Many people read, collect and obsess over antique and vintage comic books.
There are many genres, types and characters in these artistic worlds drawn for story and content.
What agendas or ideas started the comic book, and why are they one of the most valuable collector items in the antique market today?
Cartoons were the precursors to comic books.
With satirical and political views sending messages about the thoughts of society at the time, cartoons told a story relevant to the headlines and history of the times in which they were written.
Through an evolution of sorts, cartoons became extended in length, and eventually turned into whole books.
Comic books are categorized into different ages, such as platinum and golden, and are put into sections according to years published.
Some of the first Platinum Age comics, published between 1897-1938 featured compilations of comic strips put into volumes, featuring popular stories such as “Happy Hooligan,” “Buster Brown” and “Mutt and Jeff.”
The first monthly comic book was “Comics Monthly,” and in 1933, “Funnies on Parade” was the first all-color comic to be published. It was the first comic book to utilize the now standard size of 6 5/8 inches by 10 1/4 inches.
The Golden Age of comic books is what a lot of fans and collectors cherish, for it is during this time period that the superhero was invented.
In 1938, the 10-cent debut of “Superman” was introduced in Action Comics #1 (and recently sold for a huge 3.2 million, making it the world’s most expensive comic to date).
“Batman” and “Wonder Woman” were introduced a year later.
The invention of the superhero was in direct response to the confusing world around humanity at the time.
The world’s population was witnessing the ravages of war, the fear of atomic blasts and the confusion of post-war rebuilding.
A superhero helped individuals feel secure, strong and guided.
The “Human Torch,” “Angel,” “Captain Marvel,” “Flash” and “Green Lantern” were just some of the characters to come out of this era.
The comic book industry reached the peak of popularity in the mid-1940s.
During this time period, more than 1 million copies of comic books sold monthly, with such titles as “Superman,” “Batman” and “Captain Marvel.”
After World War II, in post-war America, more serious themes were seen in the comic book genre, as sales plummeted as a world returned to normal tasks.
Themes such as horror, crime, romance and Westerns became more popular.
Tried-and-true characters, such as “Wonder Woman,” “Superman,” “The Flash” and other popular characters still retained a faithful audience, even with dropping margins.
In 1954, a psychiatrist named Fredric Wertham wrote a book Seduction of the Innocent, claiming comic books were corrupting the youth and the US. Members of Congress were alarmed at his claims, and even had him testify in a Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency.
The result was that many restrictions were placed on the comic book industry, that lasted, in some instances, well into the 1980s.
Some of the restrictions were, “In every instance good shall triumph over evil,” or “if crime is depicted it shall be as a sordid and unpleasant activity,” and “no cannibalism, ghouls or vampires.”
Horror, goulish, provocative or different comics were cancelled or discontinued during the “Silver Age” of comics, and superheroes with campy storylines became more of the norm.
Antique dealers and people who collect comic books look for various things when buying and selling them.
A few things are condition of the pages, was the book kept in a cover, the size of the comic (older comics measured differently than newer ones), the price on the comic, and if it has been read.
There are now companies that will professionally grade comics and put a seal on the encapsulation to ensure authenticity and evaluated condition.
Comic books have held the fascination of the world for more than a hundred years with stories of superheroes, valor, bravery, hauntings and stories that fascinate as well as thrill.
With relevant historical themes, relatable issues and colorful, tangible pages, the creators of comic books successfully drive collectors of today to search for yesteryear’s tales in a lucrative form.