20th Century US Comics and Politics Part 7: The Liberal Movement

Okay, 3rd one today!  One more to be caught up. 
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: 
Part 1 
Part 2 
Part 3  
Part 4   
Part 5  
Part 6 
Works Cited/Resources

Politics, Comics, and Disco:

            The era known for disco and movement for unity continued to be illustrated in comics.   Minorities of all races and backgrounds became prominent, even stereo-types were dropped for the most part.   The civil rights movement was continuing on in the Vietnam War time period, as women battled for equal and fair treatment and wages.   The expressions of sexuality had become evident and creators tried to find ways to step outside the Comics Code.   This was another period for the progressive movement as new ideas and cultures were further being embraced by America’s youth.

            The feminist movement can be tracked through the history of comics, just as easily as it can be followed looking through the fashion trends in periodicals and film throughout the century.   In 2010 author Mike Madrid composed one of the first volumes entirely about the subject, “Supergirls.”   It is an abridged history of comic book heroines from the beginning of US comics until most current.   Madrid points out the affects of the Comic’s Code Authority, the conservative movement, various wars, and pop-culture as they pertain to feminism in comics.   He illustrates the growth in the industry of the 70’s and 80’s at a re-emergence of the “sexy, strong-willed, and independent woman” in comics.   Through the 70’s readers watched neck lines plunge, skirts get shorter, bodies get curvier, and women become stronger; taking more prominent roles.

            Even though the U.S. would eventually withdraw from Vietnam, it was the one war which didn’t get much attention in comics until further in the future.   Liberal minded creators sided with much of the nation in their lack of support for the war.   The comic industry wasn’t used as a propaganda machine for the conflict as it had 30 years prior.   Many of the books which did tackle the subject were considered anti-American or socialist propaganda.   Instead during this time the comic industry would begin to shift as new creators entered the fray with the idea comics could be something more.   As a whole began to take the spotlight later through the 1980’s when an independent creation by Art Spiegelman took shape in the popular “Maus: A Survivors Tale.”  Many who have read the “Maus” say it easily dethrones “The Diary of Anne Frank” as the definitive Holocaust biography; as it eventually won the Pulitzer.   This book found its artistic roots in the 70’s underground comic “Funny Animals.”

            The team which first championed the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s was re-imagined again to support the integration and melting pot effect of modern culture.   Marvel Comic’s Giant Size X-men #1, introduced a new team of mutants to the world.   The team was made as diverse as it could be.   The German, Nightcrawler, was a priest who looked like a blue demon, regardless of his teleporting powers was shown to illustrate recovery from the World War II era.   Colossus was a mighty metal man/farm boy from Russia, was used as an open hand of friendship across the Iron Curtain.   Wolverine, one of Marvel’s all time popular characters, was the rogue mysterious Canadian, and was the outsider who wanted in.   He was loyal and true, and most often used as a focus to bring the rest of the team together through his tough love attitude.   Thunderbird was an Apache, who was used, (though short lived), to bring the Native American Culture in.   Storm, from Africa was unique in this cast though.   She was the first black character to not be treated as molded stereotype.   Storm was regal, serene, bold, and kind all at once.   She had presence and was a leader.  

The cast grew to feature more and more mutants from around the world: Sunfire, from Japan; Banshee, from Ireland; Katherine Pryde, ironically one of the first openly celebrated Jewish heroes came 70 years into the industry, (The original Robin, Dick Grayson was also Jewish); many more members followed creating one of the most culturally diverse and fluid teams in the history of comics.   To this day their popularity is hardly matched by DC’s the Justice League, or Marvel’s own Avengers.   The popularity of the X-Men family of books eventually branched out to over two hundred different team books, spin-offs, and one-shots.

During the free love/disco era mixing of races was a popular taboo.   The 70’s brought more and more mixed couples into the forefront.   Many of the couples and their off-spring became ostracized by either cultural sub-group.   The need to bring light of the issue couldn’t be left to television alone, comics also stepped forward.   There were controversial relationships between mutant and human, alien and human, alien and another different alien, and interestingly enough even a mutant and a robot.   These first began to show up regularly in Marvel books but DC soon followed suit.   Again popular culture may have affected the books themselves or writers may have been trying to convey their own sentiments on the matter or mixed couples.

            Coming forward from the 60’s the drug counter culture moved on into the 70’s with more dangerous and addictive drugs.   Because drugs were forbidden by the Comic’s Code Authority, Stan Lee had to approach them with his idea for an anti-drug issue of Spiderman.   He felt strongly about the issue and was satisfied with the compromise of allowing the issue preaching on the dangers of drug addiction to be printed and sold, but not to have the logo.   Even at this point things began to change and the progressive movement was seeing changes to standards of decency within the code.  



20th Century US Comics and Politics Part 6: The Civil Rights Era

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: 
Part 1 
Part 2 
Part 3  
Part 4   
Part 5 
Works Cited/Resources

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.


20th Century US Comics and Politics Part 5: Post Wolrd War II

Been a bit busy, so I didn't get these up the last couple weeks.  Moving is a pain. 
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 World War II and the role comics played durring that era. 
To recap the rest of the series: 
Part 1 
Part 2 
Part 3  
Part 4
Works Cited/Resources

Post World War II Politics and Comics

            The atomic age of comics was a short lived time for the superhero.   The troops had come home, rebuilding had started, women went back to being home-makers, and the demands of society had changed.   There had been a shift in interest as injured Soldiers, physically and mentally, tried to adapt to post-war America.   The war didn’t just deplete the man power of the manufacturing industry; many of comic's founders were also called to serve their country.   Superhero comics dwindled in popularity.   The culture of America had changed, with it the demand for stories featuring battles between caped heroes and Nazis.   The economic recovery of the nation was fully underway with the boom in technology and the concept of a dual income home.  

            With superhero books not meeting the expectations of readers any longer the market shifted.   Crime, science fiction, horror, and even romance comics had taken over as top sellers. There still may have been the occasional Nazi sleeper agent featured in one of these books, but the new enemy was the other competitive superpower in the world the Soviet Union.   The battle between Allies to divide territories of control came mostly out of the socio-political battle between democracy and communism.   This competition wasn’t forgotten about.   There were many stories regarding the uncovering of communist rings, and even horror stories making political statements regarding harsh consequences of McCarthyism.

            The fear in America wasn’t just that of the building nuclear arms race with the Soviet Union.   Americans began to find other issues at the home front.   A rise in juvenile delinquency, (probably mostly due to population increase), became the center of attention as the US began to enter a more conservative age.   Any abnormality or rebellion from the conservative ideals of the perceived “American Dream,” became subject to psychoanalysis and criticism.   Post war “experts” were blaming the rise in crime and violence on comic books.   Years before many today remember similar claims regarding Rock and Roll, Television, Heavy Metal, Rap, or video games; comics for some time was the subject of similar scrutiny and ridicule.   The industry’s main opponent in this conflict would be psychiatrist, Dr. Frederic Wertham.

            Dr. Wertham started his attack on comics shortly after he wrote a book regarding the negative effects of cinema on society.   He featured articles in many popular magazines at the time constantly bringing up allegations against the comic industry in which he blamed writers and their bad taste for some of the crimes being committed.   These included everything from breaking windows to burglary and murders.   He claimed the writers of crime, horror, and suspense comics were laying out blue prints for these crimes to be committed.   Performing much of his study and research in the realm of juvenile delinquency he found a correlation between troubled youth and their habitual reading of comics.   There were no mention in his most famous work, “Seduction of the Innocent,” that almost 90% of adolescents; both male and female, read comics during this point in America.   Based upon this it would have been rarer to find a child who did not read comics at all.

            He was not negligent in perceiving there was a role to be played by the parental unit to censor and monitor their children.   However, he laid the majority of the blame on the industry itself.   Conservative America was reading his articles and books.   Parents prompted to investigation, were finding out the stories their children were reading, and an all out assault on the industry began.   The two most useful books to read on the subject are Wertham’s own “Seduction of the Innocent” and a modern publication, David Hajdu’s “The Ten-Cent Plague.”   As a historical reference examining the past, Hajdu tells tales of city-wide comic book bonfires, and takes a close look at the ramifications of Dr. Wertham’s war against comics.

            In 1953 the Senate Justice Committee on Juvenile Delinquency was called into special session to examine Dr. Wertham’s claims.   During this famous meeting many comic creators ensured they would be able to attend and speak before the Senate regarding the comics industry.   This historic Senate hearing showed the power of the conservative movement.   The comics industry had standards previously which were loosely followed.   As a result of the hearing the magazine industry created the Comics Code Authority.   This became a broad form of censorship which publishers claimed were clear violations of the 1 Amendment freedoms of press and speech. (Note: support in the creator's favor was not noticed until comics cases on obsinity and censorship reached the US Supreme Court in the 80's and 90's.)

            With the comics code it was decided instead of legislation being passed to censor the industry, the industry would have to create its own decency inspection.   If a comic passed the inspection the book would be labeled with a seal of approval.   The censorship was so stringent; covers of comics were not allowed to have the words crime, weird, or horror on them.   The art was censored as well.   Even beads of sweat could be considered too excessive.   (Gaines cited later in the documentary Comics Confidential, it was changed because it made the astronaut depicted look “African American.”   The creator said, “Yeah…so.”)   There were not to be any portrayals of relationships other than general marriage or dating.   There was to be no mention of rape, incest, or fornication.   The conservative code was so strict many publishers went out of business.

            For the most part the comics industry was in shambles.   They effectively neutered many characters and their appeal to the public.   Many of them, including Wonder Woman and Batman had to be revamped slightly, to fit into the new “proper” standards of polite society.   The companies which did survive turned more toward romance comics, westerns, and light science fiction.   The publisher EC comics eventually stopped producing comics and instead took their satire and crudeness to a larger magazine-size format, (Mad Magazine), in order to avoid being subject to the code.   Few continued to publish books and sell them in what would be dubbed the “underground” market.   The other survivors included a handful of superheroes which still held some of the market’s interest.


20th Century US Comics and Politics Part 4: World War 2 Era.

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.  Today we focus on World War II and the role comics played durring that era. 
To recap the rest of the series: 
Part 1 
Part 2 
Part 3 
Works Cited/Resources 

Politics of World War II and comics.

            While there were other creators writing about masked heroes from different walks of life stepping up to fight crime, two young writers in Cleveland Ohio were going to change the Industry forever.   Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegal sold their creation, the most identifiable super hero in the world, Superman, to Detective Comics (later DC comics).   In Action Comics #1, crime fighting and science fiction merged together as humanoid alien powered by the Sun fought crime with his “super” powers.   These books created a new ideal in the depression era.   Many of Superman’s books were morality tales attacking the evil of greed, quickly becoming a champion of the oppressed.   Superman functioned both as peace keeper and role model.   The “Man of Steel” was invincible but tried to maintain a normal existence under his alter-ego, and “secret identity,” the bumbling and nerdy Clark Kent.   Their new comic book stories affirmed the young, alienated, and dispossessed “Clark Kents” of society in their desire to commit to an inclusive national culture.   (Wright, Comic Book Nation 11).  

Superman stories would evolve to tackle issues many Americans of the era and the creators were familiar with, the conflict between corporate greed and public welfare.   Many stories were about breaking up bank conspiracies, dirty business mergers, and petitioning for social reform.   Superman’s America was something of a paradox—a land where the virtue of the poor and the weak towered over that of the wealthy and powerful.   However, only the righteous violence of Superman led to a hypocritical view of “might makes right,” when tackling the unjust system. (Wright, 13).   As early as 1938 and 1939 the voice of his creators echoed through Superman’s voice, the population’s demands for social reform, automobile safety standards, investigation into a corrupt and prejudice police system, and outcry against Wall Street price fixers.   Many of these issues are still tackled by comics and the media today, but Shuster and Sigel’s representation of everyman quickly became the most successful comic to date.   While most comics sold 200,000 to 400,000 copies, each bimonthly issue of the Superman title sold 1.3 million copies.

The mass marketing of American comics solidly began with Superman as well.   By the end of 1939, Superman became not only a comic, but a syndicated newspaper strip and radio serial.   Eventually Superman would see the lights of Hollywood and become a TV series and find himself in movies.   The formula for success of the superhero was evident.  While other companies began to create their own superheroes, Detective Comics had a young cartoonist named Bob Kane to create a second costumed hero to be a competing brand.   Kane took inspiration from pulp fiction heroes like the Shadow and Doc Savage, to create the world’s greatest detective, the costumed vigilante Batman.

The rise in popularity of the superhero before the onset of World War II, led to the creation of even more characters from many different companies.   Most notably would be Marvel Comics Namor the Sub Mariner and the Human Torch; Fawcett Publications’ Captain Marvel (a.k.a. SHAZAM!); Quality ComicsPlastic Man and the Eisner creation The Spirit.   Many of these heroes have survived the test in time and are still published today.   The mount up to U.S. involvement in the war also birthed Timely Comics (now Marvel) star-spangled symbol of freedom, the super-soldier, Captain America.  

With the growing popularity of the American comic, the American superhero quickly emerged as a marketing and propaganda juggernaut.   Comics were being used for enlistment encouragement, to sell war bonds, and to invoke the patriotism which was common among Americans during the World War II era.   The superheroes of comics quickly joined the fight against the new evils represented by Hitler, his Nazi troops, and the other Axis powers.   The economic boom crated in the war economy had proved to be effective in creating strong comic sales among children, and became popular with soldiers as well.   Entering the war much before the U.S. joined the Allied powers, comics creators had already began to battle.   A classic example is Captain America Comic’s #1 and its prolific cover featured the red, white, and blue hero punching Hitler in the face.

American elitism had found its stage in comics.   A nation of immigrants developed its own mixed culture.   The pursuit of equality and happiness, the chances for success lampooned American idealism and was plain to see when the most powerful beings ever created in fiction sided with the righteous cause of the Allied forces.   Comic series were sent to military camps, as troops could seek inspiration from the heroics of these superheroes.   Creators were careful to take time and have all of the heroes at one point or another be rescued by a regiment of soldiers, give a thank you, or even acknowledge the troops were the “real” heroes.   This morale boosting campaign is a trend which has continued in most mainstream comics until today.   Writers are very careful to never belittle the actions of true to life heroes of our world.

Taking advantage of the emerging market DC comics looked to experiment with the market by bringing a new type of hero to the front.   Wonder Woman, who was first conceived as a super-heroine who could appeal to boys while also being a role model for women, had an opportunity to declare her battle against the Axis powers while rallying America and her allies for battle.   Created by William Moulton Marston, a Harvard educated PhD, took the perceived virtues and strengths of women and imbued them upon a character which would be a controversial topic, on her role in the feminist movement for years to come.   Unlike the scantily clad jungle girls, and the masked crime fighting heroines of the past; Wonder Woman was stronger than some of her male counterparts.    Women had been allowed to vote for 20 years, and now had a representative among the comic elite.   Wonder Woman’s choice to uphold truth justice and the American way was encouraging to many as women fueled war-time manufacturing and industry.

Victory in Europe had brought celebration to the United States and its allies.   However, there was still a war to be one in the Pacific theater.   Comic stories hadn’t forgotten about the two-front conflict either.   It wasn’t uncommon to see Captain America and the Invaders battling the German SS one month, then moving on to Japan the next.   There may have been a more racist attitude toward the Japanese during the World War II comic’s era.   Unlike the Germans and Italians in comics, most Japanese characters and soldiers were more caricatures than the superheroes themselves.   Seemingly built upon stereo types, it wasn’t uncommon to see cultural misrepresentations.   This may not have helped the situations of the U.S. citizens who were of Japanese descent, quietly being held in U.S. internment camps.

With victory in Japan the science of comics changed just as the world did with the unveiling of the atomic bomb.


20th Century US Comics and Politics Part 3: Who writes comics?

This is part three 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.  It may be boring to some, but the purpose is to inform and educate.   This section covers the origins of the forefathers of the industry and reffrences to the prohibition era and early womens liberation contributions through the prohibition era and the Great Depression.
Part 1 is here
Part 2 is here
Works Cited/Resources here.  

Politics of “Who writes comics?”

            At the turn of the 20 Century fleeing religious and political oppression, thousands of Jews poured in from the Russian Empire into New York.   The persecution of Jews in the Balkens, led to Romania promising to respect the civil rights of all their citizens in order to gain Western European support in their war of independence from Russia.   Yiddish speaking Jews, poured into Romania from Russia, Poland, and the Ukraine.   (Jones, Men of Tomorrow 2).   The Jewish population grew as these numbers added to the Turkish, Romanian, and Ladino-speaking Jewish numbers.   The population of major cities in Romania was a third to half Jewish.   In Romania they owned big businesses, dominated the textile trade, and produced prominent lawyers and doctors.   Events leading to prohibition of Jews to conduct business and citizenship pertaining only to the Christian numbers in the populace led most Jews to make another exodus from Romania to New York.  

            In New York the Jews, just as the Italians and Irish immigrants before them, found themselves, again persecuted and made second class citizens.   Many of them gathered in what became then a Jewish Romanian barrio in the Lower East Side near the First Romanian American Synagogue.   Eventually socialist thought, which came over with some of the Jewish Ukrainian immigrants; led to formation of a dominant textile union, the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU), who would start of a movement for workplace reform in the area.

            While the Jewish immigrants of New York began to dominate the garment industry, a key growth market for the Jews in the early 1900’s was printing.   The field had been dominated in New York by Germans, Irish, and Scots.   Businesses passed down through generations seemed to leave no room for new entrants.   However, old-line printers weren’t set up to print the Hebrew characters used in Yiddish.   The Jews were the most literate, most publication-hungry of all the ethnic groups in America. (Jones, 18).   Printers, especially Jewish founded printers, began to flourish by meeting this increased demand.   A new culture began as the Americanization of this generation was communicated through information and passed on to a new generation.   The print industry allowed for opportunities in other major East Coast cities as immigrants spread out.

            It was in these Jewish communities American comics where born.   As one of the most educated demographics in the nation, many Jews were not found in the coal mines, or steel mills of the east coast.   They sought more “white collar” employment as business owners, lawyers, doctors, writers, and most importantly illustrators, publishers, and salesmen. Many of the flourishing publishers needed illustrations to go with their publications.   They needed cartoonists for their editorial and commentary sections.   To keep in trend with England and the rest of Europe, magazines and newspapers in the US also began running comic strips in serial.

            Persecution across Europe led to increased immigration, and wealthy families were able to help entire villages make the move across the Atlantic.   The new generation birthed from these immigrants would become the pioneers of the comics industry and household names even today for comic scholars and fans.    Maxwell Gaines (born Maxwell Ginzberg) collected popular comic strips to create the first American comic book.   He went on to found Educational Comics, publisher of the popular series Picture Stories from the Bible.   His son, Bill Gaines, inherited the company and eventually establishes EC Comics, renowned for their horror and crime comic books. Ukrainian, Jack Liebowitz and Romanian, Harry Donenfeld would create National Allied Publications, which became DC comics (now owned by Warner Brothers).   Liebowitz also worked with Maxwell Gaines to co-publish All-American Comics, the company which founded Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, and more.  

Florida’s Martin Goodman became a publisher of pulp magazines would hire Captain America co-creators Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, to start Timely Comics.   Timely comics would transition to Atlas Comics; eventually become what is known today as industry leader Marvel Comics (now owned by Disney).   A young man named Stanley Martin Leiber would take over for Joe Simon as the editor-in-chief at Timely publications.   He grew the company from a small publishing house into a mega-corporation.   Most anybody in America will recognize him from his television shows and movie cameos, as the father of Marvel Comics and creator of many of America’s most famous superheroes, Stan Lee.

Even though the roots of comics started from Jewish ghettos, the industry thrived through many eras and ushered in waves of diverse creative minds.   Surprisingly many of the early comic strip, pulp magazine, and comic book artists were women.   During the 1920’s and 30’s most of the women involved in painting many of the lavish fantasy landscapes were published with pen names as men, out of fear having a woman connected to the title would decrease sales.   Even today many do not know the impact of the likes of Janice Valleau Winkleman.   Just like Jews, many other social minorities turned to comics because they thought of themselves or their ideas as unwelcome in more reputable spheres of publishing and entertainment. (Hajdu, The Ten-Cent Plague 9).  If you read some old strips from the 1920’s and prior it is easy to see where conservatives would criticize some of the out spoken and over sexualized women found in comics.   It is fitting the industry did become a voice throughout its lifetime as a medium to portray minority rights issues.  

The onset of the industry survived World War I and the Roaring 20’s.   The beginnings of mass produced comic books started during the Depression and prohibition era.   While superheroes were not well established yet, the 30’s were rife with crime novels and westerns.   Creators had invented a new medium to tell the stories of American folk heroes and found curiosity in the lives of real life gangsters.   Many characters resembling Bonnie and Clyde, John Dillinger found their way into comics.   There were stories mirroring current culture talking of racial prejudice, bootlegging, bank robbing, organized crime, and a dislike for the constraint of government control.   Westerns portraying the freedoms of the Wild West and books glorifying gangsters showed a collective political sentiment of the era.   Creators do as Alan Moore suggests in his book, Writing for Comics “write what you know.”

Second-class citizens would eventually break the mold and become main stream.   Being the voice of a counter culture for such a long time; poking fun at authority figures, pushing the limits of decency, and stepping outside the lines paved the way for comics as society conceives of them today. New creators come from all walks of life and seem to follow this same bit of advice.   Superstar screen writers and novelists like Joss Whedon and Neil Gaiman have written many popular comic series.   While long time comic writers have also found time to write scripts for popular television series and film.   Creators are quick to give credit to those who came before them, and still many continue to evolve the industry with their stories.   Frank Miller, Alan Moore, and others broke the mold of oppression the industry suffered for years and invigorated new life into the medium.   Others took the road of Art Spiegelman and transcended the genre to create literary masterpieces.

Fortunately as prohibition was repealed and a new war was looming the nation began to change, and with it so did the American Comic.   Transitionining from serial strips to the point were even Bible stories were being printed in comic form, comics were being used as educational aids.  Many other stories and even US Historic events were quickly adapted to comic form to help assimilate the increasing immigrant population.   Moving on to the entertainment perspective where criminals were being locked up and chased by masked crime fighters.   Female characters began to shed a little skin and be a little more bold when in disguise as women were about to get the right to vote.   The change in policy and temperament of America, demand for something more exciting was created; and eventually led to the creation of a new (and now most popular) genre, the super hero book.  

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20th Century Amercan Comics and Politics Part 2: What are Comics?

Here is Part 2 of my editted down version of my paper.  Part one is hereWorks Cited and resources can be found here

What is a comic/graphic novel?

            Modern comics as most people think of them began primarily at the turn of the 20 century.   It would surprise many to find out comics have been around for numerous centuries before Superman.   If one pondered it long enough, they could even relate hieroglyphics from various ancient cultures to modern comics.   Comic’s scholar, Scott McCloud, gives the most accurate definition to date: “Juxtaposed pictorial and other images in a deliberate sequence intended to convey information and/or to produce an aesthetic response.” (McCloud, Understanding Comics 9).  

            Using this definition eliminates many things from the discussion table when discussing or studying comics.   The category does not include: single image and caption pairings found in most political cartoons, Farside or Family Circus cartoons, individual paintings or pieces of art, films, or animation.   It is important to give comics this differentiation because of the unique characteristic comics have in their interaction with the reader.   Comics are the only form of media which use one of the five senses to stimulate them all, while also giving a perception which spans both directions of time.

            The unique design of comics allows readers to hear sounds with brilliantly placed onomatopoeias and steady yet familiar character definition, through dialogue.   Textures and depth are presented masterfully with the use of different lines in the art of comics.   Even certain situations and images can move together with wavy lines to let the ready know something smells bad, or may taste sweet.   All of this happening through a flow of time the reader can observe.   The layout of comics gives readers a sense of past, present, and future; giving a sense of movement, as their eyes follow the panels around the page.   Coming together it is easy to see how comics can bring forth a broad array of emotions from a reader.

            Most of society is quick to label comics as “kids’ stuff.”   This segment ignores the history of comics all together.   The target audience for comics is just as dependent on the message within each individual piece as is a film or television show.   Any genre one can think of in film or literature can also be found in comics.   These “funny books” were actually found to be so beneficial to conveying information they were implemented for use in Army manuals, text books, instructional diagrams, and religious pamphlets.

 Without noticing modern society passes by, gathers information, scans through, reads and learns from comics.   Just in case an individual slept through the flight attendant’s demonstration on using oxygen masks, flotation devices, and pointing out the location of the exits; there is a handy pamphlet tucked away in the snug pocket in front of each passenger.   This comic gives out all of the same information without the crackling robotic overhead voice.   In a sense, comics can even save lives.

            The modern comic as we think of it found it roots in the strips published by magazines and newspapers as filler, and entertainment.   Before characters in America such as Li'l Abner, Batman, and Fritz the Cat, became popular enough to have a life all their own, England had produced the first comic’s superstar almost 50 years prior.   Ally Sloper is the first character known to sweep a nation and become part of society.   (Sabin, Comics Study Reader 177).   Born out of the pages of Judy magazine in 1867, little drunkard conman would also be the beginning of the strong relationship between politics and comics in the more politically oriented Punch. (Sabin, 178).

            Sloper could be seen having many misadventures and involved in numerous schemes, making riffs at the government or stereotyped conceptions of foreigners.   Sloper was a part of British popular culture for much of the late 19 century and into pre-World War I 20 century.   He was used as a marketing tool, and became so popular advertising space was sold to be included into what may have been the first comic book.   As amazed as American comic scholars will be, Sloper’s strips were collected in comic book form in a series of 7 books began almost 60 years before Famous Funnies was conceived.

            The success of comic strips in Europe began to work its way into the American print media at the turn of the 20 century.   The industry grew as more and more immigrants came to the country, even Joseph Pulitzer started using comic strips as a way to communicate and bridge the language barriers between peoples.   The inclusion of the funnies in Sunday papers led to increased sales of mainstream news papers printed in English.   The strips were similar to those which developed in Europe.   Some were to simply entertain and others were used as political messages.  

The comic section’s inclusion changed Sundays in the American home, and as early as 1909 led to outcry from conservative church groups.   Though most of this was born out of racism, they stood behind ideals and messages about “keeping the Sabbath holy.”   (Hajdu, The Ten-Cent Plague, 12).   After William Randolph Hearst entered the industry he began to print the comic section in color.   News papers at this time were the only means of mass communication for the family home.   Through these colorful and sometimes anarchic strips, the first American comic superstars developed in these periodicals. Years later during and after World War I, the opponents of the industry quieted down and a new era in publishing was ushered in with the birth of the American comic book.  

Immigrants Maxwell Gaines and Harry Wildenberg collaborated with Dell Publishing to print a 36 page book Famous Funnies: A Carnival of Comics.  After Dell turned down the young entrepreneurs on future printings, the idea was picked up on by rival publisher Eastern Color. (Wright, Comic Book Nation 3).    During the Great Depression the American comic book became a phenomenon.   Success, as previously stated, was the ease of communication across language barriers coupled with a ten cent price tag.   Ten cents was all it took for an American to take a brief break from the hard times brought on by the depression.   Printing the books almost destroyed the publisher.   The fad had spread across the nation as people would swap books and pass them along.   With issue #12 the American comic had become Eastern Color’s most lucrative publication.   (Wright, 5).    Other publishers followed suit after seeing how lucrative the comic book had become and a 75 year old multi-billion dollar industry was born.

            With society, the entity known as the comic book followed trends, culture, and politics.   Moving from popular pulp magazines, which usually told science fiction, and crime stories and evolution began as the industry grew.   This growth led to the eventual development of the “graphic novel.”   Simply using the term novel would connect one’s mind to literature.   The industry can thank the father of comics, Will Eisner, for his work and collaboration with Art Spiegelman and Denis Kitchen.   They envisioned comics having the ability to be something more than quick stories becoming predictable and cliché.   They set forth for comics to have a greater purpose and with Eisner’s Contract with God and Other Tenement Stories; the evolution to graphic novel had begun. The relevancy of the genre was proven with Spiegelman’s Pulitzer Prize winning Holocaust work, Maus: A Survivor’s Tale, in 1986. (Weiner, The rise of the Graphic Novel 36).  

            The popularity of comics and graphic novels has waxed and waned with society.   Public involvement, interest, and fascination with the industry are closely tied to politics, technology, and the economy.   The industry has evolved with the consumer, adapting to political ideals while making advances in technology.   Even now major publishers who don’t already have digital based product are quickly developing them.   The marketing is just as strong, if not stronger, than it was in the 1940’s.   Multiple movies come out every year based on comic superheroes or epic stories from graphic novels.   Even mainstream novelist Stephen King, has allowed his creations to be re-interpreted in comic form.   Along with these come video games, music sound tracks, toy lines, spoofs, and an emergence at the forefront of modern American pop-culture.


Resources and Cited for 20th century American Comics and Politics


A Comics Studies Reader. Ed. Jeet Heer and Kent Worcester. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2009. Print.

Allen, Kate, and John E. Ingulsrud. "Manga Literacy: Popular Culture and the Reading Habits of Japanese College Students." Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy 46.8 (2003): 674+. Questia. Web. 20 Mar. 2011.

Behlman, Lee. "The Escapist: Fantasy, Folklore, and the Pleasures of the Comic Book in Recent Jewish American Holocaust Fiction." Shofar 22.3 (2004): 56+. Questia. Web. 20 Mar. 2011.

Berger, Arthur Asa. The Comic-Stripped American: What Dick Tracy, Blondie, Daddy Warbucks and Charlie Brown Tell Us about Ourselves. New York: Walker Publishing, 1973. Questia. Web. 20 Mar. 2011.

Bernstein, Lee. The Greatest Menace: Organized Crime in Cold War America. Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 2002. Questia. Web. 20 Mar. 2011.

Brown, Jeffrey A. "Comic Book Masculinity and the New Black Superhero." African American Review 33.1 (1999): 25. Questia. Web. 20 Mar. 2011.

Chaney, Michael A. "Drawing on History in Recent African American Graphic Novels." MELUS 32.3 (2007): 175+. Questia. Web. 20 Mar. 2011.

"Civil War Epic Explores Many Critical Social Issues." The Washington Times 30 Sept. 2006: C09. Questia. Web. 20 Mar. 2011.

Clarkson, Alexander. "Virtual Heroes: Boys, Masculinity and Historical Memory in War Comics 1945 - 1995." Thymos 2.2 (2008): 175+. Questia. Web. 20 Mar. 2011.

Cullen, Jim. The Art of Democracy: A concise History of Popular culture in the United States. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1996.   Print.

Duncan, Randy and Matthew J. Smith.   The Power of Comics: History, Form, & Culture. New York, NY: The Continuum International Publishing Group Inc., 2009. Print.

Eisner, Will. Graphic Storytelling and Visual Narrative. Tamarac, FL: Poorhouse Press, 1996. Print.

---. Comics and Sequential Art: Principles and Practices from the Legendary Cartoonist. Tamarac, FL: Poorhouse Press, 1985. Print.

---. Expressive Anatomy for Comics and Narrative: Principles and Practices from the Legendary Cartoonist. New York, NY: W. W. Norton and Company, Inc., 2008. Print.

"The Escapist Must Stop Postwar Nazi Activity." The Washington Times 29 Jan. 2005: C09. Questia. Web. 20 Mar. 2011.

Gizzi, John. "Death of the "comics Commando"." Human Events 1 Sept. 2003: 14+. Questia. Web. 20 Mar. 2011.

Groensteen, Thierry. The System of Comics. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2009. Print.

Hajdu, David.   The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008. Print.

Heilbrunn, Jacob. "Ker-Splat!." Washington Monthly June 2001: 46. Questia. Web. 20 Mar. 2011.

Jones, Gerard.   Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters and the Birth of the Comic Book. New York, NY: Basic Books, 2004. Print.

Juan-Navarro, Santiago, and Theodore Robert Young, eds. A Twice-Told Tale: Reinventing the Encounter in Iberian/Iberian American Literature and Film. Newark, DE: University of Delaware Press, 2001. Questia. Web. 20 Mar. 2011.

The Language of Comics:   Word and Image . Ed. Robin Varnum and Christina Gibbons. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2001. Print.

Lent, John A., ed. Pulp Demons: International Dimensions of the Postwar Anti-Comics Campaign. Madison, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1999. Questia. Web. 20 Mar. 2011.

Madrid, Mike.   The Supergirls: Fashion, Feminism, Fantasy, and the History of Comic Book Heroines. USA: Exterminating Angel Press, 2009. Print.

Matthews, Kristin L. "A Mad Proposition in Postwar America." The Journal of American Culture 30.2 (2007): 212+. Questia. Web. 20 Mar. 2011.

McCloud, Scott. Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art. New York: HarperPerinnial, 1994. Print.

McLaughlin, Jeff, ed. Comics as Philosophy. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2005. Questia. Web. 20 Mar. 2011.

Palmer-Mehta, Valerie, and Kellie Hay. "A Superhero for Gays?: Gay Masculinity and Green Lantern." The Journal of American Culture 28.4 (2005): 390+. Questia. Web. 20 Mar. 2011.

Rivera, Lysa. "Appropriate(d) Cyborgs: Diasporic Identities in Dwayne McDuffie's Deathlok Comic Book Series." MELUS 32.3 (2007): 103+. Questia. Web. 20 Mar. 2011.

Rodriguez, Paul M. "Paul Takes the Fall? Accused of Securities and Bank Fraud, Colorful Hollywood Promoter Peter Paul Says He Was Targeted as the Bad Guy at Stan Lee Media Inc. to Protect among Others, Bill and Hillary Clinton and the Fund-Raisers of the Democratic Party." Insight on the News 1 Oct. 2002: 18+. Questia. Web. 20 Mar. 2011.

Rubenstein, Anne. Bad Language, Naked Ladies, and Other Threats to the Nation: A Political History of Comic Books in Mexico. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1998. Questia. Web. 20 Mar. 2011.

"Saving the World Ain't What It Used to Be." The Washington Times 6 Mar. 2009: B01. Questia. Web. 20 Mar. 2011.

Schwartz, Ben. "Little Ideological Annie: How a Cartoon Gamine Midwifed the Graphic Novel-And the Modern Conservative Movement." Artforum International Oct. 2008: 60. Questia. Web. 20 Mar. 2011.

Slade, Joseph W. Pornography and Sexual Representation: A Reference Guide. Vol. 1. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2001. Questia. Web. 20 Mar. 2011.

Smith, Susan E. "Defeating Stereotypes." Diverse Issues in Higher Education 4 Oct. 2007: 20+. Questia. Web. 20 Mar. 2011.

Versaci, Rocco. This Book Contains Graphic Language: Comics as Literature. New York, NY: The Continuum International Publishing Group Inc., 2007. Print.

Wecker, Menachem. "On the Strange Relationship between Religion and Comics." World and I Apr. Questia. Web. 20 Mar. 2011.

Weiner, Stephen. Faster than a Speeding Bullet: The Rise of the Graphic Novel. New York: NBM Publishing Inc., 2004. Print.

Wolk, Douglas. Reading Comics: How Graphic Novels Work and What They Mean. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 2007. Print.

Wright, Bradford W.   Comic Book Nation: The Transformation of Youth Culture in America. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001. Print

Xenakis, Nicholas J. "T for Terrorist." The National Interest Summer 2006: 134+. Questia. Web. 20 Mar. 2011.

Yule, Robert J. "COMIC BOOK NATION: The Transformation of Youth Culture in America." The Wilson Quarterly Summer 2001: 126. Questia. Web. 20 Mar. 2011.

Start the Conversation

20th Century American Comics and Politics Part 1: intro

After completing the process of my long a grueling senior paper and finishing my degree, I will finally have some time to get back to previous blogs and reviews.  In the mean time I will be putting up segments of my paper each week while I work on writing/finishing other stuff.   Since most of you will probably never read all 93 pages which will be published in some political science journal no-one has ever heard of, I've compressed it to pieces. 
Here is an abstract, summary of contents and the intro.  Next week I'll start putting the sections up.  Enjoy!!


            HrdwrkngXsodlier examines American comics and the relationship they share with the political history and progression of the United States.   HXS defines comics and identifies it as no longer being an “alternative” media form.   The article invokes the educational and historical significance the correlation between the two has for the classroom and into the future.


I.                    Introduction :

1.       Comics are discounted by most scholars.

2.       Comics have grown with society.

3.       Not a “cartoon.”

4.       Importance to culture

5.       Close ties between politics in comics and with the industry.

6.       Thesis Statement.

II.                 What is a comic/graphic novel? :

1.       Define Comic

2.       Evolution of the comic to graphic novel.

3.       Target audience.

4.       Creators

5.       Popularity of this “alternative media.”

III.              Politics of “Who writes comics?” :

1.       Founders of the industry.

2.       Ties to the Jewish exodus to the US.

3.       Politics of immigration.

4.       Prohibition and Comics.

5.       Comics as learning aids.

IV.              Politics of WWII and comics :

1.       Birth of the Superhero.

2.       Patriotism and Propaganda.

3.       Rally the Troops.

4.       Women in Battle.

5.       Japanese Front.

V.                 Post WWII politics and comics :

1.       Conservative movement in comics.

2.       McCarthyism.

3.       Dr. Frank Wertham “comic’s enemy.”

4.       The Comics Code and Censorship.

5.       Comics Casualties of the era.

VI.              Comics and the Civil Rights Era :

1.       Rebirth of the Superhero.

2.       Cold War Comics

3.       The X-men.

4.       Black Panther, first black superhero.

VII.           Politics, comics and Disco :

1.       Feminism and the Funny Books.

2.       Vietnam and Comics

3.       All new X-men, success in equal rights.

4.       Mixed relationships in comics.

5.       Stretching the Comics Code.

VIII.        80’s: Reagan, War on Drugs, Bull Market, idealism, and comics :

1.       New conservatism in comics.

2.       Sexual Revolution in comics.

3.       War and Drugs and comics.

4.       Emergence of the Graphic Novel.

5.       American Idealism and comics.

IX.              90’s Comics and Political Trends :

1.       Flood of market with Economic Growth.

2.       New Kids on the Block.

3.       Death of the Comics Code.

4.       Post Cold War Comics.

5.       Equality and Comics.

X.                 New Millennium Politics and Comics :

1.       9/11 and Comics.

2.       Patriot act and Comics.

3.       Conspiracy Theories and Comics.

4.       Comics are Relevant.

5.       Gay Rights Movement and Comics.

XI.              Current Events and Comics :

1.       Rethinking heroes and politics.

2.       Comics take on modern politics.

3.       The President and Comics.

4.       Globalization and comics.

XII.           Conclusion :

1.       Closing Statements.

2.       Comics in the Classroom.

3.       The future of comics and politics.


            CRACK!   Lightning shoots across the screen, the villain has just been utterly destroyed and defeated.   This defeat was inevitable to most.   A movie about a guy flying around with the mystical hammer, Mjllorin, and the powers of Thor, Norse god of thunder, is something many didn’t envision during the birth of the American comic superhero 75 years ago.   Even then most stories were written for adults, but discounted as “kids’ stuff.”  

            The emergence of the American comic book was a development of an entirely new form of literature.   Though, during the beginnings of the now multi-billion dollar industry people had no idea the significance in culture this new medium would be.   Intertwining stories and images was a novelty, usually reserved for children’s books.   Even today the significance of events and impact the American comic book has regarding American culture and politics is often ignored.   While comics and graphic novels have seen a renaissance in the new millennium with countless film adaptations, they are still overlooked by a majority of scholars and lumped into a sub category of culture “alternative media.”

            When bringing up politics and comics, the first thing one may think of is a favorite political cartoon by Ed Subitzky or a historical reference of a statement illustrated in classic engravings by early 18 Century cartoonist, William Charles.   These cartoons may be inspirational, they may be satirical; but they are not comics.   The comic book medium has much more to offer in its pages of story, and can go even further in depth than one picture with a snarky blurb.

            Like all forms of media, American culture and the changing of the times can be illustrated in comics.   There are even some revolutionary ideas inside the “funny books” sitting on the magazine rack.   One can track economic, political, and social trends through the pages of comics.   Reading a copy of Art Spiegelman’s Maus; and you will find a well written graphic novel can capture just as much truth or history as a film, sitcom, documentary, or magazine feature.  

            Creators have a chance to get messages to a mass audience, young and old.   The broad base audience is why comics were the first media to be actively censored and screened in the United States; a blow to the First Amendment of the Constitution many do not know about or remember.   Political climate of the US has affected comics, just as much as comics have affected politics.   The Civil Rights Movement may have had a good deal of underground comics distributed through “head shops” across America; but it also was brought to the forefront by creators Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.

            The evident relationship American comics share with cultural, political, and social change over 100 years of modern US history will continue through the new millennium; and the popularity of the medium will eventually cause the “alternative” tag to be dropped as comics and graphic novels have established themselves to be a relevant form of literature.


Independently Speaking: What kind of comic reader are you?-Part 3

First, I want to apologize to the readers for the delay.   I have been really busy with stuff at home and the entire graduate education application process for optometry schools.   I am back now and while I may not be able to continue on a weekly basis, you should see something posted at least every other week.   Before my furlough I was in the process of breaking down all the different types of comic readers out there.   If you are new, feel free to play catch-up and enjoy! 
(Part 1) (Part 2)

Purist of the Pure: Part III Mike and Dave 


The last installment was dedicated the leisure readers.   Mike and Dave are special though.   Marvel Mike and DC Dave have spent a good deal of their time debating and justifying their perspective choice alternative realities.   I talked with a couple Mikes and a handful of Daves in order to understand them better.   What I found out is no one thing sets them apart, most of their arguments are over the same issues, and they show their devotion on many different levels.

With our Crisises Combined....

The Continuity Critics and Story Sticklers :  

These readers typically add fuel to the fire, in the heated debate of story vs. continuity.   Mike is going to tell you of the rich history Marvel has and how they try to stay close to the roots of all the characters.   They say this continuity is what actually makes the Marvel Universe work.   By fleshing out every detail of every character and event, tying them all together, and finishing dangling plot threads; Marvel has created its own reality.   Even these Marvel loyalists are easily upset by snafus in continuity and the occasional retroactive continuity change (or retcon for veteran comic geeks).    It may seem at times these Mikes care more about consistency than characters.   However, they are steadfast in defending their favorite properties from movies ignoring comic history.   Mikes will take every opportunity to point out the various reset buttons DC has done, but not without Dave firing back.
Deadpool is a Critic

Daves seem mellow in comparison.   They tend to be more story sticklers than continuity critics.   They are prepared for most changes ahead of time, because they know change is inevitable and part of the DC Comics’ circle of life.   Their primary side of the argument is most things stay the same and the status quo changes very little with each crisis.   They are willing to accept it because they believe DC readers are treated to better stories.   While reset button after reset button being pushed almost anything and everything can be retconned all at once.    This supposedly gives writers more creative freedom.   Which, with some strange calculation; is supposed to equal greater stories.   Mikes acknowledge the statement could be true, but believe with writers like Jason Aaron, Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Jonathan Hickman, and many more; Marvel will continue to offer great stories which tie together like a well made fishing neck.

There is no lack of sticklers and critics on the other sides of these arguments.   This is only the most often presented case.

The Power-player and the Humanist :   Though power-players exist on both sides of the Dave vs. Mark battle.   They are most associated with DC and their favorite unbeatable


Everybody makes mistakes.

weapon.   The Batman!    Everybody has heard it, “nobody can beat Batman as long as he has prep time.”   You see it in every versus thread out there which includes Gotham’s Dark Knight.   Power-players may focus on a specific character, but they definitely believe there is little to no equal from the opposing publisher.   Even though science and logic are not the foundations on which comics are built upon, power-players are willing to suspend disbelief more than average readers.   They read their books and feed off of the fact their hero does not err.  

To err is to be human.   It is easier to relate to characters which actually have human characteristics.   Many Mikes fall into the Humanist area of readership.   They choose to read marvel characters for not only their victories, but also their flaws.   There is no character in the Marvel Universe with a normal life and a happily ever after ending every issue.   Even when awesome power is present, these readers see the one thing involved they may relate too.    Humanists will argue characters from other publishers are too perfect.   They believe weaknesses are just as important as powers, to a character and their story.

Again Mikes and Daves can both be counted under these categories.    The argument is made both ways.   It is hard to argue when everybody in your universe seems to have a power ring now.   Every character has some weakness, and nobody stays dead in comics except Bucky...uh Uncle Ben.


The Utopians and the Political analysts :  

The Daves’ universe of choice is one based ultimately upon fantasy.   Every city, every politician, and everything going on are works of fiction.   They enjoy the escape from current events and reality.   They are content in imagining a world similar to our own, but very different.   This again may give writers more freedom, allowing stories which wouldn’t make sense many other places.   The DC Utopians are also happy with the simplified universe they have after one of the many crises tied all realities in the DC mythos closer together.   Not having a set timeline that includes real celebrities and personalities keeps DC’s Universe timeless.

Mike on the other hand will pick up his favorite book and enjoy picturing a real world with superheroes in it.   Kick-Ass may be entirely more accurate of a portrayal, but it is easy to notice familiar buildings and pop-culture references.   Marvel has never been afraid to confront major political issues in their books as well.   (No matter how much Joe-Q denies it.)   This take on the real world in the Marvel 616 Universe is closely tied to ours.   It allows progression.   Putting things into context like the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the energy crisis,


global terrorism, and the Patriot Act; show progressive thinking presenting a case for Mikes to declare they are more intelligent because of their ‘experience’ reading a comic book.

I’m not counting Vertigo or Wildstorm in this, so calm down Daves.   I know that DC gets political on occasion, but they rarely leave the reality they have created.   Mike just has to be a little sad as well that he will never see Steve Rogers as president, unless it is in an alternate reality.

The Diversity differentiator:   These readers are amusing to me.   Mike will point out how the entire Bat-family is almost the exact same character or half the DC Universe is comprised of people with power rings.   They say they want diversity.    The problem with this argument is Dave battling back with the lack of variety in power-sets of Marvel Characters and the lame duck excuse of being a mutant as an origin story.   Making more Wolverine clones didn’t help Mike’s defense much either. 

Am I taking crazy pills! They are all the same!



All in all Mike and Dave are interesting creatures.   They are definitely two sides of the same fan-boy coin.   Love or hate these purists, they often serve as the educators and experts on their perspective universes.

Next installment I will take you into the depths of one of the most well-rounded readers, All-around Al.    


Indypendently Speaking: What Kind of Comic Reader are You? Part 2

Purist of the Pure: Part II The Larrys   (Finding your True Comic Identity)

Last entry I went ahead and did my best to create a category for the different type of comic readers out there.  

The way that I’m laying this out is last week we gave everybody a collector first (and sometimes also a middle) name.   As I take readers deeper into each classification this should help further define reader type by adding a last name.   I know that in some cases individuals to not accept that they are only boxed into one category so your last names could end up hyphenated, so depending on how you categorize yourself you could end up having 5 or 6 names, having the title that comes of the tongue like an 18 century British noble.    (example David Fredrick Casual Closet Lantern.)   That may not make much sense now, but as this in depth look at the types of comic readers develops every thing should come into focus.

Today we will examine further the Leisure Larry (Lisa) reader.   This diverse creature comes in many shapes and forms, but in my opinion is the heart of the comic book industry.   The comic biz is huge and there is definitely a great deal of people contributing to the success of the market.   If it weren’t for all the casual fans out there the movie productions that we have received over the past decade probably wouldn’t have been near as successful as they were.   The world just loves comics again and a big part of the revitalization of the industry is these leisure readers.  

Monsters are not the only things in the closet.


The Closet Reader: Many individuals that have classified them selves as Freds, Daves, Ikes, or anything else could fall into this category.   These are the readers that don’t want anybody to really know that they are into comics.   They pick up a few comics from time to time, but don’t really care about keeping or collecting them.   Closet readers are more likely to be lurkers on message boards and forums, but may make the occasional post.   They aren’t necessarily ashamed of being a comic geek but they definitely don’t wear their membership on their chest.   They get excited over new movies coming out and usually have no problem with continuity problems between the films and the books which prevents them from being caught up in a bout of nerd rage by their non-geek friends.   They still have a pulse on the industry somewhat and usually keep track of things via the internet or pick up and browse through a Wizard Magazine to get up to date.   Being in the closet is okay, the rest of the comic reading world still accepts you.   They will converse openly when in the presence of other comic readers and pick up some new knowledge if they have been out of the loop.   Closet readers may be afraid of being judged for liking something childish, or just not want the hassle of being confronted about their secret vice. (If you’re lurking…its okay to post here folks.   We won’t judge.)

The internet said....


The Database Reader:   This is the leisure class that just doesn’t see justification for purchasing comics in a business that keeps getting more and more expensive to follow.   They may be broke, or could just be prioritizing many other things above their love for comics.   They will make the occasional purchase usually a trade paperback of a story arc interesting to them.   The Databasers do however get most of their knowledge from Wikipedia, ComicVine, Marvel Database, and other sources.   They might have a couple comic’s news sites favorited in their browser.   They aren’t afraid to discuss comics with people, and appreciate up to date information even if it has spoilers in it.   (They probably read solicits anyway.)   Database readers still love the industry enough that they will see most comic related movies, and may even purchase a couple action figures or some t-shirts.   Their knowledge will have story gaps in it because as good as database sites are they are far from conclusive.   This reader is generally online often enough that they will enter comic message board and forum discussions.   Sometimes scorned upon by more active readers on the boards due to not actually paying for anything they may be currently complaining or griping about.   If you classified yourself under anything other than Larry/Lisa and this is how you keep up on comics... Well you were mistaken.   You are also a leisure reader.

The Binge!


The Binge Reader:   Just like every habit or hobby, the comic industry has their bingers too.   The gaps between purchasing/reading books can stem from months to years.   The reasons contributing to the binge are varied.   The binge could be onset easily by a new comic related movie coming out, not having time to read, or just boredom.   Cost is also a contributing factor, hobbies are typically something that requires some sort of financial backing and economics can be tricky.   The binge reader may just happen to walk by a comic shop or the magazine section at a bookstore and pick up a nice stack of books to tide them over until the urge comes again.   Binge readers may not stay up to date with news and the goings on of the business on the net or with magazines but get chucks of stuff that interests them all at once.   Because their purchase varies from multiple titles to see what is going on to a year long run on their favorite character or team, bingers have different degrees of comic knowledge.   Another benefit to us all is that bingers tend to be the ones reselling their books after they are read.   It could be immediately or after loosing interest again, but their items will hit the garage sale, auction block, or craigslist eventually.

Could be good...right?

The Dabbler :

  These readers are far from being in touch with the mainstream of the industry.   They may like comics but only in small doses.   They constantly think about getting into the pool but settle for testing the water with their toes.   They pick up a lot of #1 issues and re-launches to see if it may be something that interests them, and tuck them away hoping they could be worth something someday.   Once in awhile there is something that catches their eye (could just be the pretty pictures) and they stick with it for a story arc or two.   Dabblers are easily turned off by mega crossovers that require 50 books to get the complete story.   They may check the net to get the cliff’s notes version of what they have missed, but typically are known to be sporadic in their comic purchases.   A lot of dabblers tend to be genre readers get drawn in by thing like Marvel Zombies, Death of Dracula, or a new movie based book.   They are interested but not committed.
ROM, you are missed.


The Left-Out :   These are leisure readers that want to read books but they were left out of the mix.   They were often fans of a series that got cancelled, a character that died, or characters that just don’t get vary much exposure.   The Left-Out buy books when they come out.   Some-what related to the Freds of the world they just have their favorites and they have no interest in reading something else.   This could be a fan of ROM Space Knight, the original Earth616 Captain Marvel, or the underused Cloak and Dagger. (I’m kind of a Marvel Mike so forgive my lack of knowledge about other brands.) They would put more money into the industry if their books weren’t cancelled every 3 years after their 4 issue attempt at an ongoing.   The name I came up with suits them perfectly.   They may spend their dollars at the movie theaters, but they can’t find stories they like much less merchandise (like clothes and toys) to show their support.   Everybody here may know one or two of these unfortunate souls.   Be sure to let them know when something is out that they would like, even something similar.   Just being exposed to something new could be enough to garner their interest to get them out of their comfort bubble.

Understanding the Larry/Linda reader is important.   This was as comprehensive a breakdown as I could come up with.   If I missed something don’t be afraid to point it out, I may just have it falling under another category.  

I don’t believe the leisure reader is aware of much of the indie industry out there. So fans of publishers like Avatar, Moonstone, and Creators Edge Press (A lot of the Ike/Ingrids) could have an opportunity to inspire these readers to branch out a bit by introducing them to intensely story driven content.

Next week I will go into the Fanboy Thunderdome (thank the guys at panelsonpages.com for that term) and study the intricacies that are the Marvel and DC reader.

So again, what kind of comic reader are you?