Comic books and comic book characters seem to have been with us forever, but when where the first comics created, and who was responsible? Before comics there was the popular medium of cartoons, and it dates far back right to the 1800s.
These cartoons appeared in periodicals and were mostly politically inspired to lampoon famous figures of the day. Probably one of the famous of the early cartoonists was Thomas Nest, and it was his cartoons that were largely to blame for the demise of Boss Tweed’s political empire in 1870s America. Cartoons gradually evolved into longer format and eventually into comic books, at first with original drawings then mass production and the appearance of superheroes.
The Yellow Kid in McFadden’s Flats
It is widely accepted that the very first comic book was The Yellow Kid in McFadden’s Flats published in 1897. On its back cover it even mentions the phrase comic book, which is the first time that this appears in print. It was rather a drab monochrome publication featuring reprints of popular cartoons. Comics Monthly was the first regular comic book, and was first published back in 1922, and it also just reprinted cartoons in black and white. It was not until 1933 that the first color comic appeared called, Funnies on Parade.
National Allied Publications
Two years later the precursor to DC Comics was published, it was called National Allied Publications and it was the first comic book to be published that contained a hundred percent original material. The creators of Superman, Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel were the main contributors to New Fun which was the first edition of the publication. And in 1937 in an edition of Detective Comics, Shuster and Siegel created a character called Slam Bradley who later went on to become Superman.
1938 heralded in the golden age of comic books, as the first appearance of a superhero was unveiled. Action Comics released Superman to the public and it spawned a reaction from Detective Comics to create their own superhero a year later which was of course Batman.
One year later Timely Publications released Marvel Comics which contained a whole boat load of original characters that included, Prince Namor, Angel, and The Human Torch. In 1940 we saw the first appearances of Green Lantern, Flash and Wonder Woman.
Comic Book Peak Years
The peak years in the golden age of comic books was between 1938 and 1940, almost one and a half million copies of comic books were sold in America every month, people just could not get enough of their favorite superheroes, Captain Marvel, Batman, and Superman.
However, the post war years saw the decline in comics. America was not quite ready to accept these fictional characters once again, it was too soon after the atrocities of the war and the real world once again took precedent.
The recent fascination of Hollywood resurrecting the superheroes of DC Comics and Marvel Comics has once again brought global attention to these amazing characters, and they are as popular today as they ever were in the golden age of comic books.