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History of Comic Books

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Comics are a sequence of drawings that present a humorous situation or an adventure story. Most comics include dialogue or captions, which are enclosed in a balloon pointing toward the speaker's mouth. The first comic strips in the United States appeared as newspaper drawings during the 1890's. These drawings were eventually laid out in strips across the page and became known as comic strips. Comics were first regularly published in magazine form, or comic books, in the 1930's.

There are many different kinds of comics. Among the most popular have been animal cartoons, such as Krazy Kat; realistic adventure stories, such as Terry and the Pirates; fantastic adventures, such as Superman; jungle tales, such as Tarzan; crime and detective stories, such as Dick Tracy; and humorous social or family situations, such as Blondie. Some comics relate true stories and biographies, stories of romance, and simplified versions of the great classics.

This wide variety has existed only since the 1930's. Earlier comics were primarily concerned with slapstick and clowning. They were meant to be humorous and were therefore known as funnies. The first comics included James Swimmer ton's Little Bears and Tigers, R. F. Outcault's Hogan's Alley, and Rudolph Dirk's Katzenjammer Kids. One of the earliest comic strips to appear as a daily newspaper feature was "Bud" Fisher's Mutt and Jeff, which originated in 1907.

In the 1920's, comics began to emphasize storytelling and suspense, as well as straight humor. The first "fantastic" strips, Tarzan and Buck Rogers, were begun in 1929. One of the most widely read of all comic strips, Superman, was created in 1938. This comic strip achieved even greater popularity in magazine form and led to increased publishing of comics. Soap opera comics, which originated in 1932 with Apple Mary (later changed to Mary Worth), became very popular in the 1950's. Judge Parker, The Heart of Juliet Jones, and On Stage were among the most successful comic strips of this type.

In the 1960's and 1970's, a whole galaxy of "super heroes" appeared in comic books. A typical "super hero" has special powers, which he uses in his fight to uphold truth and justice. The most popular comics of this type included Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, and Thor.

Many critics have expressed fears about the harmful effects of comics on children. Some people believe that the reading of crime and horror comics has increased juvenile delinquency. In 1954, members of the comics industry established a voluntary self-regulatory agency, the Comics Code Authority. The provisions of the code set standards for the treatment of crime, violence, sex, alcoholism, and other subjects that might be represented with poor taste.

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