American comic books
Since the introduction of the comic book format in 1933 with the publication of Famous Funnies, the United States has produced the most titles, along with British comics and Japanese manga, in terms of quantity of titles.
Cultural historians divide the career of the comic book in the U.S. into several ages or historical eras.
Comic book historians continue to debate the exact boundaries of these eras, but they have come to an agreement, the terms for which originated in the fan press. Comics as a print medium have existed in America since the printing of The Adventures of Obadiah Oldbuck in 1842 in hardcover—making it the first known American prototype comic book. The introduction of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s Superman in 1938 turned comic books into a major industry, and is the start of the Golden Age of comics. Historians have proposed several names for the Age before Superman, most commonly dubbing it the Platinum Age.
While the Platinum Age saw the first use of the term “comic book” (The Yellow Kid in McFadden’s Flats (1897)), the first known full-color comic (The Blackberries (1901)), and the first monthly comic book (Comics Monthly(1922)), it was not until the Golden Age that the archetype of the superhero would originate.
The Silver Age of comic books is generally considered to date from the first successful revival of the dormant superhero form—the debut of Robert Kanigher and Carmine Infantino’s Flash in Showcase No. 4 (September/October 1956).The Silver Age lasted through the late 1960s or early 1970s, during which time Marvel Comics revolutionized the medium with such naturalistic superheroes as Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’sFantastic Fourand Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s Spider-Man.
The precise beginnings of the Bronze and Copper Ages remain less well-defined. Suggested starting points for the Bronze Age of comics include Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith’s Conan No. 1 (October 1970), Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams’ Green Lantern/Green Arrow No. 76 (April 1970), or Stan Lee and Gil Kane’s The Amazing Spider-Man No. 96 (May 1971; the non-Comics Code issue). The start of the Copper Age (apprx. 1984–2000) has even more potential starting points, but is generally agreed to be the publication of Frank Miller’s Batman; The Dark Knight Returns and Alan Moore’s Watchmen by DC Comics in 1986, as well as the publication of DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths, written by Mary Wolfman with pencils by George Perez.
A notable event in the history of the American comic book came with the psychiatrist Fredric Wertham’s criticisms of the medium in his book Seduction of the Innocent (1954), which prompted the American Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency to investigate comic books. In response to attention from the government and from the media, the U.S. comic book industry set up the Comics Code Authority in 1954 and drafted the “Comics Code” in the same year.
Underground comic books
In the late 1960s and early 1970s a surge of creativity emerged in what became known as underground comics. Published and distributed independently of the established comics industry, most of such comics reflected the youth counterculture and drug culture of the time. Many had an uninhibited, often irreverent style; their frank depictions of nudity, sex, profanity, and politics had no parallel outside their precursors, the pornographic and even more obscure “Tijuan Bible’s”. Underground comics were almost never sold at news stands, but rather in such youth-oriented outlets as head-shops and record stores, as well as by mail order.
Frank Stack’s The Adventures of Jesus, published under the name Foolbert Sturgeon,has been credited as the first underground comic.