On Friday, June 16, fans at AwesomeCon got a chance to hear Joe Sergi from the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and author of The Law For Comic Book Creators talk about the history of American comics.
We can clearly trace stories as told through art all the way to when cavemen drew on walls, or even when speech bubbles were first used by George Cruikshauk in the 1800’s. Some might argue about 1837’s Obadiah Oldbuck being the first comic, but the first true American comic was The Funnies in 1926. The 16 page newsprint was included in newspapers, and in 1933 we got both Famous Funnies and Funnies on Parade which were both sold outside of a newspaper.
Of course modern comics came into their own with the introduction of Superman in Action Comics #1. After that every comic publisher wanted to copy the success of Superman–who drew inspiration from various Pulp characters–and Nationals Comics was all too pleased to sue anyone who may impede on their success. The only real comparison they had was with Timely Comics, who gave us Captain America, The Human Torch, and the Sub Mariner.
Comics then decided to up the ante to sell to kids by introducing the idea of a sidekick. Robin was first, and since he was such a hit with kids everyone else followed suit. Fawcett comics took it a step further tho, and gave us Captain Marvel–who was a young boy who turned into a superhero with a simple catchphrase. The character was a hit, but National Comics went after Fawcett, which led to a 12 year lawsuit.
World War 2 wasn’t terribly kind to comics. Creators were going off to war (as were their creations). Superman even ended WWII, which caught the attention of the Nazi propaganda machine. Comics had become decidedly adult due to the war, and with that we got some pretty graphic war comics.
Unfortunately the panel was only 45 minutes long, so it was cut short. Hopefully next year Joe will have longer, or even multiple panels going over each comic decade. It was a joy to sit in, if you’re able to catch one of Joe’s panels, go!