Awesome World of Comic Books and Superheroes
The world of comic books in the USA is an exciting story of superheroes, engaging characters, brilliant graphic art covers, and story lines that reflect the culture of the times. Comic books as we know them were introduced in 1933. Soon after, Superman found enthusiastic fans when he made his debut in a 1938 comic book published by Action Comics. Since then many other superheroes have captured the imagination of youthful readers of comic books.
Action Comics #1
The very first comic book magazine in the USA was "The Yellow Kid in McFadden's Flats, which sold for 50 cents in 1897. Comic books got their name because at first they contained comic strips reprinted from the newspapers. Return to those thrilling days of yesteryear. Here you'll find the superheroes of the comic book world, tips for storing your comic book collection, and the astronomical sale prices for recent comic books with superheroes.
GOLDEN AGE OF COMIC BOOKS 1933-1945
During the Golden Age, most of the enduring superheroes and comic book characters were introduced. Each publishing house, and there were hundreds, carried a roster of at least 20 different heroes. The most popular were Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Hawkman, Captain Marvel, Captain America and the Human Torch. Collectors seek out these books and the brilliant cover art by Jack Cole, Will Eisner,Joe Simon, Jack Kirby, Mac Raboy, Walt Kelly and a host of others.
Batman Comic Book #1 1940
Along with the superheroes, many genres appeared and brought humor, Westerns, romance, action, mystery, thrillers, science fiction and jungle stories to the newsstands. The Golden Age also gave us Tarzan, Dick Tracy, Roy Rogers, Masked Marvel, and Sheena Queen of the Jungle. Disney characters Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck were both top sellers in comic books.The price was still only 10 cents. Comic books hit their peak in 1952 when 3161 issues of various comics were published with total circulation at about one billion. There were about 40 publishers, including heavyweights Dell, Atlas (Marvel), DC and Archie.
Wonder Woman #1 1942
Art by Harry G. Peter
THE DECLINE OF COMIC BOOKS
In the late 1940's and early 1950's the industry changed direction when horror and true-crime stories with excessive violence and gore became prevalent in comic books. The public reacted negatively to comic books that depicted sadism and cruelty. Psychiatrist Fredric Wertham published his book Seduction of the Innocent in 1954, warning that comic books caused juvenile delinquency and fanned the flames of public outrage. Moral crusaders blamed comic books for poor school grades, drugs and crime. There was a Senate hearing on comic books, public comic book burnings, and even bans on the books. Faced with declining circulation due to both public disapproval and the popularity of television, comic book publishers founded the Comics Code Authority in 1954 and drafted the Comics Code to regulate the material in comic books. Soon almost every comic book displayed the Comic Code Seal of Approval.
conan the Barbarian #1 1970
SILVER AGE OF COMIC BOOKS1956-1970
The Silver Age of the comic book world is the revival period when the clean-cut superhero was resurrected as a comic book star. It began with Flash, published by DC Comics In Showcase #4 in 1956. Then Marvel Comics popularized a more natural superhero in the Fantastic Four, X-Men, and Spider-Man, heroes who dealt with ordinary day-to-day worries while they saved the world from evil. These characters resonated strongly with college students of the sixties during a period of political and social unrest. Comic book conventions for fans and collectors became popular, the largest one in the United States being San Diego Comic Con.
Fantastic Four #1 1961
Art by Jack Kirby
BRONZE AGE OF COMIC BOOKS 1970-1980
The Bronze Age of the comic book world marked the period of gradual changes to American mainstream comics history when a new group of heroes and non-heroes became popular. Often the story lines in comic books addressed social problems. This was the time for Conan the Barbarian, Tomb of Dracula, Kamandi, Swamp Thing, Man-Thing, Ghost Rider, and the revived Doctor Strange and Phantom Stranger. Spider-Man and the Green Lantern talked about drug abuse. Batman became a darker character. Even Wonder Woman lost her super powers for a time. Death came for Spider-Man's girlfriend and death took several members of the Legion of Super-Heroes.
Green Lantern #1 1941
Art by Howard Purcell
MODERN AGE OF COMIC BOOKS
In the mid-to-late 1980's and 1990's, two series had a profound impact upon the world of comic-book, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen, both published by DC Comics, Comic book themes became darker, grim and gritty,and nihilistic to keep up with the changing taste of readers. Anti-heroes such as the Punisher and Wolverine underscored this change. The Batman issue "A Death in the Family" had The Joker brutally murdered Batman's sidekick Robin. The X-Men comic books presented superpowered mutants in stories about religious and ethnic persecution.
Hawkman #1 1964
Art by Murphy Anderson
Comic book stores became popular with fans and helped build the investing bubble of the 1990's, when speculators drove up prices and publishers flooded the market with special collectible issues. The comic book bubble had burst by 1997 when circulation fell 90% and most publishers went out of business.
Sheena Queen of the Jungle
Art by Maurice Whitman
Gradually in the 21st century, enthusiasm for comic books has revived, while online auctions like eBay encouraged comic book fans and collectors. A successful group of blockbuster Hollywood movies introduced a new generation of fans to the superheroes of the world of comic books.
COLLECTING COMIC BOOKS and SUPERHEROES
In the decade of the 1990's, comic books became important collectibles. Comic shops catered to fans, and some issues were sold for a million dollars each.
Comic book are collected for their cover artwork, their stories, their heroes, and their sentimental value. They are widely available at all price ranges, so you can start your collection with a modest investment, and build it by trading with other collectors. A professional system for grading the condition of comic books is available. The study of comic books is called panelology and people who collect comic books are pannapictagraphists.
Spiderman #1 1963
HOW TO STORE YOUR COMIC BOOKS
Like any original art, comic books keep best in an archival quality frame under UV protected glass. You can also keep your comic book collection in individual Mylar bags. Use only acid-free archival quality materials for storage, to preserve your comics in their best condition. Common cardboard contains acids that will eventually destroy your books. The familiar PET film bags made of polyethylene or polypropylene are not archival safe. Store comic books in a cool, dark, dry place. Over time, sunlight will bleach the inks and yellow the paper.
Spiderman Amazing Fantasy
Another possible way to preserve your comic books is called slabbing. The CGC will grade your book and place it in a sleeve of protective plastic polymer called Barex and seal the package as a transparent, hard plastic capsule. You can also store a comic book online as a computer file by scanning and saving the pages to share it with the collecting community. However, an online digital copy of your comic book may violate copyright laws.
PRICES FOR COMIC BOOK SUPEHEROES
Collectors know that the most valuable comic books are those rare issues where a favorite character first appeared. Rarity and condition are important in determining their value. Several comic books have sold for over $1 million USD recently and many issues sell for six figures.
Superman #1 1939
Art by Joe Shuster
Action Comics issue #1 graded fine condition, sold on the comic book online site ComicConnect for over $1 million
- Detective #27, the first Batman comic book, graded very fine, sold at Heritage Auctions for over $1 million
- Action Comics #1, graded very fine, sold online at ComicConnect, July, 2010, for $1.5 million, the highest price ever paid for a comic book.
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