THE HISTORY OF COMIC BOOKS
From his Junior year in high school ( 1963 ) until 2007 ~ Cecil Buffington collected and accumulated over 500,000 comic books. He carried an on-line sales program from 1999 until 2009 that grew to one of the largest inter-net comic book providers on an individual web-site, and on Yahoo and E Bay in the United States. In March of 2009 ~ Buffington closed out his Class of '64 Comics site, sold all his comic book inventory to Mile High Comics and discontinued his monthly newsletter to all his customers. This is a presentation from one of his Class of '64 Comics newsletters that detailed the History of Comic Books.
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The History of Comic Books
Precursors: The Facsimile newspaper strip reprint collections constitute the earliest “comic book.” The first of these was a collection of Richard Outcault’s Yellow Kid from the Hearst New American in March of 1897. Commercial and promotional reprint collectors, usually in cardboard covers, appeared through the 1920’s and featured such newspaper strips as Mutt & Jeff, Foxy Grandpa, Buster Brown, and Barney Google. During 1922 a reprint magazine, Comic Monthly, appeared with each issue devoted to a separate strip, and from 1929 to 1930, George Delacorte published 36 issues of The Funnies in tabloid format with original comic pages in color, becoming the first four-color comic newsstand publication.
1933: The Ledger syndicate published a small broadside of their Sunday Comics on 7” by 9” plates. Employees of Eastern Color Printing Company in New York, Sales Manager Harry I. Wildenberg and salesman Max C. Gaines, saw it and figured that two such plates would fit a tabloid page, which would produce a book about 7 ½” X 10” when folded. Thus 10,000 copies of Funnies on Parade, containing 32 pages of Sunday newspaper reprints, was published for Proctor and Gamble to be given away as premiums. Some of the strips included were: Joe Palooka, Mutt & Jeff, Hearbreadth Harry, and Reg’lar Fellas. M.C. Gaines was very impressed with this book and convinced Eastern Color that he could sell them to such big advertisers as Milk-O-Malt, Wheatens, Kinney Shoe Stores, and others to be used as premiums and radio give-aways. So, Eastern Color printed Famous Funnies: A Carnival of Comics, and then Century of Comics, both as before, containing Sunday newspaper reprints. Mr. Gaines sod these books in quantities of 100,000 to 250,000. Although slightly larger in size than Famous Funnies, Humor Publications produced two one issue magazines, Detective Dan and The Adventures of Detective Ace King, which contained original art and sold for ten cents a copy.
1934: The give-away comics were so successful that Mr. Gaines believed that youngsters would buy comic books for 10 cents like the “Big Little Books” coming out at that time. So early in 1934, Eastern Color ran off 35,000 copies of Famous Funnies, Series 1, 64 pages of reprints for Dell Publishing Company to be sold for 10 cents in chain stores. Since it sold out promptly, on the stands, Eastern Color, in May of 1934, issued Famous Funnies No. 1 ( Dated July 1934 ) which became, with issue No. 2 in July, the first monthly comic magazine. The title continued for over 20 years through 218 issues, reaching a circulation peak of over 40,000 copies a month. At the same time, Mr. Gaines went to the sponsors of Perry Crosby’s Skippy, which was on the radio, and convinced them to put out a Skippy book, advertise it on the air, and give away a free copy to anyone who bought a tube of Phillip’s toothpaste. Thus, 500,000 copies of Skippy’s Own Book of Comics was run off and distributed through drug stores everywhere. This was the first four-color comic book of reprints devoted to a single character.
1935: Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson’s National Periodical Publications issued in February a tabloid comic publication called New Fun, which became More Fun after the sixth Issue and was converted to standard comic book size after issue eight. More Fun was the first comic book of a standard size to publish original material, and it continued publication until 1947. Mickey Mouse Magazine began in the summer, to become Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories in 1940, and combined original material with reprinted newspaper strips in most issues.
1936: In the wake of success for Famous Funnies, other publishers, in conjunction with the major newspaper strip syndicates, inaugurated more reprint comic books: Popular Comics ( News Tribune, February ) Tip Top Comics ( United Features, April ) King Comics ( King Features, April ) and The Funnies ( New Series, NEA, October ). Four issues of Wow Comics, from David McKay and Hearst Publications, appeared, edited by S.M. Iger and including early art by Will Eisner, Bob Kane, and Alex Raymond. The first non-reprint comic book devoted to a single theme was Detective Picture Stories issued in December by the Comics Magazine Company.
1937: The second single theme title, Western Picture Stories, came in February from the Comics Magazine Company, and the third was Detective Comics, an offshoot of More Fun, which began in March to be published to the present. The book’s initials, “D.C.” have long served to refer to National Periodical Publications, which was purchased from Major Nicholson by Harry Donenfeld late this year.
1938: “DC” copped a lion’s share of the comic book market with the publication of Action Comics # 1 in June which contained the first appearance of Superman by writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster, a discovery of Max C. Gaines. The “Man of Steel” inaugurated the “Golden Era” in comic book history. Fiction House, a pulp publisher, entered the comic book field in September with Jumbo Comics, featuring Sheena, Queen of the Jungle, and appearing in over-sized format for the first eight issues.
1939: The continued success of “DC” was assured in May with the publication of Detective Comics # 27 containing the first episode of Batman by artist Bob Kane and writer Bill Finger. Superman Comics appeared in the summer. Also, during the summer, a black and white premium comic titled Motion Pictures Funny Weekly was published to be given away at motion picture theaters. The Plan was to issue it weekly and to have continued stories so the kids would come back week after week not to miss an episode. Four issues were planned, but only one book came out. This book contains the first appearance by the Sub-Mariner by Bill Everett ( 8 Pages ) which was later reprinted in Marvel Comics. In November, the first issue of Marvel Comics came out, featuring the Human Torch by Carl Burgos and the Sub-Mariner reprint with color added. The month closed out with Lev Gleason’s first published comic book, Silver Streak # 1.
The April Issue of Detective Comics # 38 introduced Robin the Boy Wonder as a sidekick for Batman, thus establishing the “Dynamic Duo” and a major precedent for later costumed heroes who would also have boy companions. Batman Comics began in the spring. Over 60 different comic book titles were being issued, including Whiz Comics begun in February by Fawcett Publications. A creation of writer Bill Parker and artist C.C. Beck, Whiz’s Captain Marvel was the only superhero ever to surpass Superman in comic book sales. Drawing on their own popular pulp magazine heroes, Street and Smith Publications introduced Shadow Comics in March and Doc Savage in May. A second trend was established with the summer appearance of the first issue of All Star Comics, which brought together in one story and in its third issue that winter would announce the establishment of the Justice Society of America.
1941: Wonder Woman was introduced in the spring issue of All Star Comics # 8, the creation of psychologist William Moulton Marston and artist Harry Peter. Captain Marvel Adventures began this year. By the end of 1941, over 160 titles were being published, including Captain America by Jack Kirby and Joe Simon. Police Comics with Jack Cole’s Plastic Man and later will Eisner’s Spirit, Military Comics with Blackhawk by Eisner and Charles Guidera. Daredevil Comics with the original character by Charles Biro, and Looney Tunes & Merry Melodies with Porky Pig, Bugs Bunny, and Elmer Fudd, reportedly created by Bob Clampett for the Leon Schlesinger Productions animated films and drawn for the comics by Shase Craig. Also, Albert Kanter’s Gilberton Company initiated the Classics Illustrated series with The Three Musketeers.
1942: Crime does not pay by editor Charles Biro and publisher Lev Gleason, devoted to factual accounts of criminals’ lives, began a different trend in realistic crime stories. Wonder Woman appeared in the summer. John Goldwater’s character Archie, drawn by Bob Montana, first published in Pep Comics, was given his own magazine, Archie Comics, which has remained popular for over 40 years. The first key issue of Animal Comics contained Walt Kelley’s “Albert takes the cake,” featuring the new character of Pogo. In mid-1942, the updated Dell four color title# 9, Donald Duck finds Pirate Gold, appeared with art by Carl Barks and Jack Hanna. Barks, also featured in Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories, remained the most popular delineator of Donald Duck and later introduced his greatest creation, Uncle Scrooge, in Christmas on Bear Mountain ( Dell four color # 178 ) The fantasy work of George Carlson appeared in the first issue of Jingle Jangle Comics, one of the most imaginative titles for children ever to be published.
1945: The first issue of Real Screen Comics introduced the Fox and the Crow by James F. Davis, and John Stanley began drawing the Little Lulu comic book based on a popular feature in the Saturday Evening Post by Marjorie Henderson Buell from 1935 to 1944. Bill Woggan’s Katy Keene appeared in # 5 of Wilber Comics to be followed by appearances in Laugh, Pep, Susie, and her own comic book in 1950. The popularity of Dick Briefer’s satiric version of the Frankenstein monster, originally drawn for Prize Comics in 1941, led to the publication of Frankenstein Comics by Prize Publications.
1946: The Atomic/Romance Age debuted with a bang early in the year. It revamped the industry once again as circulations soon hit their all-time highs with well over 1.3 billion periodical issues sold a year by the consignment honor system. By this time there were comic books of every genre for every taste and style.
1950: The son of Max C. Gaines, who earlier had inherited his father’s firm Educational Comics ( later Entertaining Comics ), began publication of a series of well-written and masterfully drawn titles which would establish a “New Trend” in comics magazines: Crypt of Terror ( later Tales from the Crypt, April ), The Vault of Horror, ( April ), The Haunt of Fear, ( May ), Weird Science, ( May ), Weird Fantasy, ( May ), Crime Superstories, ( October ), and Two Fisted Tales, ( November ), the latter stunningly edited by Harvey Kurtzman.The decade of the 50’s saw western comics reach a pinnacle with television B western stars dominating the scene. The Lone Ranger, Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Rex Allen, Hopalong Cassidy, Lash Larue, Wild Bill Elliott, the Durango Kid, Zorro and dozens of others made their debut in comics in the early to mid 50’s and had a tremendous impact on the comic book market.
1952: Comic book publishers started their glutting of the market early in ‘52. In October ES published the first number of Mad under Kurtzman’s creative editorship, thus establishing a style of humor which would inspire other publications and powerfully influence the underground comic book movement of the 1960’s.
1953: All Fawcett titles featuring Captain Marvel were ceased after many years of litigation in the courts during which National Periodical Publications claimed that the superhero was an infringement on the copyrighted Superman. In December, Captain America, Human Torch, and Sub-Mariner were revived in Atlas Comics. The first 3-D comic book, Three Dimensional Comics, featuring Mighty Mouse and created by Joe Kubert and Norman Maurer, was issued in September by St. John’s Publishing Company.
1954: The appearance of Frederick Wertham’s book Seduction of the Innocent in the spring was the culmination of a continuing war against comic books fought by those who believed they corrupted youth and debased culture. The U.S. Senate Sub-Committee on Juvenile Delinquency investigated comic books and in response the major publishers banded together in October to create the Comics Code Authority and adopted, in their own words, “the most stringent code in existence for any communications media.” Before the code took effect, more than 1,000,000,000 comics were being sold annually. In his last book, The World of Fanzines, Wertham exonerated comics fans for misinterpreting his data for more than 20 years.
1955: In an effort to avoid the code, EC launched a “New Direction” series of titles, such as Impact, Valor, Aces High, Extra, M.D., and Psychoanalysis, none of which lasted beyond the year.
1956: Beginning with the Flash in Showcase # 4, Julius Schwartz began a popular revival of DC superheroes which would lead to the Silver Age in comic book history.
1957: Atlas reduced the number of titles published by two-thirds, with Journey into Mystery and Strange Tales surviving, while other publishers did the same or went out of business. Atlas would survive and become a part of the Marvel Comics Group.
1960: After several efforts at new satire magazines ( Trump and Humburg ), Harvey Kurtzman, no longer with Gaines, issued in August the first number of another aborted effort, Help!, where the early work of underground cartoonists Jay Lynch, Skip Williamson, Gilbert Shelton , and Robert Crumb appeared. Brave and Bold # 28 appeared in March gathering together the revived DC heroes.
1961: Stan Lee edited in November the first Fantastic Four, featuring Mr. Fantastic, the Human Torch, the Thing, and the Invisible Girl, and inaugurated an enormously popular line of titles from Marvel Comics featuring a more contemporary style of superhero.
1962: Lee introduced The Amazing Spider-man in August in Amazing Fantasy # 15, with art by Steve Bilko. Other debuts were The Hulk in May and Thor in August, the last two produced by Dick Ayers and Jack Kirby.
1963: Marvel’s The X-Men, with art by Jack Kirby, began a successful run in November, but the title would experience a revival and have an even more popular reception in the 1980’s.
1965: James Warren issued Creepy, a larger black and white comic book, outside comics code’s control, which emulated the EC horror comic line. Warren’s Eerie began in September and Vampirella in September of 1969.
1968: Robert Crumb’s Zap # 1 appeared in February, the first underground newspaper to achieve wide popularity, although counterculture precursors included Adventures of Jesus by Foolbert Sturgeon ( Frank Stack ) in 1962 and God Nose by Jack Jackson in 1964.
1970: Editor Roy Thomas at Marvel begins Conan the Barbarian based on fiction by Robert E. Howard with art by Barry Smith, and Neal Adams began to draw for DC a series of Green Lantern/Green Arrow stories which would deal with relevant social issues such as racism, urban poverty, and drugs. The publication of the first edition of the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide in November served to stabilize the rapidly developing market for comic book collectors and provided the first dependable publication data and history for research.The 70’s could very well be called the alternative comics decade. During this decade the San Francisco Bay area was an intense hotbed of comics being issued without a comics code, “seal of approval” from companies such as Rip Off Press, Last Gasp, San Francisco Comic Book Company, Company and Sons, Weirdon Publications, Star Reach, Comix and Comics and Kitchen Sink Comics. These independent suppliers were given credit for creating the direct sales comic market.
1972: The Swamp Thing by Berni Wrightson begins in November from DC.
1973: In February, DC revived the original Captain Marvel with new art by C.C. Beck and reprints in the first issue of Shazam and in October The Shadow with scripts by Denny O’Neil and art by Mike Kaluta.
1974: DC Began publication in the spring of a series of over-sized facsimile reprints of the most valued comic books of the past under the general title of “Famous First Editions,” beginning with a reprint of Action Comics # 1, and including afterwards Detective Comics # 27, Sensation Comics # 1, Whiz Comics # 2, Batman # 1, Wonder Woman # 1, All-Star Comics # 3, Flash Comics # 1, and Superman # 1. Mike Friedrich, an independent publisher, released Star-reach with work by Jim Starlin, Neal Adams, and Dick Giordana, with ownership of the characters and stories invested in the creators themselves.
1975: In the first collaborative effort between the two major comic book publishers of the previous decade, Marvel and DC produced together an oversized comic book version of MGM’S Marvelous Wizard of Oz in the fall, and then the following year, in an unprecedented crossover, produced Superman vs. The Amazing Spider-man, written by Rod Andru, and inked by Dick Giordana.
1976: Frank Brunner’s Howard the Duck, who had appeared earlier in Marvel’s Fear and Man-Thing, was given his own book in January, which because of distribution problems became an overnight collector’s item. After decades of litigation, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster were given financial recompense and recognition by National Periodical Publications for their creation of Superman, after friends of the team made a public issue of the case.
1977: Stan Lee’s Spider-man was given a second birth, fifteen years after his first, through a highly successful newspaper comic strip, which began syndication on January3 with art by John Romita. This invasion of the comic stripe by comic book characters continued with the appearance on June 6 of Marvel’s Howard the Duck, with story by Steve Gerber and visuals by Gene Colan. In an unusually successful collaborative effort, Marvel began publication of the comic book adaptation of the George Lucas Film Star Wars, with script by Roy Thomas and art by Howard Chaykin, at least three months before the film was released nationally on May 25. The demand was so great that all six issues of Star Wars were reprinted at least seven times, and the installments were reprinted in two volumes of an over-sized Marvel Special Edition and a single paperback volume for the book trade. Dave Sim, with an issue dated December, began self-publication of his Cerebus the Aardvark, the success of which would help establish the independent market for non-traditional black-and -white comics.
1978: In an effort to halt declining sales, Warner Communications drastically cut back on the number of DC titles and overhauled its distribution process in June. The interest of the visual media in comic book characters reached a new high with the Hulk, Spider-man and Dr. Strange, the subjects of television shows; with various film versions produced of Flash Gordon, Dick Tracy, Popeye, Conan, The Phantom, and Buck Rogers; and with the movement reaching an outlandish peak of publicity with the release of Superman in December. Two significant applications of the comic book format to traditional fiction appeared this year; A Contract with God and other Testament Stories by Will Eisner and the Silver Surfer by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Eclipse Enterprises published Don McGregor and Paul Gulacy’s Sabre, the first graphic album produced by the direct sales market, and initiated policy of paying royalties and granting copyrights to comic book creators. Wendy and Richard Pini’s Elfquest, a self-publishing project begun this year, eventually became so [popular that it achieved bookstore distribution. The magazine Heavy Metal brought to America attention the Avant-garde comic book work of European artists.
1980: Publication of the November premier issue of The New Teen Titans, with art by George Perez and story by Marv Wolfson, brought back to widespread popularity a title originally published by DC in 1966.
1981: Distributor Pacific Comics began publishing titles for direct sales through comic shops with the first issue if Jack Kirby’s Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers and offered royalties to artists and writers on the basis of sales. DC would do the same for regular newsstand comics in November (with payments retroactive to July 1981), and Marvel followed suit by the end of the year. The first issue of Raw, irregularly published by Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly, carried comic book art into new extremes of experimentation and innovation with work by European and American artists, with # 158, Frank Miller began to write and draw Marvel’s Daredevil and brought a vigorous style of violent action to comic book pages.
1982: The first slick format comic book in regular size appeared, Marvel Fanfare # 1, with a March date. Fantagraphics Books began publication in July of Love and Rockets by Mario Gilbert, and Jamie Hernandez and brought a new ethnic sensibility and sophistication in style to comic book narratives for adults.
1983: More comic book publishers, aside from Marvel and DC, issued more titles than had existed in 40 years, most small independent publishers relying on direct sales, such as Americomics, Capital, Eagle, Eclipse, First, Pacific, and Red Circle, and with Archie, Charlton, and Whitman publishing on a limited scale. Frank Miller’s mini-series Ronin demonstrated a striking use od wordplay and marital arts typical of Japanese comic book art, and Howard Chaykin’s stylish but controversial American Flagg appeared with an October date on its first issue.
1984: A publishing, media, film, and merchandising phenomenon began with the first issue of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles from Mirage Studios by Kevin Eastman and Peter Liard.
1985: Ohio State University’s library of communication and graphic arts hosted the first major exhibition devoted to the comic book May 19 through August 2. In what was billed as an irreversible decision, the Silver Age Superheroine Supergirl was killed in then seventh (October) issue of Crisis on Infinite Earths, a limited series intended to reorganize and simplify the DC Universe on the occasion of their 50th anniversary.
1986: In recognition of its 25th anniversary, Marvel began publishing Several new ongoing titles comprising Marvel’s “New Universe”, a self-contained fictional world. DC extracted extensive publicity and media coverage with its revision of the character of Superman by John Byrne and of Batman in the Dark Knight series by Frank Miller. Watchmen, a limited series graphic novel by Alan Moore and artist Dave Gibbons, began publication with a September issue from DC and Marvel’s The ‘Nam, written by Vietnam veteran Doug Murray and penciled by Michael Golden, began with its December issue. DC issued guidelines in December for labeling their titles for either mature readers or for readers of all ages; in response, many artists and writers objected or threatened to resign.
1987: Art Spiegelman’s Maus: A Survivor’s Tale was nominated for the National Book Critics Award in Biography, the first comic book to be so honored. A celebration of Superman’s fiftieth birthday began with the opening of an exhibition on his history at the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., in June and a symposium on “The Superhero in America” in October.
1988: Superman’s birthday celebration continued with a public party in New York and a CBS television special in February, a cover story in Time Magazine in March ( the first comic book character to appear on the cover), and an international exposition in Cleveland in June. With issue # 601 for May 24, Action Comics became the first modern weekly comic book, which ceased publication after 42 issues with the December 13 issue. In August, DC initiated a new policy of allowing creator’s of new characters to retain ownership of them rather than rely solely on work-for-hire.
1989: The fiftieth anniversary of Batman was marked by the release of the film Batman, starring Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne and Jack Nicholson as the Joker; it grossed more money in its opening weekend than any other motion picture in film history.
1990: The publication of a new Classics Illustrated series began in January from Berkley/First with adaptations of Poe’s The Raven and Other Poems by Gahan Wilson, Dickens’ great expectations by Rick Geary, Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass by Kyle Baker, and Melville’s Moby Dick by Bill Sienkiewicz, with extensive media attention. The adaptation of characters to film continued with the most successful in terms of popularity and box office receipts being Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Warren Beatty’s Dick Tracy. In November, the engagement of Clark Kent and Lois Lane was announced in Superman # 50 which brought public fanfare about the planned marriage.
1991: One of the first modern comic books to appear in the former Soviet Union was a Russian Version of Mickey Mouse published in Moscow on May 16 in a printing of 200,000 copies which were sold out within hours. The first issue of Bone, written, drawn, and published by Jeff Smith, appeared with a July cover date. Issue number one of a new series of X-Men, with story and art by Chris Claremont and Jim Lee, was published in five different editions with a print run of eight million copies, the highest number in the history of the comic book. On December18, Sotheby’s Auctions of New York held is first auction of comic book material.
1992: In April, Image Comics debuted with Youngblood # 1, changing the comic book industry by widening the playing field and legitimizing independent comics. Image Comics began publication of the first Todd McFarland Productions title, Spawn, with a May cover date. The opening date for Batman Returns in June was the biggest in film box office history, bringing in 46 million dollars, exceeding the record set by Batman in 1989, and not to be topped until the release of Jurassic Park a year later. At the second Sotheby auction in September, Action Comics # 1 brought $ 82,500, a world record for a single comic book sold at auction. In November the death of Superman generated considerable media attention, with Superman # 75 selling in excess of 4 million copies, the second best-selling issue, behind Fantastic Four 1, in comic book history. A record number of over one hundred publishers of comic books and graphic albums issues titles this year.
1993: In April, for the first time since 1987, DC Comics surpassed Marvel in sales, primarily due to interest in the titles devoted to the return of Superman.
1994: Overproduction, Changes in marketing practices, and publisher mergers and collapses triggered an apparent crisis in comic book publishing, which some have read as a sign of its influence and presence in American commerce and culture.
1995: Batman Forever, released in June with Val Kilmer in the lead role, grossed in its opening weekend over $53 million, the largest return in film box office history, exceeding the similar records set by the first two Batman films in 1989 and 1992. Writer Neal Gaiman decided after seven years to retire his popular and literate version of Sandman, the second revival of a Golden Age DC superhero created in 1939.
1996: The longest-running give-a-way title ended after # 467 of The Adventures of the Big Boy in September. In a long anticipated event coordinated between several comic book titles, the ABC television series Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, and the publication of Superman: The wedding album, Lois Lane and Clark Kent were married in October.
1997: Several Marvel Universe titles ( Fantastic Four, Avengers, Captain America, Iron Man ) ended their long runs and started over with new # 1 issues under the umbrella title Heroes Reborn, a separate universe under the creative direction of Rob Liefeld and Jim Lee. They later returned, again with New # 1’s, in the Heroes Return crossover. Superman went through a startling metamorphosis at DC, complete with new powers and a new costume, eventually splitting into two beings, Superman Red and Superman Blue. The latest Batman film, Batman and Robin, was released to a tepid response, while the movie adaptation pf Todd McFarland’s Spawn movie was moderately well received.
1998: Marvel continued to relaunch their popular titles, and Spider-man was the focus. His titles were restarted with # 1 issues, and John Byrne updated his origins with the start of the Spider-man: Chapter One mini-series. Movie director Kevin Smith took over the reigns of Daredevil, and other titles were restarted under the Marvel Knights banner. DC bought Jim Lee’s Wildstorm Properties, bringing into the fold popular titles like Gen13, WildCATS, and the highly successful new cliffhanger titles, Battle Chasers, Danger Girl and Crimson. The 20th anniversary of the publication of A Contract with God was observed by a conference ”The Graphic Novel: An Emerging Literary and Artistic Medium” held in honor of Will Eisner at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst.
1999: The Manga/Anime influx reached gargantuan proportations with the runaway success of Pokemon on TV, in theaters, and most especially in comics, trading cards and toys. Other titles like Sailor Moon and DragonballZ were also prominent this year. The JSA returned to regular publication. Marvel Knights continued to garner praise with titles like The Inhumans, Black Widow, Black Panther, Daredevil, Antman, and The Punisher. Gladstone ceased publication of Disney titles in February. That month also celebrated The Wedding of Popeye and Olive from Ocean Comics. Alex Ross followed up the tabloid-sized painted Superman adventure, Peace on Earth, with a Batman tabloid titled War on Crime.
2000: Marvel began to issue an Ultimate Marvel series designed to feature their superheroes as 21st century teenagers, beginning in September with the best selling Ultimate Spider-man # 1. Film interest in comic book properties and ideas continued with the successful and faithful version of X-Men in July and the comic book themed movie Unbreakable in November. The graphic novel garnered praise and attention in the nation’s literary media with the publication of such works as From Hell by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell, Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth by Chris Ware, and David Boring by Daniel Clowes.
2001: Marvel finally told the origin of Wolverine in the appropriately titled mini-series, Wolverine: Origin, While DC set predictable record sales with the release of Frank Miller’s long awaited sequel, The Dark Knight Strikes Again. Daniel Clowes’ acclaimed graphic novel, Ghost World, made a successful transition the silver screen, Kevin Smith’s Green Arrow resurrected the Oliver Queen incarnation of the popular DC hero, and Marvel’s Spider-man received a welcome shot in the arm thanks to the arrival of new Amazing Spider-man scribe, Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski.
The 21st century has seen a move away from traditional comics with the adult theme centralizing most publishing companies of this era. Even DC and Marvel has moved away from the entertainment value concept to the making a point concept.
The internet has enabled Golden, Silver, Bronze and Modern Age issues to be readily available through on-line sales and on-line auctions. Back-issue comics are presently the backbone of the comics industry. This trend will continue to move forward as more and more collectors sell off their collections and big-time comic book conventions continue to have resounding success around the country. The today generation will continue to purchase issues from the Marvel and DC Universe, and major independents, but the trend is on the down side. An era has passed. Even with the big screen success of Batman, Superman, The Phantom, Spider-man, Hulk, Hellboy, Spawn, Blade: The Vampire Slayer, Iron Man and other movies that will come out in the future, the demand will continue to be on Golden, Silver and Bronze Age comics.
CGC ( Comics Guaranty Corporation ) Graded comics will continue to prosper. The CGC grade designation can increase the value of an issue by 300-500 percent.
Restoration of some Golden Age issues is the correct route for badly damaged issues as long as the over-all integrity of the issue is not compromised. My personal restoration percentage would be at no more than 10 percent of an issue restored to keep that issue at close to original market value. Whether or not that comes about remains to be seen. Now restoration is looked upon as taboo and drops the value of an issue by up to hundreds of a percent.
The future looks great for collector’s. There are millions of issues available at any time on the internet, in flea markets and probably some great unknown collections still to be found as the years come and go. Being a comic collector can be fun, I know, I have collected comics now for over 44 years.
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