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The History of American Comics – Part 1 – The Age Before Superman

The history of American comics can trace back to the mid-19th century on a newspaper operated by Benjamin Day, who was known for founding the first penny press newspaper in the US

The history of American comics can trace back to the mid-19th century on a newspaper operated by Benjamin Day, who was known for founding the first penny press newspaper in the US; however, the published “The Adventures of Mr. Obadiah Oldbuck” was an unlicensed work from a European artist Rodolphe Töpffer, who is known as the father of comic strips and the first comics artist in history. Rodolphe Töpffer ‘s unlicensed works had inspired American artists, and eventually contribute to the birth of American’s first comic – Journey to the Gold Diggins by Jeremiah Saddlebags – created by James A. and Donald F. Read.

Ever since that more and more drawings and humorous stories in pictures were published, but still limited and only affordable to the educated and rich ones because of the high costs of image printing until the late 19th century.

After the technology had lowered the cost of image productions, it became appealing to the media tycoons, such as Joseph Pulitzer, whom the Pulitzer Prize named after, and William Randolph Hearst, whoever worked for and started a war with Pulitzer. The war between Pulitzer and Hearst was somehow accelerate the publish of comics to get more readers, which so-called “Yellow Journalism” At that time, recurring characters began to be created, and the most famous one would be “The Yellow Kid” from Hogan’s Alley created by Richard Outcault, which Pulitzer and Hearst fought for and how the term “Yellow Journalism” was from.

The success of Yellow kid had officially started the era of American comics, and comic strips have become popular since then. The publication of the book of The Yellow Kid was the first comic book and became the start of what was called The Platinum Age of Comics.

 

At the beginning of the 20th century, some classic characters had been created, such as Popeye the Sailor, Mickey Mouse, Flash Gordon, etc. And more publishing companies published their own comic books and magazines. 

Moreover, some entrepreneurs founded a comic book publishing company such as National Allied Publications, Inc., which published the first all-original material comic book, More Fun Comics, a.k.a. New Fun Comics and later became New Adventure Comics then Adventure Comics, in the US (before this one, the comic books were reprints of comic strips.)

The founder of National Allied Publications, Inc. later co-founded Detective Comics, Inc. to publish Detective Comics but forced out in a year, and Detective Comics acquired National Allied Publications. and merged as National Comics Publications, Inc years later then renamed as “DC Comics” 30 years later.

National Allied Publications’ More Fun Comics introduced its superhero-like character, Doctor Occult, created by the creators of Superman, Jerry Siegel, and Joe Shuster, and still used in the DC Universe. Siegel and Shuster later created “Superman” had pushed American comics to its first true peak – Golden Age.

 

To Be Continued…

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