- The History of Comic Books  

The Silver Age

It all started with Showcase #4, starring The Flash. This Flash was a revamped version of the Golden Age Flash, he was created by Julius Schwartz and Carmine Infantino. After a few appearances in Showcase comics, The Flash received his own title. The success of The Flash caused other golden-age heroes to come back, although revamped like The Flash. In short, The Flash became a hero on two fronts, first in the comic book, and second in the comic industry. Bringing back The Flash brought superheroes back into the mainstream, and changed the comic industry to this day. This includes other superhero comic books, their T.V. shows, movies, and anything else they might have inspired.

It should also be mentioned that in 1955 a small story in the back of Detective Comics #225, starred an alien known as J'onn J'onzz. This alien would later become known as the Martian Manhunter, a major hero in the DC universe.

In 1958, a very important thing happened to Marvel Comics in Strange Worlds #1. This comic book was the first book put out by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. These two individuals, along with several other artists, started doing superheroes for Marvel Comics and created what is known as the "Marvel Age".

The Marvel Age

The Marvel Age started in 1961, when Marvel Comics started to put out it's own superheroes. The very first superhero book that Marvel produced was Amazing Adventures #1 which had a character named Dr. Droom (not 'Doom'). This character didn't work out so well, but Marvel did keep putting out other superheroes. Dr. Droom was later revamped and brought back as Dr. Druid.

The very first superhero team book Marvel put out was Fantastic Four #1, which also came out in 1961. In DC all the characters in a team got along just fine and there were no problems between them. But not in this book! A particular member of the Fantastic Four was Ben Grimm, A.K.A. The Thing. This character has a horror-style feel to him. He truly was his name, a thing, a monster who scared people when they looked at him.

The Thing did not get along with other members of his group, he would often get angry at them and fight them. He's gone through several bouts of depression because of the way he looks. Ben Grimm made the comic book seem real. This was a guy whose superpowers came with a terrible side effect and he wasn't happy about it. He wasn't the cheery rosy happy superhero that you kept reading about at DC. Another character that had a horror- style beginning was The Hulk, who was also a monster.

The Fantastic Four comics were labled "The Worlds Greatest Comic Magazine". It's a brave title, but one they lived up to. The Fantastic Four comic made many changes to the comic industry. Much of them was with their outerspace stories, but some of them were right at home on earth. One of them was allowing heroes to get married. In the Fantastic Four Annual #3 (1965), two of the main characters, Reed Richards and Susan Storm got married. This was a big change from the times when the hero wouldn't even kiss the girl. But they went further than that. 3 years later Reed and Sue had a baby. In Fantastic Four Annual #6 (1968) Franklin Richards was born. Through out the comic, and even today, we see this Superhero team have to go through the unique troubles of raising a superpowered child while living a life of adventure.

In Flash #123, put out in 1962, both the Golden Age and the Silver Age Flash appeared in the same comic. It would be the first time a Golden and a Silver Age version of the same hero would meet. It would also be very confusing. In the early Silver Age Flash comics, they would show a young Barry Allen reading comic books that were our Golden Age comic books. The Golden Age Flash was a fictional character in the Silver Age. So how did they meet? This is when DC came up with the idea of parallel worlds. They explained that the Golden Age Flash was a real person on Earth-2, and by crossing over, the two could appear at the same time. This Earth-2 where Golden Age superheroes really existed was soon used to bring back other Golden Age superheroes like the Green Lantern and many others. At the same time DC brought in other heroes that existed in other "Earths" where there were no other heroes. Over time this all got very confusing, and DC tried to fix it in 1985 with a Crisis of the Infinite Earths mini series. You'll learn more about that later.

The most well-known superhero that Marvel would produce would first appear in Amazing Fantasy #15. This was Spider-Man. Like Captain Marvel before him, Spider-Man was a youth who kids could relate too. Peter Parker was considered a geek at school, he had a hard time getting dates, and bullies picked on him. Peter remained someone readers could easily relate to as he grew older. He had a crabby boss named James Jonah Jameson, and sometimes had troubles with landlords when it came to paying rent.

Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created over 90% of the superheroes in the Marvel Comics Universe. Most of them are still around today. They also created superhero teams like The Avengers and their current most successful team are The X-men. It would take forever to list all the heroes that they created. Another dramatic change they made to comics was giving their villains superpowers, too. Before this time, heroes usually fought aliens, mad scientists, robots, thieves, gangsters, and people from the future. But it was rare when a villian had superpowers like the heroes. Now they did on a regular basis, and in doing so comic books became more interesting and fun to read.

During the Silver Age there were some titles that brought in a lot of superheroes and superhero teams. Click here to read about them

The X-men were a different group of heroes. They were not gods from other worlds, or scientists that were caught in a lab experiment gone wrong. They were people just like everyone else, who happened to be born with an extra ability or ablities. But all was not rosy for them, because these "mutants" were the next step in our evolution and had powers that society didn't understand. The result of this was society hated and feared them. Doing this showed parallels to racism and also showed why racism is wrong. Today The X-Men are the most popular superhero team in comic books.

It should be said that Marvel's X-Men is not the first comic book to do this. A DC hero named Aquaman also gave a message against racism, by showing how he was treated badly as a baby for having yellow hair. It was believed by the Atlantians (an underwater race of people) that those with yellow hair were sons of the devil.

During the Marvel Age, Marvel Comics revived some of their Golden Age heroes, others they revamped. In Fantastic Four #4 we saw the return of Namor the Sub-Mariner. In Avengers #4 we saw the return of the original Captain America and in X-Men #10 we saw Ka-Zar again.

In 1966, The first main black superhero that Marvel put out was the Black Panther in Fantastic Four #52. Although he did not have a long time running series, he did start a wave of black superheroes. Some of the others to come out after him would be The Falcon, Power Man (Luke Cage, hero for hire), DC's Black Lightning, and Image's Spawn. (You will learn about the Image company later). The Black Panther did have his own title from 1977 to 1979. He has also been a member of the superhero team The Avengers.

In 1969 the very first solo Dr. Doom (reportedly the inspiration for Darth Vader) story came out in Marvel Super-Heroes Presents #20. Although this book is not considered very important (or worth very much) it was followed six years later with the first comic book series that focused on a supervillain (or two in this case). In 1975 villains would get their own comics. Marvel's Super Villain Team-Up, starred Dr. Doom and had him team up with another villain in every issue. The villain focus was also done by DC with Batman's famous villain called The Joker. Neither of these would last very long, but they started a villain focus trend that is still happening today. Sometimes the supervillain comics are just a limited series, sometimes an ongoing series.

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