Heritage Lives: The Impact of Comics On Our World As A Form Of Entertainment

By Terry Hughes

The world of comics has impacted us in a variety of ways too numerous to detail here.

Their roots are found in political cartoons found in newspapers in the late nineteenth century but became more mainstream by the nineteen thirties. 

The Depression had hurt the spirit of people who were looking for some kind of relief at that time. Heroes and heroines using fictitious characters became the subjects of interest. That would include Little Orphan Annie, the crime-busting Dick Tracy or the intergalactic good guys, Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon illustrated here. They would sell a lot of cereal products, radio programs and movies. Remember watching Flash, Dr. Zarkov and Dale Ardon against Ming the Merciless in serials broadcast in the early days of television?

The first superhero would emerge from a novel published in 1914 from a novel called Tarzan of the Apes written by Edgar Rice Burroughs. By the 1930s Tarzan was found in a variety of media making his famous scream and the line “Me Tarzan, You Jane!” Olympic swimmer Johnny Weissmuller would win much fame playing that movie role. Newspapers had a section called “the funny papers” where comic strips can still be found today. Blondie and Dagwood, Henry, and the Captain and the Kids of yesteryear are now replaced by Peanuts or Garfield. 

Fast forward to more recent times, our next comic hero taken from a 1988 Time Magazine shows Superman celebrating his fiftieth birthday surrounded by his newspaper colleagues and a host of super heroes spawned by his image. Can you name who makes up those characters in the background? They would emerge after 1938 as the thirst for more super heroes grew.   

Comic heroes since the numerous Superman sequels have followed with many of their own such as Batman. They are real money makers. Presently, Spiderman tops the list for many people. Compared to comics of the past the musculature and body language emphasize the stunts and actions required by these individuals. The simplistic story lines of yesterday have been replaced by much deeper themes with some stories having a darker side.

The author of the magazine article concludes with the hope that Superman will reach one hundred years of age. Well here we are in 2023 and he is well on his way to reaching that milestone.

Next column: The former Robin Hood mill in transition.

(Terry  Hughes is a Wellander who is passionate about heritage, history and model railroading. His opinion column, Heritage Lives, appears on the blog once or twice monthly.)

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