A comprehensive history of the superhero comic book fantasy genre and its influence on American culture.A comprehensive history of the superhero comic book fantasy genre and its influence on American culture.A comprehensive history of the superhero comic book fantasy genre and its influence on American culture.
We learn that comic book history overlaps nicely with the immigrant culture of Jewish and Italian youth in New York, with artists and writers working under sweatshop conditions. From the same neighborhoods that gave us the Golden Age of organized crime, we also got the Golden Age of comics.
We learn the origins of Superman, Batman and the Blue Beetle. Not the characters themselves, but how they were created. Who knew Batman was a ripoff of the Shadow? Or that Blue Beetle was given his name to trip off the Green Hornet? We even get a bit of World War II and Captain America (one of the few big Marvel characters to debut before the 1960s boom).
Episode one touches on "Seduction of the Innocent", and the low point in comic book history. Batman was seen as a sexual deviant and Superman (despite being created by two Jewish men) was symbolic of Hitler's master race. Although only covered in a few minutes (this topic could and should be a full episode), the general point is hit hard.
Episode two jumps up to the heroes of the 1960s, a big boom for Marvel Comics, largely inspired by the wonder and fear of nuclear power. The theme of radiation brought us the Hulk, Spider-Man, Fantastic Four. Solid writing also gave us stories that regular people could identify with (Peter Parker's dating and school troubles). And then there was the start of real diversity, thanks to Luke Cage and Black Panther.
We also hear about Jim Steranko's reinvention of Nick Fury as a spy, and the innovation of writing a story without words. We have the Batman TV series, the Comics Code Authority's limitations, and more.
- Dec 10, 2014