Been a bit busy, so I didn't get these up the last couple weeks. Moving is a pain. getting up extras!
This is part for in the series of blog entries I am doing of an edited down version of my senior paper on 20th Century American Comics and Politics. I have stated before it may be boring for some people, but the purpose is to inform and educate. This section's focus is on comics influence and depiction of the Civil Rights Era.
To recap the rest of the series:
Comics and the Civil Rights Era
The 1960’s became a great rebirth for the industry after the battles with the conservative movement of the 50’s. Children who grew up reading comics began to notice superhero books once again. Now having income of their own, they could make the purchase themselves. This led to a new direction for the industry and the conceptualization of the modern superhero. Legendary founders Stan Lee and Jack Kirby would team up to create a new type of superhero, the everyman superhero. They created characters who had flaws just like regular people, strived to make dialogue relevant and natural, while also tackling many of the political problems of the time. The 1960’s included a lot of growing pains for the nation; Marvel and DC comics would grow and thrive with it, ready to tackle many political issues.
Post Korean conflict and still under the strict guidelines of the comics code, superhero books popularity grew because of the inclusion of super villains in many of the stories. The heroes had a purpose again, and much of the new conflict would be between Soviet and U.S. interests and involve new heroes created from the Atomic Age. Innovation continued, and having started with family oriented books, Marvel began to tackle prominent social issues of the decade.
The civil rights movement was in full swing, carrying the civil rights banner in comic form were Lee and Kirby’s creation the X-Men. While still by-passing possible controversy in making a team of minority characters, they created a new minority. This was a minority white America could identify with. These “mutants” were all Caucasian adolescents who were born with powers. (Instead of getting them in a freak accident or by magic, as were frequent plot devices). These characters had the same problems all teens did, but on top of their own awkwardness growing up, they had to save and protect the world of people who hated and feared them. The source for hate and fear was focused on how the mutants were born different from regular people. The books would often find some way to illustrate the similarities between normal humans and the mutants as possible.
Two years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed into law, the first black super hero was brought forward by the same team Lee and Kirby. The Black Panther was an African King from a fictional country who also fought against injustice in the world and was protector of his people. While Black Panther wasn’t officially the first black protagonist character, he was the first to not be presented as a caricature. Marvel’s Falcon became the first ‘African-American’ superhero in 1969, while Luke Cage became the first black character to get his own series in the 70’s. Marvel comics had definitely taken a lead in diversifying their publications, however some stereo-types seem prevalent looking back now. They were written as characters to inspire and relate to minority youth in America. Other publishers followed the trend in the 70’s after watching Marvel’s success.