The Golden Age of comics began in 1938 with Action Comics Issue 1, featuring the first appearance of Superman and Lois Lane. This comic marked the dawn of comic books as we know them today, and introduced heroes into our everyday culture. As you seek to better understand the comics in your collection, this guide will help you navigate comic books from 1938 to 1955. As always, you can contact me with any questions. Enjoy the guides.
Brief overview and history of golden age comic publishers
With roots back to 1934, D.C. Comics first published New Fun in February 1935 which evolved the comic medium into original material and characters. The series introduced the predecessor to Superman in Doctor Occult (New Fun 6 and in costume by More Fun 14). By 1937, Detective Comics first appeared (before Batman). As the company shifted directions, the introduction of Superman in 1938’s Action Comics 1 marked the beginning of the superhero era. With Detective Comics 27 in 1939, Batman was introduced and completing the trilogy with the introduction of Wonder Woman in 1941’s All Star Comics 8. Major D.C. characters such as Aquaman (More Fun 73), Lex Luthor (Action Comics 23), Spectre (More Fun 52), Sandman (Adventure Comics 40) as well as many others were introduced during this era.
Timely was founded in 1939 by Martin Goodman, who evolved his publishing firm from pulp magazines to comics with the advent of superheroes with Marvel Comics 1 with the help of partner creators at Funnies. Building upon the success of the creation of characters such as Human Torch, Sub-Mariner and Angle, Timely evolved into several titles including Marvel Mystery comics, Daring Mystery Comics, Mystic Comics and the flagship Captain America Comics. The patriotic ethos of the comics, set in the backdrop of World War 2, helped establish iconic storylines and characters that would later evolve into Marvel Comics in the 1960s.
Emerging in 1939, Fawcett built upon their other publications to launch comics with Whiz Comics number one introducing Captain Marvel (who later became Shazam.) Fawcett introduced a number of patriotic characters including Spy Smasher, Bulletman, Captain Midnight and Phantom Eagle, among others.
MLJ started as M.L.J. Magazines, after the initials of its founders in 1939. The publisher began with Blue Ribbons Comics, and soon introduced its famous Pep Comics series which would introduce Archie to the world in issue 22. MLJ featured prominent super-heroes during the WW2 era, and transition to being an Archie-focused publisher after the war.
Fiction House Comics
Fiction House has its roots in publishing pulp magazines beginning in the early 1920s, and evolved into comics in the late 1930s with a focus on adventure. Titles such as Planet Comics, Fight Comics, Jungle Comics, Jumbo Comics, Wingers Comics and Ranger Comics made up the core of Fiction House which featured famous artists such as Matt Baker, Lily Renee, Dan Zolnerowich and Lee Elias among others.
Nedor Comics introduced a number of prominent super-heroes during the World War 2 era, including the Black Terror and Fighting Yank. Featuring the art work of Alex Schomburg and others, Nedor crafted narratives that were patriotic led by the Grim Reaper in Wonder Comics, who battled for the Allies.
Lev Gleason Comics
Lev Gleason comics has its origins in the late 1930s where publisher Leverett Gleason rose to prominence with titles such as Silver Streak, Daredevil and also introduced the famous series Crime does not Pay.
Hillman Periodicals, founded in the late 1930s, featured patriotic and superhero titles such as Victory Comics, Rocket Comics, Miracle Comics, Air Fighters and Club Comics.
Fox Feature Comics
Originally Fox Features Syndicate, founded by Victor Fox in New York in the late 1930s, the publisher played a prominent role in establishing characters such as Blue Beetle, Wonder Man and Phantom Lady. Featuring works of artists such as George Tuska and Matt Baker, Fox published successful titles including Mystery Men Comics, Wonderworld Comics, Phantom Lady, Fantastic Comics, Weird Comics and many other titles.
EC Comics, originally known as Educational Comics and later Entertaining Comics, was formed in 1944 by Maxwell Gaines and later evolved into publishing science fiction, horror and crime fiction under the leadership of William Gaines in the early 1950s. Best known as a publisher of Precode horror comics led by editors Al Feldstein and Harvey Kurtzman, EC is considered the king of storytelling and art with artists such as Jack Davis, Al Williamson, Johnny Craig and Frank Frazetta among many others. Titles such as Tales from the Crypt (Crypt of Terror), Vault of Horror, Haunt of Fear, Crime Suspenstories and Shock Suspenstories set the tone for comics in the early 1950s.
Centaur is considered one of the very first publishers of comics, which emerged from Comics Magazine in the mid 1930s. While it was short-lived, the influence of titles such as Amazing Man Comics, Amazing Mystery Funnies, Star Comics, Funny Pictures Stories, Keen Detective Funnies and others would extend well beyond the publisher and influence other superhero publishers. Bill Everett, a leading Centaur artist, would go onto become a famous Timely Comics artist who created the Sub-Mariner among other heroes.