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.
I’m sure you know this new incarnation of the Flash: He’s the forensic police scientist Barry Allen! This version of the Flash was such a success that he ended up on TV! (And so did the Green Lantern later on).
Schwartz tried to revive a group that was incredible in the 40s: the Justice Society of America. The team was composed of the Flash, the Green Lantern, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, and the Martian Manhunter. Batman and Superman used to be cameos in this revival of the Justice Society of America. It was in 1960 that the Justice League of America debuted and it took the market like a storm.
Schwartz had a great character: reviving great Superheroes and supporting fans. He knew that fans were the ones who would support the comics as well, so he tried to answer as many fan mail as he could. He also helped connect fans to one another and supported their conventions.
Atlas Comics (Marvel) was in trouble. Martin Goodman asked Stan Lee to do some group of Superheroes to win a piece of the market pie. At that time Stan Lee was a little bit fed up and wanted to quit. Fortunately, his wife told him to do something he liked for once. And so, he created the Fantastic Four in 1961.
The Fantastic Four were at odds from the Justice League: they have no secret identities, they are super flawed, the had no costumes at the beginning, one of them was a monster (the Thing), and they were a very dysfunctional family. According to Lee, he created a bunch of characters he would relate to. But the differences between the Justice League and with other comics from DC went even further: DC tended to focus on plot development at the expense of characterization. Marvel focused on a more human approach.
Lee didn’t stop there, and along with Jack Kirby they created the Incredible Hulk and Thor in 1962. But the greatest hit came from Lee and Steve Ditko: they created Spiderman! Peter Parker is bitten by a radioactive Spider. He decides to take advantage of his powers at first and earn money from fighting. However, he soon learns that with great power comes great responsibility. Lee created a character many teens and kids would identify with. Spidey had similar problems many teens had.
Lee kept on creating great characters along with Kirby, Ditko, Don Heck and Bill Everett: Iron Man, the Avengers, Captain America, the X-men, Daredevil and Doctor Strange. Marvel was creating a deep connection with its fans. Besides, Stan Lee also created a personality cult around himself. In short: Lee was Marvel. He addressed the readers in the comics through captions. He created bulletins to talk about what was going on in Marvel’s headquarters. And, most importantly, he hit the college circuit. He created a participatory Universe where fans wanted to be in and have fun.
DC and Marvel had great success, to the point that other publishers left Superheroes to them and focused on other genres.
Next: we’ll discover what Comix did for women and Marvel.
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)
- The History of Comics, Including Women. The Era of Proliferation (Part 2)
- The History of Comics, Including Women. The Era of Diversification
- The History of Comics, Including Women. The Era of Retrenchment
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.]