Tragedy, comedy, history: these are the main topics of classical theatre. People need to remember, to cry, and to laugh. Humor helps us to make sense of events and to learn to live with them. Having learned this valuable lesson, American newspapers learned to appeal to their readers through comic strips.
Popular demand for comics during one of the hardest times in American history led to the introduction of comic books in the early years of the 1930s. The platinum age of comic books soon followed. During the 1930s, Flash Gordon, Mickey Mouse, and Dick Tracy made acquaintance with and captivated the imagination of readers nationwide.
In 1937, Detective Comics ushered in the concept of themed comics. These, of course, were centered on crime and suspenseful stories. Detective Comics, later known as DC comics, was responsible for the introduction of Batman and the beginning of a Golden Era of Comic Books.
During this Golden Age of Comics, another well-known publisher, Action Comics, introduced readers to the powerful superhero Superman. Bob Kane of DC Comics would follow this introduction with the human superhero Batman.
Thus began a wave of superheroes, and during the World War II years Captain Marvel, Sandman, The Flash, and many other superheroes arrived to save the day. Just before the war began, in 1940, superheroes devoted to patriotism appeared in war comics.
The first of these to appear on the scene before making guest appearances in other comics was Captain America. Joe Simon teamed up with Jack Kirby to create Captain America and many popular other heroes. As the war ended, interest in patriotic comics waned and interest in science fiction rose.
Science fiction quickly became popular and introduced the Silver Age of Comics. Between 1956 and 1959, American readers delighted in The Vault of Horror and Weird Fantasy. During this time, the superheroes of the Golden Age also regained power in the minds and imaginations of their readers - with a new twist.
Characters such as the Incredible Hulk and the Fantastic Four, created by Marvel Comics, were quirky, spoke in modern lingo, and had other problems that did not solely involve their arch enemies. The most fascinating of all, however, was Spider-Man, introduced in Amazing Fantasy, issue 15.
Different groups of superheroes also became popular. Some of these were a new and improved Justice League of America (JLA), the Avengers, and the X-men. Marvel also combined science fiction with heroes such as the Silver Surfer. By the end of the 1960s, the comic book had evolved into the form in which it is sold today.
Comic books entered the Bronze Age during the 1970s and tackled modern issues. During this transition to the modern age, the Star Wars trilogy and Conan the Barbarian helped to introduce different rules in developing the plot of today's comic books. This Modern Age of comic books began in 1980, and continues today.
During the modern age, themes have become more adult with the release of comic books such as The Dark Knight Returns. A number of new comic book publishers also began to appear, including Image and Darkhorse.
Comic Book Collectibles
During the past decade, comic book collecting has become a huge industry. Part of the reason for this is the recent release of X-Men, the Spider-Man movies, and Batman Begins. Graphics have evolved from basic drawings to outstanding works of art, while cover designs are equally complex. Dialogue, too, is much more complicated than the basic BAM! POW! WHAM! sound words used with pictures during the golden age.
While some collectors focus on first editions, rarity, and other issues, many will advise that the secret to successful comic book collecting is enjoyment. Choose interesting characters or themes. Collect titles of characters associated with these heroes, or collect titles of their arch-rivals instead.
Guides such as Overstreet or Wizard provide excellent information about the value of comic book editions. These guides discuss valuable back issues, and also share sneak peeks about future events or expected surprise issues released by DC or Marvel Comics. Like most other collectors, comic book collectors and guides use a grading scale to describe the condition of a particular comic. The scale usually describes a numerical value as well as a name and symbol for the issue's condition.
The numeric scale ranges from 0.5 to 10.0. The value of 0.5 is rated as Poor, or PR, and describes a comic book in very bad condition, with page corners missing. These usually have little or no value to collectors. Comics rated fair (1.0), or FR, indicate the lowest acceptable grade to most collectors.
In contrast, comic books rated Mint, or MT, have a numerical scale value between 9.9 and 10.0. These are comic books that are in perfect condition. Near Mint, or NM books, are rated between 9.2 and 9.7. These have very minor cover flaws and no damage or wear to the book's cover or ink.
Books rated between 1.8 and 5.0 are generally considered to be in good condition, and have usually been read. These are obviously read and exhibit small signs of wear. Very Good examples usually rate between 5.0 and 9.1, and usually have minor binding flaws.
Serious collectors usually take precautions to store their comics and keep them in good condition. Some used comic book-sized plastic bags with backings that are made of acid-free cardboard for storage. Some collectors use a hard plastic case for storing their most valuable comics.
Don't expose comic books to sunlight. Otherwise, cover ink will fade quickly, and the book's page are also in danger of becoming dry and brittle. Additionally, most collectors avoid handling their comics frequently, because finger oils or dirt residue can damage the comics.
Whether you're ready to laugh with Garfield, enjoy the esoteric humor of Far Side, or become intrigued in the mature plots of The Dark Knight Returns, comic books offer an enjoyable escape for readers of all age. So whether you're ready to return to the Archie Comics of your youth, or continue following the JLA in their quest to save the world from Lex Luthor or Brainiac, DC, Marvel, and other comic book publishers have a plot for you.