On a warm summer June day in 1938 the iconic hero, Superman, flew into our lives on the pages of Action Comics #1! Less than a year later, Batman premiered in Detective Comics #27. By October of 1939, Marvel Comics released its #1, which included the Human Torch, Angel, and Prince Namor the Sub-Mariner, followed by Fawcett Comics’ superhero Captain Marvel, DC Comics’ Flash, and Green Lantern which debuted in 1940. The following year, Marvel’s Captain America and DC’s Wonder Woman were published.
Comic books, in their present form, evolved from popular newspaper comic strips and first appeared as books that included reprints of The Katzenjammer Kids, Happy Hooligan, Buster Brown, and Mutt & Jeff. In fact, the first monthly comic book, Comics Monthly, began publication in 1922, in which those reprints of daily newspaper comic strips were featured. In February of 1935, National Allied Publications (DC Comics), published New Fun # 1, the first ever comic book consisting of completely original material.
From 1938 through the mid-1940s comic book popularity peaked. Today, monthly sales of comic books hover at around 100,000 copies, but in the early 1940s, before TV’s, computers, and smart phones, each of the most popular comics, Superman, Batman, and Captain Marvel, regularly sold 1.5 million copies per month!
During the post-war era, superhero comic books sales steadily plummeted causing some to cease publication. Through the mid-1950s, comic books with more serious themes like crime, romance, westerns, and horror became popular. However, Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman still retained their devoted readers.
Shockingly, in 1954, psychiatrist Fredric Wertham wrote in his bestselling book, Seduction of the Innocent, that comic books were corrupting the youth of America. He stated that Superman represented fascist ideals, Batman and Robin promoted a homosexual lifestyle, and Wonder Woman was a lesbian with a bondage fixation. Based on that “supposition” members of Congress had the author testify before the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency! Huh?
Aware of the possible backlash, that same year comic publishers created the Comics Code Authority in order to self-regulate their industry. The Code set a number of requirements. “In every instance good shall triumph over evil; if crime is depicted it shall be as a sordid and unpleasant activity; females shall be drawn realistically without exaggeration of any physical qualities; and vampires, ghouls, cannibalism and werewolves are prohibited.”
In 1971, the Comics Code relaxed some standards. “Vampires, ghouls, and werewolves shall be permitted to be used when handled in the classic tradition.” This allowed for the return of the horror genre, including The Tomb of Dracula in 1972, followed by Ghost Rider and the Tales of the Zombie in 1973. Additional supernatural characters, Man-Bat, Swamp Thing, and Blade were introduced in the early 1970s, while socially conscious stories also became more numerous. Green Lantern and Green Arrow fought against racism, pollution, and social injustice. Green Arrow confronted his sidekick Speedy’s heroin addiction, while Iron Man came to terms with his alcoholism. DC and Marvel also introduced a slew of minority superheroes such as Storm, Black Lightning, and Blade.
While readership has diminished, in this age of electronic entertainment, comic book collectors remain passionate. Recently an Action Comics #1, introducing Superman, sold for $3.25 million! But don’t fret, you can still acquire a copy of a 1988 reprint on eBay for a mere $180.00 (plus shipping). eBay and other online sellers are great places to learn and shop, however, if you want to experience comics in person, you can visit one of the dedicated stores in town, including Enterprize Comics, Etc. at 109 Key Road, or Comic Boom located at 22 West Street, or on Facebook.
One of those purveyors of fantasy, Comic Boom, has been at the same location for over fourteen years. They buy, sell, and trade new and used comic books, action figures, videos, and tabletop/hobby gaming, including Magic Cards a game that, from a non-player’s perspective, seems more daunting than chess! Cory Milotte, the owner of Comic Boom hosts “gatherings,” where Magic Card players can ply their skills trying to defeat their opponents with epic creatures and powerful enchantments.
Most Magic Cards are affordable, but like comics are also quite collectible. In fact, “The Mox Pearl,” which was part of the original Alpha set that debuted on August 5, 1993, can be bought for $8,000 - $19,000; a mere pittance compared to “The Black Lotus,” also created in 1993, that gives you three mana of any color, granting you massive power over your opponents (what??). It's the most prized MTG card ever sold, with its most recent sale standing at a staggering $160,000!
So, if you’re looking to recapture youthful memories or challenge your neurons, comic books and Magic Cards are “just around the corner!”