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Feature Article
Strange New Worlds  Issue 11 - December 1993

In this issue:
We don't get no respect
History of Comics Industry
Elfquest, Indy Success Story
The Comics / SF Connection
Star Trek Comics
Comics by Star Trek Actors
Displaying your collectibles
Star Wars Models
Kids and the Fan Parent
Reviews : Alien Nation books
Review: History of SF Comics

SNW Issue 14
SNW Issue 13
SNW Issue 12
SNW Issue 11
SNW Issue 10
SNW Issue 09
SNW Issue 08
SNW Issue 04

Issue 11 ã 1993 by Strange New Worlds. No portion of this publication may be reproduced without prior express written consent of the Publisher. All rights reserved. All materials are believed accurate, but we cannot assume responsibility for their accuracy or application. We do not endorse any products or services advertised in this publication.

A Brief History of the Comics Industry
by Catherine L. Kouns

There was a time when comic books were looked down upon as one of the lower forms of life on the literary ladder of evolution. However, as comic books began to break from the traditional superhero mold, more and more readers began to accept them as a legitimate form of expression. Today, comic books are not only found in the hands of twelve-year-old boys riding skateboards -- they're also found in the hands of thirty-five-year-old women flying first class. There are comics for everyone — comics packed with stories of adventure and triumph, comics featuring romance and light-hearted humor, and comics full of spirituality and the ongoing search for truth.

The comic book as a means of storytelling has its roots firmly planted in the graphic narratives of 18th-century Europe. The form as we know it today originated in the United States in the mid-1930s. In this country, comic books began as reprint collections of newspaper comic strips, given away as premiums by newspapers.

What is a comic book? is a deceptively simple question with a complex answer. Back in more primitive times, a comic was a ten-cent, thirty-two page, full-color graphic story printed on newsprint-quality paper. Today many other formats now exist alongside these traditional forms, including "graphic novels" containing hundreds of pages and retailing for $50.00 or more.

The modern comic book began life in 1934 when Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson conceived the idea of commissioning original work for a line of comic books. The experiment went well, but the comic book didn't really come into its own until 1938. That year, the artistic invention of two teenagers from Cleveland, Ohio first premiered: Superman. Suddenly, comic books were big business. Dozens of publishers churned out the adventures of countless super-powered adventurers. The "Golden Age of Comics" was in full swing.

But in 1952 the industry entered into steep decline. Public interest in caped superheroes fell off near the end of World War II. This "dark age" was further exacerbated by governmental investigations into the allegation that comics were corrupting America's youth.

The 1960s saw the re-emergence of the superhero as a powerful figure; but the sixties hero was presented with all his human faults and failings. Marvel Comics took the lead in this approach with its groundbreaking title The Fantastic Four. It was an instant success. Other "relevant" characters soon followed: Spiderman, the X-Men, Iron Man, and The Incredible Hulk, to name just a few.

Comics publishers today are looking into markets beyond those of direct sales comic shops. Graphic novels are finding their way into bookstores and libraries; comics are used in the classroom to motivate previously disinterested youngsters to read. Comic book characters have also found success in TV cartoon shows, as video games, and on the silver screen.

The comics industry has the ability to motivate, educate, and entertain. comics are a study in popular culture, a reflection of the world in which they thrive. Who can say what lies ahead, what new trends and new ideas will capture the attention of comics readers? The answer is, as the comics say:

"To be continued . . . " l

(Catherine L. Kouns is the Marketing Director of Warp Graphics, Inc., publisher of the Elfquest line of comic books.)

Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide #44

Books about comics collectibles at

How to Read Superhero Comics and Why
By: Geoff Klock
Publisher: Continuum

Read reviews and check price



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