The History of Comics, including Women, continues with the second part of the Era of Proliferation. We’re going to meet Batman and discover how the shop system worked. In May 1939 DC introduced the Batman, created by artist Bob Kane and writer Bill Finger. Batman was very different to Superman. It was first published in Detective Comics #27 bringing on the spotlight its heavy pulp roots (especially The Shadow). By 1948 Kane was doing very little art on Batman, so other artists took its place.
Witnessing the murder of his parents, Bruce Wayne decides to devote his life to fighting crime. When he becomes an adult, and after years of study, he becomes the Batman. Batman draws influences from pulp heroes like the Shadow, detectives like Sherlock Holmes and Dick Tracy, and other characters like Doc Savage.
So, DC had two very different Superheroes: Superman (who would stand for hope and justice) and Batman (who would stand for fear and vengeance). These two heroes couldn’t be more different: Clark came from a humble house in Kansas (and had alien origins, the ultimate immigrant), and Bruce came from a billionaire family from Gotham (a metaphor for New York, perhaps?)
From now on, we’ll see an explosion in the creation of more and more Superheroes. But we’ll also see very few names on the covers of those comics. Why? Early publishers thought that kids weren’t interested in writers and artists, and thus, they didn’t include their names on the comics. Only in a few cases, like in the case of Batman, Superhero comics would follow the comic strips format, including the artists. (Usually, only artists would get all the credit, and writers would see themselves out of the picture). Publishers would buy a product, and they didn’t care at all who was the writer or ghosting for the artist.
And thus, the shop system came into being. The shop system is also known as studio system. It was developed in the mid-thirties to meet the growing demand of comics at the time. Publishers needed new original material, and they need it fast. Most of the publishers had no editorial muscle, and so they relied on shops. Most of these publishers moved from the world of pulps to the world of comics, and so they needed original material immediately to survive.
A studio usually consisted on one large room studio with rows of artists and writers working on tables. Some studios worked as factories: some artists would create the drawings in pencil, others would ink it, etc. Exactly as a factory line.
Many shops were created during the 1940s, like C.C.Beck and Pete Constanza Studio would produce Captain Marvel for Fawcett Comics. However, this system started to decline as soon as Superhero comics sales fell by 1947.
One of the big names in the shop system is Will Eisner. He started his shop along with Jerry Iger in 1936. However, he’s better known by his later creations: The Spirit, A Contract with God (what is considered the first prominent graphic novel) and Comics and Sequential Art. In 1988 the “Oscars” of comics are named after him: Eisner Awards.
The Era of Diversification was around the corner: not only Superheroes would flock the shelves. Funny animals, comics for youngsters (Archie), or Romance comics started to take share on comic book stands. But, was this the only reason Superhero comics saw their decline? What about women in comics? Did we have anyone creating anything powerful? Discover it next time!
Next: we’ll take a look at Archie, Disney, and Dale Messick’s Brenda Starr! Don’t miss it!
What we’ve learned so far:
- The History of Comics, Including Women. The Era of Invention (part 1)
- The History of Comics, Including Women. The Era of Invention (part 2)
- The History of Comics, Including Women. The Era of Invention (part 3)
- The History of Comics, Including Women. The Era of Proliferation (Part 1)
Want to read more about this? Try:
- The Power of Comics : History, Form and Culture
- Pretty in Ink : American Women Cartoonists 1896-2013
- Dreamers of a New Day : Women Who Invented the Twentieth Century
[These are affiliate links. I only recommend things that I love.]