All of these characters belonged to publishing house DC comics who, in 1939, were met with an opponent under the name of Marvel Comics. This new competitor brought about the Marvel Age in which creators like Stan Lee and Jack Kirby introduced the world to a new array of heroes, such as in 1941 when Captain America was presented in his own comic, Captain America #1, which was a great success and boosted American pride against the backdrop of World War 2.

Marvel is famous for creating groups of heroes who are conflicting and diverse, as seen in The Avengers. They are also known for pushing boundaries, as seen in The Amazing Spiderman #96-98 where the idea of drugs was dealt with for the first time in comic book history.

Comic books were a platform which allowed readers to deal with societal issues, as seen in The X-Men where the heroes are normal people who were born with extraordinary gifts and were persecuted for them. This was a not simply a comment on unwarranted prejudice and how negative its effects were, but drew direct inspiration from the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and ‘60s in the US.

The 1980s saw a rise in the Grim and Gritty Age, coined by comic book illustrator Frank Miller. Here comic books dealt with more realistic problems, such as the 1988 Batman one-shot cult classic The Killing Joke, which saw Batman’s arch-nemesis the Joker try to prove to Batman that all it takes is just one bad day to descend into darkness.

In 1986 Marvel was sold to Ron Perelman, a businessman who brought about the Gimmick Age. Perelman turned the comic book into a collectable hobby for all ages and films like Batman (1989) only boosted this. It could be argued that society is still in the Gimmick Age, in which heroes dominate franchising and popular culture as seen in the highly anticipated film Deadpool (2016). It is remarkable to note that even though the comic book is almost 100 years old, it is still thriving and evolving today.


Illustration: Emmanuel Makhado.

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