To assemble our list of , we assembled a brain trust of comics professionals, critics, historians, and journalists. Our criteria were as follows: A page had to have either changed the way creators approach making comics, or it had to expertly distill a change that had just begun. These are also not the only pages that have shaped comic books, but each, in its own way, has had a profound impact on the form as we know it. Some pages are notable for their written content — game-changing first appearances, brilliant narrative innovations, and so on.
Some are significant because the artwork told a story in ways no one had thought to do before, and ended up being emulated — or, in some cases, outright aped. All are interesting on their own and integral parts of the tomes from which they were plucked. We conclude on what we think is a high note, with a few recent comics that have already made an impact and portend a richer and more diverse future.
Strung together, these pages are a megacomic of their own, documenting the evolution of an art form in constant flux. You can click on the title of each page to open a window with a full-sized version. Writer, penciler, and inker: Lynd Ward. Eventually, Eastern Color, a successful comic-strip printer, realized that the popularity of comic strips could be used to attract customers.
After a few attempts, Dell backed out of the project. Eastern Color went on alone and launched the ongoing series, Famous Funnies , in May The major distinction of New Fun Comics was that, right from the first story of cowboy Jack Woods which appeared on the cover — an approach largely eschewed by future comics , these comics were entirely original material rather than reprinted comic strips.
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Famous Funnies had the occasional original material, but it was rare and typically used as filler. With its declaration that these flimsy products could provide exciting, new content, New Fun No. In which we learn that superheroes were social-justice warriors from the start. The first true superhero was forged in the crucible of progressive social politics.
Shuster cut up his comic strips and pasted the panels onto a board in the new comic book format. It was the start of not just a genre, but an entire industry.
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Writer and colorist: Bill Parker; Penciler and inker: C. It had been out for barely a year since the release of Action Comics No. The blend of Superman-style adventures with the wish fulfillment of a kid led to Captain Marvel becoming the most popular superhero of the s, selling better than even his Kryptonian inspiration and leading to an array of Marvel-themed spinoffs such as Mary Marvel and Captain Marvel Jr. Naturally, National sued Fawcett, and the case went on for years until National seemingly won in Rather than appeal further, Fawcett just stopped publishing superhero comics sales had already been declining , and eventually sold Captain Marvel to National.
He remains a DC property to this day, with a feature film on the way next year. The notion of giving kids a character they could identify with proved to be massively influential. National quickly looked to expand their burgeoning superhero empire. Every freelancer knew that National was looking for new superheroes. The problem for Kane was that his ideas for the character were not particularly strong and he knew it. Finger teamed up with Kane for one of the most important Batman stories ever, the origin of the character in Detective Comics No. At this point in comic-book history, most superheroes had no underlying motivation for being heroes other than a desire to do good.
Writer, penciler, inker, and letterer: Bill Everett. One early company that tried to cash in on the superhero craze was Centaur Publications, a pulp publisher that had recently purchased two failed comic-book companies, Comic Magazine Company and Ultem Publications. Jacquet saw that demand for new superhero content was so great that he left Centaur to form the comic-book packager Funnies Inc.
The issue, Marvel Comics No. He was unrelated to the later Fantastic Four character of the same name. The issue sold so well that Goodman hired away some Funnies Inc. It was the first superhero crossover and introduced the idea of a shared comic-book universe, concepts that became key parts of superhero-comics history.
They had formed their company in , so they were well positioned when the superhero boom following Action Comics No. By the end of , they had 15 writers and artists working for them, but Eisner himself remained their greatest asset. He was a brilliant writer and artist, able to produce comic-book features in a variety of formats. Eisner and Iger were making a great deal of money in the late s.
However, Eisner wanted more from his career. He came up with the idea of doing a comic-book series that would be appear as a supplement to the weekly Sunday color comic-strip pages in local newspapers.
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The supplement would open with a story starring the Spirit, a new costumed detective character Eisner created, with backup stories featuring other Eisner creations. When it launched on June 2, , the series looked like most other Sunday comic strips. Eventually, once the series was clearly a success, Eisner began to experiment. Soon, The Spirit would be most known for the way that the title was brilliantly worked into the opening splash page.
In , All-American launched a comic-book series called All Star Comics , which would feature short stories starring heroes from both All-American and National Allied. With the third issue, however, they tried something novel. Writer Gardner Fox wrote a framing sequence that connected the disparate stories in the issue. Said framing sequence revealed that all of the various heroes in the book were actually part of a single superhero team known as the Justice Society of America. For years, the Justice Society parts of the book only worked as a framing sequence to set up the solo stories, but eventually the book began telling full-length Justice Society stories.
Since All-American was technically its own company Gaines would sell his interest in the company to National Allied in and then form EC Comics , this was not only the first superhero team but also the first intercompany crossover, two ideas that have subsequently been used to death and beyond. But they became best known for their spectacular double-page spreads, which, if they did not invent, they certainly perfected, beginning with this tale in Captain America Comics No.
Two-page spreads are now not only commonplace, but de rigueur. Writer, penciler, and inker: Walt Kelly. Kelly and Pogo would enjoy even greater success in newspaper funnies pages, the rare instance of a comic- book character that became more popular in comic- strip form. William Moulton Marston, co-creator of Wonder Woman.
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A psychologist and contributor to the invention of the lie detector, Marston was, to put it mildly, an interesting individual. This was the result: Wonder Woman, written by Marston under a pseudonym and drawn by veteran illustrator Harry Peter. Here we have no less than three forms of bondage on one page: wrist and ankle shackles, chained to the wall by the neck, and, most imaginatively, getting sewn up inside a punching bag.
Lest you think we picked this page for pure sensationalism, rest assured that this was a pretty typical early Wonder Woman adventure. One later Marston tale had no less than 75 bondage panels in it. After Marston died of cancer in , the creators who inherited Wonder Woman would scrub out all the kink. It all started because fashion illustrator and cartoonist June Mills broke her foot. While laid up, Mills doodled out ideas for an adventure comic strip with a heroine modeled on herself, who had a cat sidekick very much like her own pet Peri Purr.
Our hero, Marla Drake, is a socialite turned nocturnal ass-kicker when she apprehends a gangster while en route to a costume party. Writer, penciler, and inker: John Terrell. This was the sort of thing that was on Orrin C. Evans had been working at the Philadelphia Record since the early s, where he had made history by becoming the first African-American reporter to be on staff as a general reporter at a mainstream white-run newspaper. The outlet went out of business in , following a strike, so Evans teamed up with a few of his Record co-workers to address what he felt was missing in the comic-book world: strong, positive depictions of African-Americans.
While each of the artists likely wrote their own strips, Evans oversaw the whole endeavor and made sure that all of the heroes be depicted non-stereotypically. Sadly, when Evans went to produce a second issue, the company that sold him the paper for the first issue was no longer willing to sell to him — nor would any other paper company. He spent the rest of his life working in journalism. Today, Jack Kirby is known best as a superhero artist. It gave Kirby and his business partner Joe Simon a life raft at a moment when superheroes were languishing and everything was up for grabs — a moment when comic-book sales were soaring but books about costumed derring-do were old hat.