Comic Timeline< Home

Comic Timeline

Comics have a very rich history. This timeline gives you some idea of the changes that comics have gone through to help you and your students understand this unique art form.

1934 first comic book - comic strips printed in comic book format - Famous Funnies

1938 Superman appears for the first time, boom in superhero comics

1939 first mention of the war in a US comic in "Espionage" by Will Eisner

1941 kids ages 9-14 spend 75% of their time reading comics; 15 million comics/month

1941 Captain America created by two Jewish men - confronted Hitler directly

1941 Blackhawk created - multinational paramilitary aviation group

1941 Nelvana, Canada's first superhero created

1942 women comic artists tripled with men at war

1943 25 million/month; 1 of 4 magazines sent to US troops was a comic book; 35,000 Superman comics to the military each month; government rationing of paper - 20% cut-back

1943-1947 "Cartoons for Fighters" compilations of military cartoons distributed to US soldiers

1945-1948 boom in popularity of crime comics; trend toward acceptance of multicultural diversity; decline in superhero popularity

1946 540 million comics printed in the year

1947 first romance comic published, romance comic boom - by 1949, outsold all other comics

1948-1955 accounts of comic book burnings

1948 incident at Dawson Creek, BC, in which two boys killed the passenger of a car while shooting at the highway; it came out that both were avid crime comic readers

1948 Fredrick Wertham actively writing against comics in US

1948 90% of kids reading comics

1949 Bill 10 passed - anti-crime-comic law in Canada

1949 ban on crime comics sold to military at bases due to violent content

1951 due to lift on shipping restrictions from the US, the end of original Canadian comics until the 70s

1953 70 million comics/month; still 90% of kids reading, 25% high school graduates

1953-1957 Adventures of Superman TV show - beginning of superheroes in other media

1954 Fredrick Wertham publishes Seduction of the Innocent which directly targeted comics as an influence in juvenile delinquency, and referred specifically to the Dawson Creek incident

1954 Senate Subcommittee to Investigate Juvenile Delinquency opens against the comic industry, one day before McCarthy hearings

1954 Comics Magazine Association of America forms to self regulate - birth of the Comics Code

1954-1956 over 50% decline in number of titles, 18 publishers folded, focus shifted to movies

1956 reintroduction of the superhero into comics

1957-1966 Canadian government publishing comics as education for teens

1958 NASA founded, passes National Defense Education Act - increase of science in comics

1962 350 million comics published in the year

1964 Marvel Comics created - creates a comic community

1965 college poll shows that radicals rank Spiderman and the Hulk on the same level as Bob Dylan and Che Guevara as favourite revolutionary icons

1966 Black Panther becomes the first black superhero

1968 underground comix movement begins in US, a format not subject to the comics code, and therefore associated with sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll

1969 underground comix in Canada

1970 revision of the comics code due to an anti-drug issue of Spiderman requested by Department of Health, Education, and Welfare

1970-1972 underground comix boom

1970s increase in female characters, development of comics conventions, backissues, increase in price of comics from 15 cents to 40 cents over the decade

1971 New York Times runs an article in praise of the comics industry

1974 development of alternative/independent comics - geared to adults

1978 Will Eisner pioneers the graphic novel with A Contract With God

1981 comic creators start getting royalties for their work

1980s movement to deconstruct and revitalize superheroes, development of direct market in which specialized stores sold comic books

1984 Secret Wars published by Marvel - first multi-part multi-character crossover

1985 29% population between 7 and 24 read comics

1986 Watchmen published as an anti-superhero book and political allegory, transforms the industry

1988 average reader was 20 year old male

1990s brooding, ruthless vigilante becomes a cliche

1993 peak of comic sales - 1 billion

1996 comic sales only 450 million

1996 Marvel files for bankruptcy

mid-late 1990s success of small independent companies - 1/3 of market

Wars in Comics:

      WWII - Superheroes fought the Nazis and the Japanese (and sometimes the Japanazis) at       home and abroad. Clear stories about good, evil, and punching Hitler in the face

      Korea - kids had outgrown the black and white portrayal of good vs. evil, darker, more       cynical stories, more stories about G.I.s

      Vietnam - almost no representations of Vietnam in comics

Decades defined:

      40s - melting pot

      50s - crime comics and anti-crime comics backlash

      60s - comics as a cultural statement

      70s - underground comix as a backlash against the Comics Code

      80s - deconstruction of the superhero

      90s - faux-collectors market, partial-diversifying of the medium

      now - medium of literature

The information in this timeline was drawn from:
Invaders from the North: How Canada Conquered the Comic Book Universe by John Bell
Seal of Approval: History of the Comics Code by Amy Kiste Nyberg
Comic Book Nation: The Transformation of Youth Culture in America by Bradford J. Wright