1. Recent History
We will go into the super-hero formula later. It is enough now to say that the concept caught on, and soon comics were overrun by super-heroes. World War II aided the popularity of comics, as thousands of soldiers sought reading material that was quick and easy to read and lightweight to carry. This was the “Golden Age” of comics, an explosive boom of both creativity and imitation.
The history of comics in the next 60 years would mirror that of many other popular media, such as film, television, and rock & roll music. The trend was experimentation, popularity, fear, censorship, then eventual underground rebellion and re-examination.
After the war, a drop in the popularity of super-heroes led to a boom in other genres. Crime, horror, war, humor, romance, western and “good girl” comics found large followings. The popularity of crime and horror comics especially caught the attention of congress, which in the 1950’s was busy making a big show of fighting crime. Dr. Frederick Wertham wrote Seduction of the Innocent, a poorly researched study of the influence of comic books on juvenile delinquency, and he was invited to testify at the Kefauver anti-crime hearings. His testimony and the cry of irate “moral” leaders led congress to consider censoring comics. The publishers made this unnecessary by forming the Code of the Comics Magazine Association of America in 1954, a self-censorship unit that banned anything that might be thought to be harmful to youth.
The “Comics Code Authority,” whose stamp would only adorn books that passed its strict standards of harmlessness, succeeded in putting many publishers out of business (some claim that the code was created by other publishers to do this to the most successful horror and crime publisher, EC Comics). Readership dropped and the industry shrunk. DC comics decided to bring back the super-hero in 1956 by revamping the character of The Flash. This was so popular it revamped many of its heroes and created new ones. This was the beginning of the “Silver Age” of comics.
In 1962, Marvel Comics released the Fantastic Four, starting a whole new line of super-heroes remarkable for their realism and humanity (they call this the beginning of the “Marvel Age”). Later in the decade, underground comics, distributed and sold through head shops and other non-traditional venues, took American comics to places it had never been in both style and content, rejecting status quo and breaking taboos.
The early 70’s saw a great revolution in comics in America. Comics from Europe, where there was no comics code or presumption that comics were only for kids, started appearing in the U.S., showing daring new directions that the art could go. Mainstream comics strove for greater realism and import, dealing with contemporary topics of social relevance. Some say this was the beginning of the “Modern Age” of comics, although some publishers keep trying to say it was later. The first Overstreet Price Guide, comic conventions, and comics specialty shops arrived, giving legitimacy to comics as a collectable hobby and investment. By the end of the decade, non-Comics Code approved independent publishers, whose books were distributed directly to comic shops and who’s artists retained the rights to their creations, started making a dent in the market. By the early 80’s this turned into a full-fledged boom of independent comics.
The issue of creator’s rights grew until the early 90’s, when a group of Marvel writers and artists split to form Image, a creator-owned company. This came concurrent with a flood of new publishers and speculative comic buyers feeding off each other in a dizzying upward spiral. The climax came with the Death of Superman saga in 1992-93. Then the major publishers glutted the market, the speculators retreated from burnout, and many readers got disgusted at the surprisingly low quality of many new comics.
2. Comics Today
Now we are settled into a depression in the industry that compares with the introduction of the Comics Code. Many fly-by-night and seat-of-their-pants publishers have disappeared. Some quality publishers are gone too, sadly. An entire generation of artists and writers has been pushed aside to make way for hot new names that may have more style than substance. A new stylistic aesthetic has captured the young audience. There are few of the old masters, the pioneers, left, and it seems like every year another one dies. A new moral crusade is attempting to crack down on comics with “adult” material.
But not all the news is bad. Artistic and intellectual appreciation for well-done comics is increasing. Comics from Europe and Japan are gaining popularity in America, influencing styles and genres. The changing tastes of the marketplace are encouraging the development of new styles of art and stories and the form continues to grow. The low production cost of the medium allows new talent to find an audience. Brand-new creative talent seeking personal expression through comics can be found at any convention, lurking, pushing their latest works, fighting for recognition. The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is successfully defending the rights of creators and dealers all over the country. Even in the wake of September 11 comics showed that they have the capacity to be relevant and useful expressions of stories, fact, and opinion.
And finally, comics are still one of the most accessible, easy to produce media in the world. For the most part, creation is a low-budget process. Stories of immense scope, large casts, fantastic settings, cost no more to produce than the same number of pages of two people talking. The flexibility of the form allows for subtle and precise communication. There are no boundaries for subject matter expressed in comics. The medium is portable, requires no playback mechanism, can be easily assimilated, and lends itself to strong retention.
So welcome to this wonderful and amazing world. I hope that this tutorial will help you appreciate it and guide you in the successful use of this media.
Continued on Pg. 3: Terms Used in Creating Comics
To support this site, we have partnered with Amazon.com. By clicking on the link next to the title, you can purchace the books on the suggested reading list. A portion of the proceeds will go to supporting this site.
Cerebus Guide to Self Publishing,, Dave Sim; Format: Paperback, 96pp.; ISSN 0712-7774; Publisher: Dave Sim.; Pub Date: 1997
Comics & Sequential Art Will Eisner; Format: Hardcover ISBN: 0-9614728-0-4 and Paperback, ISBN: 0-9614728-0-2; 154pp; Publisher: Poorhouse Press; Pub. Date: 1985
The Comic Book in America: An Illustrated History, New Updated Edition , Mike Benton; Format: Paperback, 207pp.; ISBN: 0-87833-835-7; Publisher: Taylor Publishing Co.; Pub. Date: 1993
Graphic Storytelling Will Eisner; Format: Hardcover ISBN: 0-9614728-3-9; Paperback, ISBN: 0-9614728-2-0; 164pp; Publisher: Poorhouse Press; Pub. Date: 1995
Over 50 Years of American Comic Books Ron Goulart; Format: Hardcover, 320pp.; ISBN: 0-88176-396-9; Publisher: Publications International, Ltd.; Pub. Date: 1991
Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art Scott McCloud; Format: Hardcover, ISBN: 8-87816-244-3 and Paperback, ISBN: 0-87816-243-7; 215pp.; Publisher: Kitchen Sink Press Inc.; Pub. Date: 1993
Comic Book Confidential
Comic Book Collector
Go to a thorough list of books and videos for comics creators
Use the links below to find more resources on Amazon.com:
Pg.2: Comics Today
Pg.3: Terms of the Trade
The Process of Creating a Comic
Writing: Story and Plot
Penciling: Tools: Short Answers
Penciling: Tools: Furniture and Paper
Penciling: Tools: Pencils and Erasers
Penciling: Tools: Straightedges and More
Penciling: Creating Characters
Penciling: Character Sheets
Penciling: Props and Vehicles
Read Zorikh's comics
Go to Watch This Space home page