Comic Books Beginnings

Comic books had a rather controversial beginning, and if you look at the present-day scenario, it seems that the jury is still out. Their origins can be traced back to the cartoon broadsheets created by woodcutters back in the middle-ages. These were basically parchment products. As soon as their mass circulation started happening, they created a market for themselves, especially at popular events that attracted thousands of enthusiastic spectators. Many spectators would invest into artists’ creations, making them some good money.

With the introduction of humor to these broadsheets, they evolved into a form of higher-level content over a period of time. Eventually, all broadsheet types were later bound in collections, making them a prototype of the magazines we read nowadays. Magazines which were formatted like the elegant British popular creation ‘Punch’, became a subject of news and documentaries later on. It had some amazing humor and fiction like no other. If you have a good look at the Punch, it had a sort of sophisticated comic style, which contributed significantly to the evolution of comic books in the UK. Still, from the historical perspective, the comic strip still hadn’t come around literally. Many are of the opinion that Ally Sloper’s ‘Half Alley’ was Great Britain’s first comic book. It was in the form of a black and white tabloid, consisting of cartoon panels interspersed with some new stories.

Now, while these events were happening in the UK, the comic books were undergoing their own evolution in the United States. It wasn’t the magazines, but the US newspapers that played a key role in creation and development of the comic book industry there. The newspapers featured single image gags, that later evolved into multi-panel comic strips. William Randolph Hearst had scored a major knockout with his Yellow Kid during this time period only. And that comic book was actually created with yellow ink.

But, when was it that the actual comic books came around? Many believe that they arrived with the reprints of Foxy Grandpa (by Carl Schultz) during the early 1900s. Others are of the opinion that it was Half Alley (by Ally Sloper) which made comic books happen. Hearst had published ‘Katzenjammer Kids and Happy Hooligan’ in the form of cardboard covered books back in 1902. In fact, the Yellow Kid was the top choice as an introducer of comic books for a long time. However, the origination of comic books is also a lot about people’s description and perception of them. All the example shared above are predecessors of the modern-era comic books that exploded during the 1930s.

It was in the year 1934 that the Whitman publishing company re-launched the modern comic books. They did it by publishing black and white hardcover reprints of Famous Comics. Nevertheless, it was the Famous Funnies which was the first-ever regularly published comic book in a format closer to the modern one. It had memorable characters like Buck Rogers, Joe Palooka, Jeff and Mutt.

The super heroes era also began during the 1930s, after Max C. Gains, one of the major giants of the comic book industry, brought ‘Superman’ to the DC in 1938. Thereafter, Harry Donenfield is believed to have made the comic coup of the last century after he published ‘Superman of Metropolis’. It was all about Superman from thereon!