When the comic book format was introduced in 1934 with the publication of Famous Funnies, only the Japanese and the British comic book industries were close competitors to the United States with the number of titles. In the US, comic books have been primarily marketed to young adult readers, although there have also been titles produced which catered to adult audiences.
The comic book history in the US can be divided into several historical eras or ages which include:
• The Platinum Age
• The Golden Age
• The Silver Age
• The Bronze Age
• The Modern Age
The terms for these ages were originated by the Fandom Press and the debate continues among historians as to the precise boundaries for these ages.
The first printing of a comic book in the US was the printing of The Adventures of Obadiah Oldbuck was printed in 1842. It was not only printed in comic book form but also in hard cover which made it not only the first known US comic book but also the first US graphic novel as well. The introduction of Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel’s Superman series of comic books in 1938 turned the printing of comic books into a major industry. This time period represents the start of the Golden Age of comics. The most common name to the age prior to the Superman age has been dubbed by historians as the Platinum Age.
The first time the term comic book was used was with the printing of The Yellow Kid in McFadden’s Flats, in 1897. The first known full color comic was titled The Blackberries, in 1901, and the first monthly comic book was titled Comics Monthly in 1922. However it was not until the Golden Age that the archetype of the superhero emerged.
The title Flash in Showcase #4, which was written by Carmine Infantino and Robert Kanigher in 1956, and ushered in The Silver Age of Comic Books. This age lasted until the early 1970s, at which time the Comic Book industry was revolutionized by Marvel Comics with such superheroes as The Fantastic Four, which was written by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, and Spider Man which was written by Steve Ditko.
The exact start of the Modern and Bronze ages continue to be much less defined. It is suggested that the starting points for the Bronze Age of comics include Conan#1 which was written by Barry Windsor Smith and Roy Thomas in 1970), the Green Arrow/Green Lantern#76 written by Neal Adams and Denny O’Neil in 1970) or The Amazing Spiderman #96 written by Gil Kane and Stan Lee in 1971. The beginning of the Modern Age, which is sometimes referred to as the Iron Age, has even more potential starting points, However, it is usually agreed to be Batman: The Dark Knight Returns which was written by Frank Miller in 1986, and the title DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths, which was written by George Perez and Marv Wolfman during the same time period.
Comics that were published in 1945 after World War II are sometimes considered to be products of the Atomic Age. Those comics published after November 1961 are often referred to as belonging to the Marvel Age.
In his book Seduction of the Innocent which was published in 1954 by psychiatrist Fredric Wertham, he criticized the medium which prompted the American Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency to investigate comic books. In 1954, as a result of the subsequent investigation and the attention by both the media and the government, the comic book industry in the US established the Comics Code Authority and introduced the Comics Code that same year.