Actually, the Golden Age isn’t the true start of comics. Comics started with comic strips and if I’m remembering history class right, “The Yellow Kid,” from yellow journalism, was one of the first strips. The Golden Age started in 1930’s and ran through the late 1940’s.
But the Golden Age started what is considered the Super Hero comics; heroes such as Superman, Batman, Captain America and Wonder Woman were some of the first super heroes.
I’ll admit, a lot of this is DC Comics and I’m not very familiar with DC.
From DC Comics About page, the public is told “in the spring of 1938, the first super hero story appeared in ACTION COMICS #1, introducing SUPERMAN. Other soon-to-be icons would follow, including BATMAN, WONDER WOMAN, GREEN LANTERN, THE FLASH and many others.” These comic icons are ones that even non-comic fanatics know about. These heroes set a precedent for others. Today, DC has eight imprints (DC Universe, Vertigo, Wildstorm, DC Direct, Minx, CMX, MAD, and Zuda) which focus on different aspects of comics; these imprints publish around 1000 comics every year.
We’ve come a long way from the Golden Age.
Okay, back to business.
The first appearance of Superman, which started the Golden Age, was in Action Comics #1. The comic was $0.10 (I pay anywhere from $0.99 to $3.99 for my comics), and 64 pages long (most of mine are 32 pages). A synopsis from Comic Book Data Base sums up the comics. Within the 64 pages, Superman saves a woman wrongly convicted murder who was going to be executed, turns a wife-beater over to the police, and saves Lois Lane from a harasser. He also starts to unearth corruption in the Senate.
This comic is the archetype for Superheroes comics. Following Superman are Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern and the Justice League. Timely Comics (which would later become Marvel) published Captain America and The Human Torch. Even when I was younger and didn’t have a clue about comic books, I knew who these characters were and are. The heroes that started in The Golden Age have lived through the years in various incarnations; most people know who the Heroes are, even if they don’t know everything about them. They are the ones that are on the Silver Screen.
A lot of these heroes arose because in the 30’s and ’40’s, America was in the Depression and then involved in World War II. Superman was an immigrant searching for the American Dream, giving hope in the Depression Era. In WWII, superheroes often fought against the Axis powers, and were patriotic symbols. They stood for all that was right and good. After the war, fighting bank robbers and the little crimes wasn’t as exciting as fighting the superpowers of Germany and Japan.
Since the Golden Age, comics have moved through the Silver Age and Bronze/Modern Age (this can’t be agreed on. Actually, the Golden and Silver Ages can’t really be agreed on either). Comics have morphed and changed; there are crossovers where heroes meet each other. There are graphic novels, which follow a comic book format, but are longer with a more in depth plot. There are reincarnations and different adaptions of characters. But most still hold true to the Heroes. And DC Comics is still around, with its eight imprints and nearly 1000 issues a year.
We may be 70 years past the Golden Age, but the Heroes of that Age are still around.
DC Comics. (2009). About DC Comics. Retrieved from http://www.dccomics.com/dccomics.