Monday, June 8, 2009


Comic books are, at least, as old as movies. beginning in the XXth Century, in the search of new ways of graphic and visual communication and expression.

Usually, comic books are also associated with the prehistoric paintings in caves and Egyptian hieroglyphics, all of them visual narratives of juxtaposed images. The existence of words was not mandatory, but with the adoption of symbols to represent them -- letters --, they were soon added to give more information and boost the narrative flow. The improvement of press and printing technology were strong factors to the development of the medium.

The Yellow Kid, in 1896, by Outcalt, essentially synthesized what had been made before him and introduced a new element: the balloon, a space where he wrote what the characters said, and that pointed to their mouth with a kind of tail.

This new kind of art now set, and the adventure begun. In the first decades of its life, comic books were essentially humoristic, and this is the explanation for the name they carry to date in English language.

The crash of the Stock Market in 1929 was a turning point in comic book's history, and in the 30's comic books grew up, starting to picture adventures.

The Golden Age of comics

science fiction
detective stories
jungle adventures

Alex Raymond's Flash Gordon

Chester Gould's Dick Tracy

Hal Foster's adaptation of E. R. Borroughs' Tarzan

About this time was created the first costumed character, the Phantom, written by Lee Falk and masterly drawn by Ray Moore. Falk is one of the best comic book writers of all time and probably the one that stood more time with the same character -- more than 50 years! Falk also created Mandrake the Magician, with pencils by Phil Davis.

The Comics evolved becoming part of mass culture. In the period 1940-1945 some four hundred super heroes were created, mostly based in Superman's model, though only a few survived. Two of them deserve to be highlighted: Batman, created in 1939 by Bob Kane, a darker character (inspired in Da Vinci's flying machine), and Zorro whose fame would exceed Superman's in the 80's, and Captain Marvel, by C.C. Beck, a young boy that earned magical powers every time . Captain America fought Hitler in the war years.

The 50's staged the greatest witch-hunt of comics ever, and a lot of prejudice from those days still remains. Psychiatrist Frederic Wertham wrote a book, The Seduction of the Innocent, where he accused comic books of causing youth corruption and juvenile delinquency. Among any other weird subjects, he accused comics of inciting youth to violence (what had already happened with rock'n'roll).

A Comics Code was then created destined to limit and rule on what could appear (and what could not) in the pages. It destroyed all horror titles from EC Comics, except for one, an humanistic mag, that remains until today: Mad.

While brother Greg was reading the action comics, I spent my allowance on Little Lulu Comics which were developed by Marjorie Henderson Buell and published by Dell Comics. The first Little Lulu appeared in the Saturday Evening Post as a one frame in September of 1935 and would run in the Post until late December of 1944.

Kind and Sincere Lulu always saved the day. Her books were published from February 1948-March of 1984. She did commericals for Kleenex on the Perry Como Show and Pepsi.

Because I liked them so well, I introduced them to my daughter.
What was your favorite comic book?

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