The Comic Book is a relatively new art form, first being introduced in the early 20th Century. It is known for its colorful art styles, story board (otherwise known as box style) storytelling and, in most cases, an emphasis on super heroes. These Heroes would fight villainy in the forms of super villains in amazing action packed stories. But as time went on, these stories began to evolve in parallel with what was happening in the real world. When World War II came, Heroes would fight Hitler and the Axis, as to raise moral of the American People. Then The Cold War happened, as the comic book industry responded to the scientific advancements with reboots of hero stories and powers. Following this, more domestic issues gained attention of the American People, and there was a rampant drug use. Comic books began to tackle these issues in their books and provide commentary on them. This would continue to happen up to Modern Age comics today. Like any other art form, Comic Books can provide social commentary on history. Comics could provide commentary arguably better than any other art form, as its use of powerful visuals as well as textual prose allows for a deep story telling and impact on readers.

The Golden Age of Comics: The Golden Age of Comics was from 1938 to 1958. It was the time when Superheroes really came into their own in the Comic scene. It all started when Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster created the first true superhero: Superman. During the Great Depression, comic books were an escape from the troubles that people faced in the United States. Superman was a hero of the people. He stood for what was right and just. Soon, more superheroes were created with a similar message.
Not long after the Great Depression, WorldCaptain-America-Issue-1.jpg Artists began to draw and write stories that involved superheroes taking on caricaturized characters of the Axis leaders and soldiers. As such they took on somewhat of a propaganda role. The most iconic of these war time heroes was Captain America, a regular guy from Brooklyn injected with a super serum and tasked with taking down the Nazi’s and the Axis powers. This is a good example of what the Golden age was known for: patriotism and the American identity. Another trademark of the Golden Age was the introduction of young sidekicks for heroes. This would not only make heroes seen more appealing, but they would give young readers a characters that they could relate to.

Silver Age of Comics: After 1958, the Silver Age began. The Silver Age is known for its wacky stories as well as an emphasis on science (or rather pseudo-science). This was the time when Superheroes had updated powers, and stories that were developed more on “scientific” grounds. For example, the power ring of the new Green Lantern is now powered by alien technology, instead of magic. Batman now had more futuristic weapons and gadgets to fight crime. This new scientific recasting of the characters and stories were influenced by the Cold War scientific advancements. The space race and the nuclear arms race brought about new scientific discoveries and advancements, and comic book writers wanted to reflect these in their books. The Silver Age was also known for its incorporation of new modern art elements. It used psychedelic art, bright colors, as well as elements of impressionism. Overall, many people don’t pay much attention to Silver Age Comics as the stories are known for being rather silly and stupid. They would have heroes that would do crazy things or have ridiculous scenarios (e.g., in a story of the time, Batman fights crime as a baby!).
This was in part due to the Comics Code Authority, who restricted what could be written and portrayed in comic books. Then, in the 1970’s, this all began to change, as young writers and artist became fed up with these restrictions, and they started to print stories that dealt with real world problems in a powerful way. This transition brought about the Bronze Age.

Bronze Age Comics: The Bronze Age of comics was a critical time in comic book history. Transitioning from the time of the Silver Age, with its silly stories and “scientific” reasoning, the Bronze Age was a response to the problems of everyday life of people living in the 1970’s. It was meant to be commentary on the problems facing the American people. For example, the issue of race was a common issue addressed, and Green Lantern Green Arrow issue number 76 was the most famous comic to address this issue. In the picture below, we see an elderly African American man chastising Green Lantern for helping species of different colors, yet he does nothing for people with black skin color. Around the time of the publication of this issue, race tensions were running high and the Civil Rights Movement was gaining traction in the society. The ideas of racial equality were spreading across the United States among the people.

Many comic book artists and writers were liberals (and many were Jews who had been subjected to bigotry themselves) and wanted to reflect these progressive ideas in comic book issues like the one mentioned above, and in other issues like Lois Lane “I am curious black!” Another major theme expressed in Bronze Age comics was the rampant drug use of the 1960s and 70’s. Amazing Spider man issue number 96 was a very important anti-drug story that addressed this issue for the first time in comic books. Since the Silver Age, the Comics Code Authority prevented the depiction of drugs in comic media. Stan Lee, the head of Marvel at the time, went ahead and printed this comic anyways, and it was so well received that it helped end the Comics Code Authority and gave more freedom to artists and writers to explore subjects that interested them. The Bronze Age also began darker stories, like the infamous death of Gwen Stacy, but finally, in 1986, one comic series would bring about the modern age, the age of more serious Comics.


The Modern Age of Comics, alternatively known as the Dark Age of comics started in 1986 with the release of two of the most famous comics of all times: Watchmen, by Alan Moore, and The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller. Watchmen is about an alternate 20th Century where masked heroes arose and interfered with criminals as well as global affairs such as the Cold War. The story focuses on an alternate 1986, when the doomsday clock is getting closer to midnight, and masked heroes are being hunted. These heroes had moral ambiguities, they were not the typical one dimensional good guy or bad guy. This story is very serious, as it makes commentary on American culture, global hysteria, and fear of a nuclear holocaust. The author, Alan Moore describes how he felt during the time of Watchmen’s creation as “a miasma of anxiety and unease that was over everyone.” As stated above many comic book artists and writers were liberals, and the 80’s were a liberal nightmare. It was the era of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, dampening socio economic freedoms as well as the emergence of small pockets of fascism. During this time, coalitions of people would march with signs stating “rights for whites,” as well as Neo Nazi groups going public in the United States and the UK. There was also a reversion to protests asking for actual war with the Soviet Union, who were not doing so well economically due to flaws in the communist system. In Watchmen, Alan Moore wanted to capture what he believed to be not the American Dream, but an American nightmare. In fact, he made one specific character, the Comedian who is a caricature of what he interpreted American Foreign policy to be. He saw it as wild, amoral, and psychotic.
The Modern Age brought about more serious and gritty comics, ultimately trying new things to appeal to older readers. More recent series would deal with issues like gay rights and gay superheroes. In 2012, Marvel released an issue of X Men that had the first Gay wedding in comic book history. Some of the most famous comic books came from the modern age, including the Death of Superman, Spawn#1 and Watchmen.

Works Cited

Http:// ""Superheroes" PBS Documentary." YouTube. YouTube, 26 May 2015. Web. 03 June 2016.

Moore, Alan, and Dave Gibbons. Watchmen. New York: DC Comics, 1987. Print.
"Silver Age of Comic Books." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 14 Apr. 2007. Web. 09 June 2016.

TheRealDarkStar. "Comic Book Superheroes Unmasked (Documentary)." YouTube. YouTube, 26 May 2013. Web. 09 June 2016.