due to World War II. Many of the themes of the comic centered around the prevailing of good over evil, and this resonated with the population with their personal struggles during the war, which led to a big boom in the comics industry. Although it can be argued that Batman and Superman are more iconic today, it was Captain America which was the best-selling superhero of the era, with 1.4 million copies sold per issue.
The Silver Age of comic books started in 1956 to around 1970. The era advanced character development, as stories were deeper than just a superhero saving the day, with elements of romance and horror starting to be brought in. Sales of comic books declined after the Second World War, and authors sought to take incorporate different genres into their comics.
The era gave rise to many iconic superheroes such as Spider-Man, The Hulk and The Fantastic Four. Many artistic developments were also apparent, as it took a different twist from the Golden Age. A lot of comics during this era were more cinematic than before, and more sleek and streamlined. The end of the era was marked by a sharp decline in sales that gave rise to the Bronze Age.
Comic books have been a very mainstream medium of entertainment for several decades, and have given rise to many multi million dollar franchises. The distinct and colourful history of comic books has made it an integral part of popular culture.