Greetings from the Odinson,
The Odinson’s 13 Most Noteworthy Calendar Years in Comics History
Part 1 of 2
1938: The Birth of the Super Hero
- During the first quarter of the 20th Century, popular fiction was dominated by the pulps and newspaper comic strips. Popular fiction consisted of dark crime-fighters like The Shadow, stoic adventurers like Doc Savage, and jungle lords like Tarzan, and though the actual format of comic books was created a few years earlier when newspaper comic strips were collected into single issues, in June of 1938, Action Comics #1 changed everything. In its pages, Action Comics #1 introduced the world to Superman, and the super hero was born!
- Everything, and I mean everything, which has to do with Comics History in the last 80+ years can be traced back to Action Comics #1.
1956: The Dawn of the Silver Age
- Only a few years removed from Fredric Wertham’s 1954 release of Seduction of the Innocent and the Senate Hearings that led to the creation of the Comics Code Authority, the medium was struggling to stay relevant. Only icons like Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and very few others managed to survive the scandal that nearly destroyed the medium, and even then, only in very cookie-cutter, sterilized versions of their original selves. But that all changed with one issue – Showcase #4.
- Showcase #4 reintroduced the Flash, but this time with a sleeker, more modernized look, and with a more science fiction twist. Soon other Golden Age heroes were reimagined for the Atomic Age – Green Lantern, Hawkman, The Atom – and a new age of comics was ushered in, a Silver Age.
- What would become the Silver Age of Comics was just the booster shot in the arm our beloved medium needed at that point in history to keep it vibrant and prominent all through the second half of the 20th Century.
1961: The Marvel Age of Comics Begins
- Next to June 1938, it can be argued that November 1961 is the most important date in Comic Books History. It is the date Fantastic Four #1 was released and launched the Marvel Age of Comics.
- Not only did it keep writer Stan Lee from leaving the medium that so desperately needed his guidance, and give masters of their craft Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko a platform upon which to share their gifts with the world, but the Marvel Age introduced arguably the most relatable, complex, and beloved characters the medium has ever seen, characters that still resonate and influence to this day.
- The Marvel Age also made Marvel a bona fide rival to the dominant DC Comics and forced DC, the company that launched the super hero genre, to step up their game in order to keep up. What followed made the last quarter of the 20th Century the stuff of legends.
1984: Seeds for the Future are Planted
- Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars is easily one of the most influential and impactful crossover events in Comics History. Its effects can still be felt to this day and its value to the medium far out lasted the Secret Wars toyline it was original put together to promote. It may not have been the first crossover event in Comics History, but it created the template and set the bar for which all crossover events since have been measured.
- It introduced Spider-Man’s Black Costume which would one day lead to the creation of Venom. It saw the Thing leave the Fantastic Four and She-Hulk join the team. The Kitty Pryde/Colossus relationship hit a speedbump that would influence their relationship for many years to come. New characters that would become Marvel mainstays like Titania, Spider-Woman II, and the Beyonder were introduced. Many subplots involving Thor, Hulk, and the X-Men, and even villains like Magneto, Doctor Doom, Molecule Man, and Ultron would affect these character and the world they inhabit for years to come.
- 1984 also introduced Jason Todd as the new Robin.
- The year saw one of the best sci-fi stories in comics reach its crescendo in Rom #50.
- Kenner introduced one of the most beloved toylines in history – The Super Powers Collection – and DC released a comic series by the same name spearheaded by the King himself, Jack Kirby!
- And, 1984 featured one of the most amazing Thor runs in history by Modern Master Walt Simonson.
1985: A Crisis Changes Everything
- In 1985, Marv Wolfman and George Perez’s magnum opus Crisis on Infinite Earths changed everything. It cleaned up nearly 50 years of convoluted continuity, it set the stage for a fresh new start for the DC Universe, and it did both these things without tarnishing what came before but by actually paying homage to it. Crisis was the foundation upon which the next 20 years of storytelling was built. The significance of this epic storyline can never be overstated.
1986: The Apex of Storytelling
- The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen happened in 1986 and they are arguably the two most significant, influential, and respected comic book tales in history. Watchmen was even rated by Time Magazine as one of the Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century. To this day, their mark can be felt on the medium and to this day, they continue to show up on year end Top Sellers lists.
- Marvel Comics celebrated its 25th Anniversary.
- The X-Men, under the watchful eye of master scribe Chris Claremont, had become bona fide rock stars. The Mutant Massacre happened in 1986. It was the very first X-crossover event and not only would it have lasting effects on continuity for many years to come, it laid the groundwork and set the bar for every X-crossover event that has happened since.
- Dark Horse Comics was born in 1986 and opened its pages for the first time. Dark Horse started out as a renegade independent, but over the decades since, it has gone on to become a pillar in the industry.
- 1986 was also the year that launched the highly underrated experiment known as The New Universe. It was a universe of paranormal heroes set outside of the main Marvel Universe with new characters and bold ideas to explore. In many ways, the New Universe was the precursor to later projects like the Ultimate Universe.
1992: The Rock Stars Rebel and Nothing is Ever the Same Again
- In 1992, Todd McFarlane, Jim Lee, Marc Silvestri, Erick Larsen, Whilce Portacio, Jim Valentino, and Rob Liefeld were THE premiere artists in the industry. The books they worked on – Spider-Man, Guardians of the Galaxy, X-Men, and X-Force – out sold all other comics on the stands. And, at the height of their popularity and fame, they bolted.
- In 1992, Image Comics was born and the industry has never been the same since.
1993: Comic Books Make Headline News
- 1993 saw two of the biggest moments in Comics History happen – The Death of Superman and Knightfall.
- These storylines were so iconic and major that even the mainstream media could not ignore them. As the nightly and national news reported on these events in a way that had never been seen before and rarely since, the rest of the world finally realized what we as fans had known all along, comic books are significant.
We are half way there. Be sure to tune in next week as we take a look at the lowest depths and the highest peaks as we continue to look at The Odinson’s 13 Most Noteworthy Calendar Years in Comics History.
This is Odinson bidding thee farewell