The History of Comics, including Women, continues with the Era of Identity. In 1954 Atlas Comics tried to return to Superheroes again. They tried it bringing back Superheroes like the Sub-Mariner, the Human Torch, and Captain America. But it wasn’t a blast at all: they only lasted three issues. The problem during this era was the Communist hearings in the Senate. Fear run amok in the US, and this was reflected in comics.
In 1955 DC tried to introduce a new Superhero: the Martian Manhunter. This was an attempt after years of introducing no new Superheroes. And they did it in their famous Detective Comics. Then, in 1956 DC attempted the revival of the Flash under Julius “Julie” Schwartz. This new version of Flash had similar powers to his previous incarnation, but he had a totally different identity and a fantastic costume. It was such a hit that Schwartz decided to revive the Green Lantern in 1959.
The History of Comics, including Women, continues with the Era of Retrenchment. Here we see the rise of the television. The TV becomes the dominant mass media preferred by people, especially by kids. While the TV offered Superman’s adventures for free, comic books still cost 10 cents an issue. The Golden Age saw the birth of more publishers than the market could ever sustain later on. So, they had to change their preferred genres to survive. While Superhero comics were losing sales; romance, westerns, crime and horror saw a rise in their sales.
In 1955 the Comics Code was implemented. Some genres were banned with the code, like crime and horror. One publisher that was selling these in sheer amounts, EC, ended up leaving the business. EC tried to stay two more years in business with their “New Direction.” Other publishers found that publishing comics based on the TV was a great way for their sales. For example, Dell published Gunsmoke in 1956 and DC The Many Loves of Dobie in 1960. These comics easily qualified for the Comics Code Authority.
The History of Comics, including Women, continues with the Era of Diversification. This is an era where Superheroes falter and other types of comics shine, like funny animals (Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories from Dell), youngsters (Archie), crime comics (Dell’s Dick Tracy). Now we have Superheroes, funny animals, romance comics, westerns, crime comics… While Dell set up to print Walt Disney’s Comics in 1940, 1941 is the year in which the most famous teenager of all times saw the light: Archie. His success was so staggering that he’s still published today.
Surprisingly, it was a team of two men created Young Romance #1. Joe Simon and Jack Kirby created romance comics back in 1947, a genre that reached its popularity in the 50s. (Of course, this would be what men thought women would like to see in the pages of a comic.)
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?)
The History of Comics, including Women, continues with the Era of Proliferation, a productive time for comics, but a depressive one for the economy. In the Era of Invention part 2 we discovered all about frivolous flapper girls. However, the Depression would have no place for them. In a time, of restriction and harsh economic conditions for many, the need for hope was enormous. America was facing the organized crime that came from the 1920s, but it was the crash of the Black Tuesday of October 29, 1929, that created the massive catastrophe. Millions of dollars were lost, many people committed suicide, crime rose, and the roaring flashy attitude of the 20s died away.
No wonder, we saw the rise of Pulp heroes like the Shadow or detectives like Dick Tracy. During the 1930s radio heroes dominated the arena. One of them was the Shadow. Crossmedia started with the radio, so Pulp heroes (and Superheroes as well) would have their radio shows. Walter B. Gibson, under the nickname of Maxwell Grant, would write hundreds of Shadow stories from April 1931.
The History of Comics, including Women, continues with the Era of Intention part 3. In part 2 we discovered the pulp heroes that would influence Superheroes of the Depression. But before talking about tough times, let’s explore the pursuit of flappiness. During the 1920s, we could find Flapper girls. Flappers were an entire generation of young and liberated Western women who wore short skirts, bobbed hair and listened to jazz. They drank a lot, partied a lot, and had casual sex as well. The Roaring Twenties gave girls some freedom to explore themselves just as men did.
Clara Bow Brewster, Flapper girl.
During this period we find Art-Nouveau style Flapper strips and Art-Decó style Flapper strips. Some Flapper strip artists got so famous as to dictate fashion with their comic strips! One of them was Nell Brinkley (1886-1944), a comic strip artist we saw in the previous post. She had set the style for almost all the women cartoonists during the 1920s. Her Flapper girls were elegant and had incredible hair styles. But, these ladies also created tons of controversy and fan mail!
The History of Comics, including Women, continues with the Era of Intention part 2. In part 1 we discovered the origins of comics and great artists. Today we keep up with our list discovering some badass women who made their living out of comic strips.
Kate Carew (aka Mary Williams Chambers Reed, 1869-1961) was a famous woman caricaturist who lived a bohemians lifestyle and married three times. She was billed as ‘the only women caricaturist’and she too adventures her ink in strips with ‘The Angel Child’ (1902). This strip narrates the adventures of a baby-talking little girl who gets in trouble every single day. By 1911 she was writing and illustrating satire for the New York American and made fun of the anti-suffrage movement.
The History of Comics, including Women, might sound like a pretty odd title; however, you’d be surprised how little female authors you can find in books that explain the History of Comics, especially when the medium was born. But, seriously? No names? Couldn’t you include even just one? Because finding no female names brings a terrible question into mind: weren’t any women working in comics before WWII? To the surprise of no one, there were lots of women in the medium, however, to find those names, one has to dig and find some small jewels that explain the “history of women in comics.” However, even if these books are thrilling and recover gorgeous names of revolutionary women that went out on demonstrations asking for the female right to vote while creating comics, I must admit that few people will end up knowing their names only because you cannot find them in, what I call, mainstream books. Granted, you get the big names of women in comics from the fifties onwards, but: what about the revolutionary badass women who were working in the medium and had incredible lives? What about their astonishing work that we can still enjoy today, and for the most part, we have no clue where it all comes from? Isn’t it better to just add some few pages to the History of Comics’ books and showcase them too? Why is that so hard?
So, fed up of never finding the take I’d like to find in a ‘History of Comics’ book, I decided to make things right. This series just wants to write a ‘History of Comics’ mingling men and women into it from the very best beginning. And this is how a history of something should be told: with the entire population that brought it into being, not just dissected parts of it, nor just including the new blood because you know, now we’re different and, modern, and we’re not sexist anymore. [Let me coff on that.]
Because I believe History on whatever is made by men and women, this post series aims to show a ‘History of Comics’ in a revolutionary light: including everyone! So, embrace yourself to read and enjoy a ‘History of Comics,’ the one I’d love to find printed on a mainstream book out there. Let’s begin!
Welcome to comics THORsday! Today we’re going to take a global look at the history of comic books in the US, but taking a look at women in comics. Women started to draw comic strips as soon as 1896! However, they’re always left out as if their contribution to comics has been minimal. Let’s re-discover their history!
Welcome to comics THORsday! Today we’re going to take a global look at the history of comic books in the US. During the following weeks, we’ll be taking a closer look at it. However, this week I want to focus on it from a global perspective.