The Superhero Reader, “Historical Considerations,”
One point that came up in “Historical Considerations” that I really found interesting is the breakdown of the difference between an origin in comics and the origin of comics. It references comics as having come from a hodge-podge of the “mystery men genre”, Jewish immigration in the U.S., politics, body building culture, and science fiction. Of course my response to that list was “awesome!” since it certainly includes more than a few things relevant to my interests.
Peter Coogan, “Comics Predecessors”
Coogan goes into a lot more depth on some of the pulp novels that comics originated out of, and the tradition of the strong man and superheroes. He discusses Hugo Hercules as a humorous sort of version of the Gladiator/Superman strong man archetype, and also describes Popeye and Alley Oop’s fantastic feats of strengths. The tradition of the absurdly strong man with little to no physical limitation is one that began before, and continues well after Superman.
Jules Feiffer, “The Great Comic Book Heroes”
This was a really interesting description of the early days in comic book art, a fast-paced, chaotic, breakneck industry for the quick witted and eager that quickly, sadly slowed as many men in the industry were recruited into the armed forces as the war began. This was an incredibly sensual representation of the craziness that the young cartoonists experienced, working eighteen hours a day and surviving on sandwiches and coffee. The thing that stuck with me most was that final line of the excerpt, “By the end of the war the men who had been in charge of our childhood fantasies had become the archetypes of the grownup who made us need to have fantasies in the first place” (The Superhero Reader 33). What a depressingly potent, emotional comment to emphasize the loss of that first great generation of comics artists.
Gabilliet, Of Comics and Men, Chs. 1 & 2
The origin of comics dates all the way back to September 1842 with the Swiss Rodolphe Topffer’s the Adventures of Mr. Obdiah Oldbuck. Several other similar illustrated stories followed soon after.
The Gilded Age post Civil War saw a rise in daily press, with newspapers becoming prevalent and a large sunday newspaper. “For working class families, purchasing a Sunday newspaper was a better value for the money. this is why the appearance of comic magazines took place in three stages: the very first pamphlets collecting reprinted strips were advertising giveaways; soon they became periodical magazines sold on newsstands; finally they began to offer original material.” These largely original magazines of nothing but comics appeared in 1933, and were referred to as comic magazines. The early magazines were designed to look like the Sunday comics supplements, and as pulp publishers began to publish them by 1936 the content became more pulpy to follow suite. From 1933 to 1939, comic publishers went from one to over fifty and releases blossomed from three comic magazines per year to 322.