Comic books are a uniquely American cultural creation, making them a fitting subject for the study of American history. Comics not only mirror the interest and opinions of society, but they also often help to change society by spreading new ideas and widespread sentiments. Comics have influenced our desires, our attitudes, and even our fears. They began to peak in popularity in terms of commercial success and cultural significance during the 1930s, coined the “Golden Age of Comic Books” which lasted until the 1950s. During this time, comics provided a source of cheap entertainment, they helped Americans cope with the New Deal villains, and they even inspired Americans to fight during World War II.
The Golden Age of comic started with the Great Depression, a time where Americans looked for new and different ways to brighten their moods amidst poverty. At the worst point of the Great Depression, in 1933, one in four Americans who wanted to work were unable to find a job. Thus, Americans sought cheap forms of entertainment, and comics provided that during the thirties and forties. At ten cents a comic, they were slightly cheaper than a ticket to a movie and because they could be read more than once, they could be traded among friends.
Aside from needing a cheap form of entertainment, the people of the United States of America also needed a hero during the Great Depression and thereafter, and comics afforded them exactly that. The early comic book heroes, such as Superman, did not fight super villains, but instead took down the real villains of the New Deal era: corrupt stock brokers that sold faulty stocks, evil bosses who refused to provide safe working conditions, and even a United States Senator that conspired with a munitions manufacturer were not safe from the “Man of Steel” in his early tales. He was the common man’s cultural hero, even if fictional, that gave the American culture someone who could triumph and inspire them to push through hard times.
The success of Superman led to a flood of new comic book superheroes, all with the intent of doing good deeds and battling crime and injustices. There was the caped crusader Batman, who fought off crime bosses and gangs in an attempt to clean up the streets. There was also the beautiful Wonder Woman, who represented the equal power and rights for women—a forward-looking cultural outlook that comic books made possible. But as the depression began to wane and the economy found a new footing, the nation lost...