So guys, here’s Part III of my treatise on the emergence, and rise in popularity of, U.S. superhero comics. These were supposed to my last, final, definite, absolute words on why I give two shits about Deadpool, but being concise has never been my strong suit. But hey, I’m not forcing anyone to read any of this. 

A call to arms
Let’s go back to the late-1940s. As stated in Part I of this treatise, there had been since long a preconceived notion, among the U.S. “bourgeois” class, however incorrect, that the “moral being” of U.S. citizenry was under attack from popular culture. Then, in 1947, Joseph McCarthy, a Republican from Wisconsin, was elected to Senator, and from this position he played into the fears, hates, and resentments of the masses, making them, too, paranoid about all the supposed dangers of ruining everything real, authentic American. Between 1950 and 1954, this culminated in a series of investigations led by him to identify Communist550x421x133507-004-884A783E.jpg.pagespeed.ic.1jJu_6Q2Fy sympathizers he believed had infiltrated U.S. government, seeking to structurally undermine the U.S. position in the world, and these had an impact that reached well beyond the Senate chamber. There are plenty of cases of actors, directors, and others active in the arts, and even men of science, who had to face loss of employment after being “blacklisted” for being labeled as a Communist sympathizer. Taken on the whole, however, media-at-large came out of it pretty unscathed; but the comics industry, in particular, came under heavy scrutiny by various Parents’ Organizations as well as the public — but more on that in a bit.

As a direct result of both the post-war baby boom, a period of sharp increase in birth rates, and the overall economic upheaval following the war, which, notwithstanding some inflationary pressures, led to a rise in disposable income for many people, which, in turn, meant children getting more allowance, there emerged a distinct youth culture, with values and norms different from the society outside — including family. Parents, already feeling like they had seemingly lost control over their children’s actions, were, on top of that, bombarded with exaggerated and, in some cases, even false reports on increases in youth delinquency, crime, and prostitution. This, combined with the fear-mongering of the above-mentioned McCarthy, created a climate in which parents saw in popular culture, e.g., Hollywood and rock ‘n’ roll, a threat to traditional American family values — some even thought of the emergence, and rise, of popular culture a Communist plot! Now, parents couldn’t prevent their adolescents from going to the movies or listening to music on the radio; however, they could boycott buying comics for their preadolescents in drugstores, magazine stands, and bookstores, so as to make a statement to the comics publishers and distributors, “Think of the children!”

18cHere, one must know that quite a few, perhaps even most, of the early-1950s comics on the stands were actually pretty out there, with stories of revenge, murder and matricide, featuring gratuitous gore and violence — indeed, a far cry from the innocent, innocuous, and family-friendly superhero comics of yesteryear. In case you’re wondering how it ever came to this, the answer is actually pretty simple. To overcome audience apathy, comics publishers and distributors opted for a throw-shit-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks approach and, in so doing, happened to end up with grisly horror fare. Added to this is the fact that, in all the years leading up to 1953, there were no regulations whatsoever; publishers could just print and publish whatever they wanted to put out there, and distributors would carry all comics, irrespective of content. It is no wonder, then, of course, that for conservative parents, teachers, religious and civic groups a mere boycott of comic books didn’t go far enough — much more deliberate action was needed. And, thus it went, that conservatives, spearheaded by Fredric Wertham, a psychiatrist and author of Seduction of the Innocent, pressured the government to censor, or downright forbid the sale to children aged 15 or less of, comics — all comics, not just the grisly ones!

5-1You will respect my authority!
The pressure had some success, in that it brought comics to the Senate’s attention. But what could the Senate then possibly do in the matter? In reality, not very much. Agreeing to the imposing nation-wide censorship was de jure impossible; and a store ban on comics was — and correct me if I’m wrong here! — more of a State affair, not a Federal affair. Nonetheless, the pressure was on; and thus, in 1954, to counter any government-mandated restrictions the Comics Magazine Association of America (CMAA), a comics industry trade group consisting of only major comics publishers, formed, in a “pre-emptive” manner, a “voluntary” self-censorship authority, named, the Comics Code Authority (CCA). The CCA’s mission, originally, was to merely evaluate, not dictate, the content of comics and give those meeting certain standards a seal of approval; and comics publishers could volunteer to submit comics to the CCA, which they were about to print and publish, for evaluation. However, it didn’t take long before major magazine distributors refused to carry comics without said seal; and from then on, the CCA could in a very real sense make or break sales results — and, by extension, comics publishers. While editors working for publishers aligned with the CMAA, such as, e.g., Atlas Comics (later renamed Marvel Comics), would have you believe 99 out of 100 comics got through the evaluation process with no worse than a minor edit — in truth, in actuality, the CCA smothered creative energies of artists, writers and publishers alike, like no other self-regulated censorship board in the popular industries. To give you an idea of the extent of what was de facto prohibited by censor — there was to be no more nudity or violence or profanity in comics, or mention of corruption or power abuse, and it wasn’t even allowed anymore to have the word “weird” in a title! Now, the CCA’s reign lasted roughly into the 1970s and so, as you can imagine, during all that time, the comics landscape became a conservative creative barren patch.

The return of the superhero
With the CCA’s restrictions in place, many genres (e.g., including crime and horror) were placed off limits, in effect bankrupting numerous specialized comics publishers, leaving only capitulating comics companies to create child-friendly, family-oriented products. For some, this meant a necessary return to the early days, when all was costumey action and adventure, with black-and-white morality. But unless these companies had 416pxwhiz2ka1some backlist goldmines, they still had to face closing down — and even actually having a strong superhero property didn’t guarantee a thing, either! A truly tragic example is Fawcett Comics, who held the rights over the Shazam! property, a comics series that ran from 1940-1953 and which, at its peak durng the Second World War, rivalled, and even surpassed, the Superman comics series in terms of popularity and revenue. They were bankrupted by legal expenses, in 1953, after National Periodical Publications (later renamed DC Comics), the then-biggest shark in the world of comics, filed suit for copyright infringement, claiming that Shazam was substantially similar to Superman — as if they only just found out! Anyway, in short, a harsh dog-eat-dog kind of environment was created in the wake of the CCA, which eventually effected a de facto duopoly between Marvel Comics and DC Comics — but with each riffing off each other’s innovations, the U.S. mainstream comics field became a monopoly of sameness.

1064459-young_men_25Atlas Comics was the first to, or at least attempt to, revive the superhero genre with the Human Torch, Captain America, and the Sub-Mariner, with rather disappointing results. This because their “comeback” stories were written using the same formula that had brought Atlas success years earlier — same heroes, same stories, with only one difference, namely, that now communists, spies, and saboteurs starred as villains. All this while the audience had moved on. When National Periodical followed suit with the revival of the Flash, in 1956, they were at least smart enough to contemporize their formula, by revamping the Flash from the ground up, e.g., by grounding his origin story in science and sci-fi, which were increasingly hot topics in popular literacy; and so their efforts did meet with success, in that readers’ numbers went through the roof, at least in relative terms (i.e., relative to post-1954 levels, not relative to pre-1954 levels). They repeated this su755093ccess three years later with the revival and re-imaging of the Green Lantern, thereby further, and again substantially, cementing the popularity of superhero comics. To no surprise, their prime competitor (by now renamed Marvel Comics), looked to them rather than to themselves for direction in those years, late 1950s-early 1960s. In so doing, this duoply brought about a second great age of superhero comics — the Silver Age. This Silver Age lasted until 1970; and while, obviously, this specific time period didn’t prove as golden and profitable in overall terms as the years between 1938 and 1954, it did witness first the re-emergence of the (social group or) multi-hero and not long after the creation of an entirely new superhero type — the flawed hero, with a little less holier-than-thou attitude, even wrestling with inner demons.

Single or social virtue
1449_4_063Now let’s first talk multi-heroes. Here again, it’s National Periodical that deserves the credits. After having successfully revived the Flash and the Green Latern, they thought it smart to do a crossover of sorts. So, in 1960, they revived the Justice Society of America, a superhero group originally created in 1940, consisting of, among others, early incarnations of these two superheroes; and this new revived group, though now renamed the Justice League, was basically an all-star team, consisting of National Periodical most famed superhero characters, including the likes of Batman and Superman. It was a sure hit. Obviously. How could it not be? But who could have predicted that the Justice League would become National Periodical’s most lucrative superhero property! And so, once more, of course, Marvel took note of this success. A year later they, then, in turn, introduced a superhero group of their own — The Fantastic Four. However, credit where credit is due! It must be said here that Marvel took it one step further — to the next level. Instead of having a bunch of samey lone heroes team up, Marvel’s writers, most notably Stan Lee, made a conscious effort to introduce a group of super-invididuals, each having an identity of his or her own, simmering with the potential for social drama. At the time, in terms of comic book characterization, this was a huge step forwards! You must know here, that National Periodical’s superhero characters back then, while each having a unique individual superpower, all spoke in the same measured, patronizing language, and they all always reacted in the same predictable way, without so much of a hint of individual spontaneity or impulsiveness. Sure, Superman, Batman, the Flash, and the Green Lantern still had a certain “timeless” quality to them; but it soon became clear that these new Marvel heroes (i.e., Mr. Fantastic, Invisible Girl, the Human Torch, Thing) had stolen their thunder somewhat. And indeed, judging by sales and audience hype, with The Fantastic Four Marvel had laid down the perfect template for what superhero publishers needed: modern protagonists who, I already said, battle not just their villainous nemeses, but also identity issues and, e.g., financial hardship, all the while bickering with each other — in short, heroes who are heroes in spites of themselves. 

invincible6rjNow, the flawed hero figure makes for a perfect multi-hero; and this, obviously, because in a group hero story heroism isn’t attributed to just one individual, it’s the sum total of the hero group’s efforts that matters. But in the years following the successful profitable launch of The Fantastic Four, Marvel decided to introduce some new single heroes, as well, quite a slew of them, and all flawed, such as, e.g., Spider-Man and the Hulk. Again, their introduction, too, was heralded with success, thereby proving their formula, or template, for superhero comics a winning one, all across the board.

This is all well and nice, but it makes for tough theorizing. For how to explain, e.g., the simultaneous, and still pervading, success and popularity of both multi-heroes and single heroes? Of course, a simple, but probably just, answer would be to say that one doesn’t exclude the other. But if this is so, then that would mean, that the work and thinking done by people smarter than myself could be thrown overboard. This seems a bit of a waste to me, so the least I could do, here, is to entertain some theories with what we know historically. So — here goes!

A first general idea is that certain times call for certain heroes; one the one hand, multi-heroes tend, though not necessarily, to thrive in periods of uncertainty, transition, or struggle; while, on the other hand, single heroes seemingly flourish in times when there is greater confidence and hope. At face value, this makes sense; when times are tough — when the country faces war and recession, there’s, as you may suppose, an increase in demands and needs on the group; and when all goes well — when the economy is booming, employment levels high, and the country all at peace, social obligation takes a back seat to individualism. But seen against the backdrop of the Great Depression and the following war years, it makes one question whether this holds true.

Consider, after all, the seemingly paradoxical fact that the late-1930s, early-1940s saw the flourish of the single hero type — which is not to say there were no group hero stories back then (there was, as mentioned, of course, the Justice Society of America, and I’m sure there were more), but broadly speaking, the multi-hero was very much absent from U.S. 1930s-1940s popular culture. This paradox can be accounted for, though, by noting that, even then, individualism, more than anything else, was getting praised, celebrated, and honored as the greatest historical moral and political achievement of the U.S. people — indeed, even when they were down, when they were at their lowest points, many then still tended to blame setbacks, financial or otherwise, just and only on their own individual failings. And so it can be understood how single heroes, and not multi-heroes, were so popular in these years.

675191As for why multi-heroes became only popular after the Second World War? Here, theories diverge. Some claim a male malaise set in, in the wake of the war. They say, the war led to a paradigm shift in society that made man doubt his ability to be a master of his own existence. From this it follows, then, that the conceit of a single hero saving the world from disaster went lost to a post-1945 audience, to be replaced, perhaps, by the conceit of a multi-hero who is more likely to require help than to give it. Others, though, take an opposite stance by saying that psychotic dictators, such as, e.g., Hitler and Stalin, rather reinforced the idea that an individual, through wit and resourcefulness, can definitely make the world a better place for all; but left unchecked, will lead the world to destruction. This they follow up by saying that, in the post-1945 period, there was a shift away from a moral focus on individual responsibility and blame towards a focus on sharing responsibility and blame for what goes wrong and praise for what goes well. And this, in turn, then provides an ideal backdrop against which to view the much-welcomed re-emergence, after decades of slumber, of group hero titles throughout the 1960s (and later decades), as witnessed, e.g., by the mass popularity first of The Justice League and The Fantastic Four and soon after The X-Men and The Avengers. So, with everything previously stated, all in all, I think we can understand why it is that multi-heroes came to the fore.

Of course this would leave us still wondering how and why single heroes were during this time still quite as popular as they had been in the early years of comic books. I don’t have any answers here — no fancy theories! no newfangled nonsense! no nothing! You see, I never really got to delve much into the literature on this time period. But I could take a guess and say the answer lies in post-war — hippie? — idealism and optimism. Or just say that one is to look no further than the ever-pervasive preadolescent power fantasy. I don’t know. I’d gladly hear your thoughts on this!

Next week I’ll delve into the Sixties rebellion and the comics underground scene — for real this time. I’ll also write some about antiheroes. And about movies, too.


A Treatise on “Why I Don’t Give Two Shits about Deadpool” — Part II

Last week, I posted the first part of my online treatise on American superhero comics. Today I finished the second part, which you can read below. This time around, you can expect some paragraphs, and other brain farts, on the subjects of melting pot culture, World War II, reciprocal synergy between comics and superheroes, and the — temporary! — decline in popularity of superhero comics.

Melting pot
Throughout New World history, the U.S. has been a melting pot of nations, cultures and religions — so much so, in fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find a unmixed pure-bred American! Germans, Slavs, Italians, Irish, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Protestants, African Americans, Hispanics, and so on are, and were in the 1930s, represented in all walks of U.S. life, engaged in the same trades, businesses, and professions. So too, it follows that U.S. comics artists then had an immigration background — they either were descended from immigrants, or were immigrants themselves, and they sure as hell lived among immigrants. Now, why is it so important to know these artists’ roots? Answer: It’s no stretch to say that the iconography and thematic content of superhero comics have their roots in this melting pot culture, and, as I will argue below, therein lies another component of the superhero’s popularity.

You may recall, in Part I, I talked about reader-identification, about how dual-identity hero narratives are, perhaps, about “who we really are.” Here I want to stress that, through mixing of blood and melting pot assimilation, Americans, more so than, say, chiefly pure Europeans, tend to struggle with questions on sSuperman_207-4-smarmy-super-pestelf-identity — because for them, it’s very difficult to know who they are, where their parents come from, and what their religion is. Now, while the earliest superhero template, that of the 1930s, was but an emotional stick figure, if you will, with black-and-white morals — after the 1960s, there was finally added another layer of characterization; for from then on the superhero character, too, struggled with identity issues. So that’s probably, definitely, why in later days, the U.S. audiences embraced these costumed superheroes still, or anew. But we’re still talking 1930s superheroes here. So here, I want to entertain the idea that, even in those early days, superhero fiction perhaps really hit home, as well. After all, isn’t Superman, the first, and for long the most famous and best-selling name, of costumed comic book superheroes, an alien immigrant himself, cast into a strange world, unable to return home? And, more generally speaking, is the idea of a hero with a secret identity and superpowers not an apt metaphor for the immigrant’s wish-fulfilling fantasies, i.e., of making it big in the U.S. while remaining true to oneself?

One thing thing is certain, though — from early on, this melting pot culture provided grounds for cultural intertextuality. By this I mean, all these first- or later-generation U.S. immigrants brought their own langua116_4_004ge, literary heritage, mythology and philosophy into the mix, and this created a rich and diverse reservoir from which artists could draw. The Greeks and Italians obviously brought with them the tales of Hercules and his labors of strength and fortitude, and of the quests of Ulysses and Jason; from northern Europe, there must have come stories of Beowulf, of how he battled with Grendel; then you had your Judeo-Christian and Middle-Eastern heroes, from Moses to Gilgamesh; and, of course, last but not least, there were the modern influences like Wagner’s Siegfried and the Nietzschean concept of Übermenschen — which got so grossly misinterpreted and abused by the German Nazis. I imagine early comics artists, confronted with all these different story ideas and character concepts floating around, taking it as a bit of a joke, picking and choosing whatever, just as they pleased. Then the war broke out, and things got serious. In the years that followed, they had to forge new heroes out of the surrounding discourse that felt fresh, yet familiar at the same time — authentic American, yet vitally close to Old World roots that now needed protection.

Icons of Freedom
This brings me to yet another component of the popularity of, in any case certain, costumed superheroes hinges on unadultered American patriotism. This is obviously obvious in the cases of Superman and Captain America, the former being a defender of the American Way, the latter, its personification — but the same could be said for the likes of Batman. Here, one must know that a lot of these moral supermen, if you will, who combat inequities and injustices in world society, were created by comics artists with roots in European Jewish identity (i.e., most notably, Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, Bob Kane, Bill Finger and Jack Kirby); and this, fighting_yank12in a time, it is well-known, when Adolf Hitler makes a bid for the German “Aryans” to be a master race at the expense of, in the Nazi’s mind, lesser races and people. Then, as World War II broke out, in 1939, these comic book superheroes became more than two-dimensional paper heroes — to the readers, they became symbols of American optimism in this bleak time of war. In the comics, superheroes battled criminals, entire criminal organizations, and even Hitler’s Nazi Empire and the Axis of Evil endlessly over and again — but in the end, they always prevailed. And while so simple a narrative, the people just couldn’t get enough. So much so, in fact, that during the war, the comics audience had such an insatiable appetite for these repetitive heroics and struggles that there was plenty of room in the market for even the most blatant imitations to flourish. I’m talking here of — I’m not making any of this up! — The Shield, Uncle Sam, Minute Man, American Avenger, American Crusader, American Eagle, Fighting Yank, Commando Yank, Yankee Eagle, Yankee Boy, Yank and Doodle, The Liberator, The Sentinel, The Flag, Flagman …

While on the subject of World War II, let us talk about the economics of supply and demand. As stated above, there was an insatiable demand for cheap escapist works, much like in the years before — though now, arguably, even more so. On top of an already sizeable audience of children and workers, there were now also the millions of A2147373-eisner_all_about_pgell_cvrmerican soldiers serving in the U.S. Army, many of whom were sent to liberate Europe and defeat the Japanese. They, these soldiers, took to reading comics to combat the long periods of boredom and routine between the short bursts of action, like, e.g., air raids and offensive operations and this, because, unlike, novels you could speed-read comics from cover to cover — which is, of course, handy when you don’t know when it’s go-time again. So there’s that. Then there’s also the context of war-time paper shortage. During the years of war, paper was rationed. While this spelled problems for pulp publishing houses especially, publishers that were also or exclusively engaged in the business of publishing and distributing cheap, thin, flimsy comic books reaped profits, at the former’s expense no less! Indeed, this was a good time to be in the business of comics; for not only was there little outside competition, but there wasn’t much inside competion, either. That is to say, there were plenty of competing comics publishing houses — in fact, in the years following 1940, they even popped like mushrooms; where there used to be but five before the war broke out, there were now thirty or so. But such was the scope of the escapism market, in these years, that there was room aplenty for all these comics publishers to co-exist, and to grow prosperous in their publishing ventures. The only thing holding them back was the paper rationing. That would change after the war — but more on that later.

Super visuals
Let’s talk special effects. While sci-fi and fantasy books often make for pleasant, easy escapist reads — they lack a certain authority and “punch” that only visuals have, and that’s as true now as it was in the 1930s. Hence, the ever-popularity of movies. Now, back then you had your live-action, stop-motion films for audiences who wanted something fantastical or otherworldly. But in those days, there was only so much you could do with special effects, limited as they then were — though, mind you, some of these films, like, e.g., King Kong, ended up becoming classics of 20th-century special effects cinematography! Overall speaking, audiences who wanted greater dynamic realism were being left unimpressed by what they saw, and there was just no way for 1930s-1940s era movie producers to meet their demand. The new comics medium, however, was capable, even in the hands of a so-so artist, of making the fantastic palpable and probable on a visual level. So, that’s another reason for why people turned to comics as a vehicle of escapism.

Here it might be of interest to point out in passing that, of all then-known comic strip genres (i.e., most notably, humor, adventure, romance, detective, science fiction, and the western), the superhero genre was the genre par excellence to demonstrate the possibilities comics medium offered. For those who are not “in the know” — the early-1930s, to be precise, 1933, witnessed the emergence of this new medium of comics — at least as we now know it. Now, back then, comic books didn’t feature any original material tailoredDick-Tracy-Jan-2-and-3-19331 to the comics medium and its format, but instead featured only reprints of mostly 4-panel, mostly in black-and-white, newspaper “funnies” stacked on top of each other — hence the term “comic books”, or “comics” for short, a term that stuck and this, even though, in the years to follow, other comic strip genres got reprinted in comics format, as well. While, initially, these comic books were instant successes with readers, they never quite set the world on fire, and eventually, a few years down the road, the public lost interest and sales dropped. A new impetus was needed: something which would excite reader attention, again. From 1935 onward, comics publishing houses committed themselves, now and finally, to publishing comic books that consisted of all-original material, specifically created for the medium — and so the first real actual comic books emerged. Still, nothing earth-shattering. Then, in 1938, Superman was introduced. And everything changed. Now, the U.S. reader audience already was familiar with costumed and masked comics heroes, with, e.g., The Phantom, the first of the “long-john” heroes, being a star of syndicated newspaper comic strips as early as 1936, and The Clock, a masked detective, “starring” in comic books also published in that same year — but Supermaactionn was something entirely else, alright. Here you had this superhero in a tight, bright, colorful costume, whose powers were more or less unlimited — limited only by the imagination of his creators, like, e.g., he had superhuman strength, he could fly, he was virtually indestructible, and basically he was a god among men –, and in the comics medium it all just seemed like a natural perfect fit. After all, at the time, his superhuman heroics just simply couldn’t be translated to the silver screen — indeed, it wasn’t until the late 1970s that movie producers were finally able to do so –; and the then-limited color-printing methods, which weren’t suitable for printing imagery of credulous and dreamy nature, were more than adequate for bold, costumy action. And so it was that Superman’s resounding success with readers created a need for original superhero material, exclusively created for the comics medium, and this, then, in turn sparked a demand for comics. This reciprocal synergy led to the creation of a slew of new superheroes (e.g., in chronological order, Batman, the Sub-Mariner, the Human Torch, Captain America) and comics series.

MM25Vision6And then along came Jack Kirby, a rising star in the 1940s and 1950s. Nowadays somewhat forgotten, not in the least because the woeful and willful erasure of his creative authority by Stan Lee (of Marvel Comics fame), Kirby was a powerhouse who took the art of comics to a whole new level. It’s no exaggeration to say that he, virtually single-handedly, defined the look and feel of superhero comics for decades to come. Before he entered the industry, comics characters were wooden and the panel and page compositions oozed little sense of motion, or rhythm — but he, before becoming a comics artist, had worked as an “inbetweener” — i.e., drawing the missing in-between frames between the poses in key frames done by a key animator –, and so he knew how to draw panels and sequences with a certain cinematic flair and how to make characters, even those at rest, pulse with tension and energy; so much so, that his comics characters looked even more alive than those on the silver screen! The effect of which was, that his art style, which was widely copied and imitated by most of his peers and later comics artists, further sparked readers’ interest in superhero comics.

There will be no more Golden Age
But, like with everything — all good things must come to an end. After the war was over, in 1946, people were bored with superheroes; and they were bored with their worlds of black-and-white morals. However, the comics market generally was on the rise. The comics audience was still as big as ever; but the difference, now, was that the war-time paper rationing was lifted, and this meant that comics publishers could flood the market with a growing range of genre-comics, so as to provide for every taste. This they did with success, constantly responsive to the ever-changing demand. In 1947, romance comics happened to be especially popular; westerns were next year’s flavor; in the following two years, it was crime comics; and in the two, three years after that, horror comics emerged as the most sought-after comics genre — and at all these times, comics publishers were there to match that demand. So, as you can surmise, post-1945, comics sales skyrocketed. In fact, just to give you numbers — in 1940, about 150 titles were being published on a monthly basis, with a combined circulation of 17 million; by the end of the war the number of monthly published comics dropped to 135 — because due to the paper rationing comics publishers had to trim down the fat –, but overall circulation increased to well over 20 million; in 1953, these numbers had swollen, respectively, to 650 and 70 million! From 1954 on, comics got a bad rep and this, due to changes in the socio-political climate — more on this below. As a result of this, in combination with the advent of television in this very same period, comics sales plummeted dramatically, dropping to early post-war levels. And if this wasn’t bad enough, production costs were soaring because of inflation. This could have been offset by raising the selling price of comics — which, mind you, were still being sold for a dime a piece –, but that would probably result in even fewer sales; and so, the selling price remained fixed for another eight years — and even then, in 1962, the price was only raised to 12 cents! As you can surmise, it increasingly became difficult to turn a profit, and many of the thirty-something comics publishing houses had to close their doors — in the end, only ten remained. Then, in an ironic twist, they, well, most of them, turned again to superhero comics to stay afloat — but that’s a story for another time.


This concludes Part II of my treatise. Someday — next week, probably — I’ll continue with some bits on comics censorship and the consequent emergence of the underground comix scene, and perhaps — who knows? I might even venture into 1960s territory. And by all means, let me know what you think of my writing, so far!