Comic books & movies inspired by them are incredibly popular today. Whether it’s involving Marvel Comics, DC Comics, or smaller publications that have popular characters. Think Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Spawn, and Kickass here.
There are others with films, TV shows, or video games made about them that inspired comic books too. Examples here are those inspired by the Power Rangers and Assassin’s Creed. In fact, those comics are now sorta bleeding over into the main median.
Clearly, comic book material has made an impact on the world of film these days and partially even on television. This is mostly due to the popularity of these long-time characters.
While the impact is felt today, and comic books themselves are as big as ever, there was once a time when they all took a dive. Happening in the late ’80s and early ’90s, comic books were in critical condition.
Marvel Comics had trouble during this era and sold off the TV/Movie rights to various studios like NBC Universal, Sony, Fox, and Disney. Thus, creating the Marvel Studios drama is still felt today. Meanwhile, DC Comics sold off to Warner Bros. around 1970. This resulted in the company putting out DC Content via its Warner Bros. Studio for decades.
However, despite this, all of these studios were impacted by the world of comics well before they realized it. In fact, comics have pushed entertainment in every direction it has gone into in every decade since the 1920s.
They did adapt to the current median but also pushed entertainment throughout history to lean toward them too. However, this was not just involving DC or Marvel. Superheroes and Comic-Inspired media have been “a thing” for centuries now.
Don’t believe us? Let us prove it to you.
The Early Days Of Comics In NewspapersBack in the 1800s, we were seeing some small versions of comics. Mark Twain was able to become one of the biggest names connected to this era. While his work was not exactly what we think of comics to be today, mostly considered short stories, he technically did make early versions of comics.
His first work was known as The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County. It was published by the New York Saturday Press in November of 1865. While seen today as something of a short story, this was by all estimation, one of the first technically Comic-Esque stories still known of today.
However, comics in the paper have been common since the invention of newspapers centuries ago. Heck, even Ben Franklin took advantage of their impact. By the 1920s, the comics we know and love today were made. Yet drawings with messages on them were present long before.
In fact, it was here that political messages would be delivered in a subtle but clear way. Some of them would even go right after the government for wars in the era as well as local troubles to a particular region. They were even used to help sway elections.
Interestingly, these comics were not exactly made for kids to love and understand. Rather, a humorous thing to see for adults. Weird as it might seem, comics were not really made for kids at first. Newspapers later addressed this. Some of the first major characters in the world of newspaper comics would be published each week/month for decades.
Names like Mandrake the Magician and The Phantom made the biggest impact. Both debuting in the 1930s. Meanwhile, Buck Rogers also appeared in this world, though he did so in 1929.
The Radio ImpactAfter newspapers made an impact with drawings and even the world of superheroes, another medium was beginning to grow. The world knew it as radio and it would become THE form of entertainment for people. While reading the paper was still common, as well as several great books, the radio made the largest impact.
While radio had been in play since the 1800s in some capacity, it was not really used in major form until the 1900s. The impact radio made in World War I showed people that it could become a form of entertainment if used right.
Several of the first soap operas started here, often known as “radio dramas.”
However, other characters made a somewhat bigger impact. Superheroes like The Shadow, The Lone Ranger, and even The Green Hornet got their start on radio. They all made their debuts in the 1930s and would later be accompanied by several more.
Superman, Batman & Robin, Blue Beetle, Red Ryder, Captain Midnight, Roy Rogers, and even Flash Gordon were big on the radio. Though a few of these, obviously, made a bigger impact in their comic books beforehand. However, others never made it far beyond the radio.
The Stan Lee ImpactWithout a target to kids, an issue occurred and therefore, a need had to be met. That was where Stan Lee came into play as well as Detective Comics.
Stan had the opportunity to work for Martin Goodman, who was the owner and publisher of Timely Comics. This same comic empire would later come to be known as Marvel Comics. Though Stan did not write there at first. His main job was filling ink for the writers initially.
This is where Stan Lee managed to come up with a number of great characters or at least write their stories. When he began in 1939, he’d eventually have the opportunity to write Captain America comic books that would publish in 1941.
At the time, a major war was about to break out. The Captain’s adventures were clearly perfect for the time. A lot of the content used here was heavily influenced by the war going on. Lee decided to enter the war himself in 1942.
He mostly served in the Signal Corps, who repaired communication equipment. He eventually was transferred to the Training Film Division where he wrote manuals, training films, slogans, and even did some cartooning work. They actually gave him an interesting Military Classification known as “Playwright.”
Lee claims the only others who were given this title included a list of 9 men. Lee was part of the Army with some incredible people. In just his division, he served with 3-time Academy Award Winning Director, Frank Capra as well as Charles Addams, an infamous New Yorker cartoonist.
Perhaps the biggest name he served with was a guy by the name of Theodor Geisel, who later went on to illustrate and even write a number of children’s books. You now know Geisel best by his pen name, Dr. Seuss.
Stan’s Marvelous Return & Kirby Fully Loaded
Stan completed his war run in 1945 and went back to writing and illustrating for Timely Comics. His time in the war made it easier for him to write about content that connected to people of the day, especially when it came to Captain America. Although, he also wrote a lot for them while serving in the Army too.
While Joe Simon & Jack Kirby invented notorious Marvel Comics names like Captain America, Bucky Barnes, and Vision together, they also invented others for a few other comic book companies. That included DC Comics, where they invented The Guardian.
Kirby’s decision to leave Timely/Marvel a few times led to several characters being made by him in other comic book empires. He is mostly responsible for The New Gods, Mister Miracle, and The Forever People. To an extent, he also gave us Darkseid too.
Yet his best work is likely with Marvel where he and Stan Lee invented amazing characters together. The two of them are responsible for The Fantastic Four, The Hulk, Thor, Ant-Man, Iron Man, Black Panther, Wasp, The Inhumans, Silver Surfer, Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, and several more. They are also responsible for teams like The Avengers and the X-Men.
The First True Comic BooksOf course, newspapers were where comics truly started to grow. This is especially true in the 1940s. However, there were already other magazines that were doing well. One such publication, known as Pulp Magazine, began in 1896 and ran through the 1950s.
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They wrote fictional stories, accompanying them with compelling art. Remind you of anything?
They were the first place to publish work on a character you may know. His name is Zorro, and his stories debuted originally in Pulp from August 9th of 1919 to September 8th of the same year in a 5-part series.
Zorro actually made an impact greatly on the world of comics. Several comic book creators used him as inspiration for characters they’d create. This included Bill Finger and Bob Kane, who used Zorro as an inspiration for the creation known as Batman.
Several other “superheroes” appeared before Zorro as well as after. Among those were characters like John Carter, The Scarecrow, The Avenger, Flash Gordon, Conan the Barbarian, and even Tarzan.
The Shadow also managed to enter into the publication world from the radio.
The magazines eventually would become some of the most popular things to read. Pulp Magazine was not the only one doing this, but they perfected the concept. Eventually, they would come to be known as “Pulp Fiction” stories.
You didn’t think Quinten Tarantino just randomly came up with this name, right?
Comic Book Impact On The Television’s SuccessClearly, radio was the first step to see the impact comics were making as well as superheroes overall. Newspapers were great, and clearly gave us a ton of impressive content on a weekly basis. However, radio brought characters to life.
This is why Superman, as well as Batman & Robin, became even bigger in this time period.
Interestingly, comics helped to introduce us to what we now know as a TV series too.
In the early 1900s, people would go to theaters to see something known as “serials.” This was a collection of short films where we’d see the same people each time, playing the same characters. Sometimes they came out weekly and other times it was monthly.
While Radio and Newspaper Serials were already a thing, this was not so for the visual world.
The important thing to note is that they were regularly occurring. This was quite a lot to commit to for the average writer. No one had more content to push onto the screen than comic book writers. They could bring their characters quite literally to life this way.
Soap Operas did well here too, but this world was impacted the most by comic book content. Some stuff was even added into stories that were never in the comics previously. Batman, for example, did not get his infamous “Bat-Cave” until it appeared in one of his serials.
When television came to be, a few things yet again were picked up to take part. While the average talk show was common, as they had been part of the radio for decades, a few more were added. Sports, Soap Operas, and even Professional Wrestling.
However, another great impact happened with comic books here as well. The Adventures of Superman, Batman, and Shazam! all debuted in the 50s, 60s, and 70s respectably. They were followed by Wonder Woman and numerous more under the DC banner.
Marvel, for their part, also took advantage of this world. By the 1970s, Spider-Man and The Hulk had their own TV shows too.
Streaming PlatformsWe saw how comic book content managed to do a lot of big things for newspapers, radio, and television. To this day, they are still some of the biggest things you’ll ever see in the world of film too. However, surprise surprise, they are also impacting the streaming platforms.
Hulu wanted to begin being treated as a serious network platform similar to that of others like them. They needed original shows to accomplish this. It should come as no surprise that they leaned toward comics to do so. Marvel’s Runaways landed on the platform and can still be seen here.
Netflix was already massive in popularity but wanted to be treated as a serious TV Network of sorts too. This became an issue for them at first, but they managed to land well with House of Cards among a few other shows.
However, some of their biggest shows have connected to the world of comic books. Shows like Daredevil, The Punisher, Iron Fist, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, and The Defenders are ALL taken from the world of Marvel Comics. They even utilized the comic book stories revolving around the characters too. Rather than just completely making up something.
The Mouse-Eared Overlords Have Spoken
Netflix eventually canceled all of these shows, despite their success. It is mostly being done at the request of Disney, the company that now holds the TV & Movie rights to nearly anything Marvel-related.
The Disney+ Stream Platform is planning a serious amount of content connecting to the Marvel Universe. They may even bring over those Netflix shows to the Disney Platform after a while too.
Hulu won’t have to drop their Runaways show, however. This is mostly because, with their acquisition of the 20th Century Fox Studio, Disney now owns the majority shares in Hulu at around 60%.
Case in point, the massive need is there for comics and they have been so impactful that it is impossible to overlook them. New comic book-inspired movies are coming out continuously, for sure. Television cannot seem to get enough of their content even still.
Now streaming platforms are doing so.
What Have We Learned?The comic book world has clearly been impactful, but now you know how much. Therefore, when someone tells you that comic books are not as important as, perhaps, video games or something else…you can tell them off. They have clearly been an area that the entertainment world has tapped into for a long time.
Some may question how long this can continue. However, it’s unlikely to change because entertainment will continue to recycle comic book characters or use those that have not been exploited yet. Look at Marvel Studios, who has now pretty much used all of their main characters.
DC Comics has seen their characters grow due to the Arrowverse on TV too. Plus, they have seen continuous films involving the same people. Batman, anyone?
Comic Books will always be enjoyable and impactful. The real question we should be asking is, what will they impact next?