Comic books have evolved from the early days of newspaper comic strips, crime stories, and tales of suspense into the current reign of superheroes, horror stories and adult themes. Over time, comic books have come to play a great part in the history of pop culture.
Platinum Age of Comics (1897-1937)
Newspaper comic strips were first sold as comic books during the early 1930s, otherwise known as the Platinum Age. Between 1933 and 1937, icons like Mickey Mouse, Flash Gordon and Dick Tracy all made their mark, and artists like Will Eisner, Bob Kane, Jerry Siegel, and Joe Shuster all started their careers.
In particular, 1937 marked the debut of themed comics. Detective comics (abbreviated later to DC), focused on crime and suspense stories and would eventually be the title to introduce us to Batman. Detective comics set the stage for the beginnings of the Golden Age of Comics.
Golden Age of Comics (1938-56)
The Golden Age began in 1938 when Action Comics #1 introduced the first superhero, Superman. Bob Kane was inspired by the success of Superman, and eventually developed the darker superhero, Batman. Although Batman had no powers, his dark tales and maniacal villains made his comics a success.
Superheroes continued to flourish between 1938 and 1945. Captain Marvel, The Flash, The Sandman, the Human Torch and many others were born in various publications. In 1940 war comics were extremely popular and Captain America became the first hero to get his own title before appearing in a previous comic. With the end of WWII in 1945, the Golden Age of comics began to draw to a close and science fiction comics started to gain popularity.
Silver Age of Comics (1957-70)
Horror comics like Weird Fantasy, The Crypt of Terror, and The Vault of Horror became increasingly popular during the Silver Age. By the mid-1950s superhero comics like Superman, Captain America, and the Flash were revived with these characters given new titles and stories to play out.
Comics created in this period featured quirky personalities, modern slang, and personal problems beyond saving the world. The Fantastic Four comics were the first in a new wave of Marvel heroes which also included The Incredible Hulk and Thor. However, it was Spiderman’s appearance in Amazing Fantasy #15 that cemented the Marvel style.
This era also gave rise to super groups like The Avengers and the X-men. While superheroes rose to power, science fiction comics continued to be popular and Marvel combined them with the Silver Surfer.
By the end of the Silver Age, comic books looked very much like they do in modern day: a plethora of heroes each with their own comic, and many characters that did double duty in a super group.
Bronze Age of Comics (1970-79)
Reflecting the times, comics of the Bronze Age started to address more modern themes. Even though classic comic book heroes continued to be popular, new heroes like Conan the Barbarian and stories such as Star Wars ushered in the modern age.
Modern Age of Comics (1980-Now)
During the 1980s the rise of the graphic novel placed popular heroes in more adult settings that have become more common during the Modern Age.
Whereas the industry had previously been dominated by Marvel and DC, the 1990s marked the introduction of many independent or alternative comics, like Dark Horse and Image.
Value and Collect Comic Books
Over the last decade or so, comic books have gone from a cottage industry to an entertainment juggernaut. Popular movies that have hit the big screens like Batman Begins, Spiderman, and the X-Men have fueled the interest in this visual art form.
With so many talented artists and writers involved in making comic books, it’s no wonder that collecting comics has become one of the hottest hobbies around. Comics have come a long way from the classic “POW” “BAM” “BIFF” days of the Golden Age. These days you will find more complex storylines that challenge characters both physically and emotionally, and artwork that is just as skilled.
The most important thing to remember when collecting comics is to have fun! Find a comics character that you enjoy. Does their super-power, their secret identity, or the world they inhabit interest you? Are they part of a group? If so, are you interested in collecting more than one title at a time?
Value and grading of comics
Comic book values typically depend on different factors, including how rare a particular issue is and the condition of the comic book. It's good to have an understanding of the grading scale used by most comics collectors to help ensure that your expectations are met when you purchase comics.
The comics grading scale below is commonly used to rate the condition of comics. It includes the name of the condition, the symbol for the condition, and a numerical value.
• Mint (MT) Comics, 9.9 to 10.0: The best example of comic book condition ever seen. Perfect, or as near to perfect as possible.
• Near Mint/Mint (NM/M) Comics, 9.8: Almost perfect. Only minor imperfections. Comic book is flat and shows no wear.
• Near Mint (NM) Comics, 9.2 to 9.7: Nearly perfect with only minor binding errors allowed. Bright and reflective ink, and no cover wear.
• Very Fine/Near Mint (VF/NM) Comics, 9.0: Outstanding condition. Slight cover bend apparent and wear is almost imperceptible.
• Very Fine (VF) Comics, 7.5 to 8.5: Excellent condition. Relatively flat cover with minor corner wear. Paper is supple, not brittle.
• Fine/Very Fine (FN/VF) Comics, 7.0: Above-average condition. Minor cover wear shows. Corners may be blunted.
• Fine (FN) Comics, 5.5 to 6.5: Above average. Cover shows wear, but is clean with no creasing. Blunted corners common. Minor or moderate spine roll.
• Very Good/Fine (VG/FN) Comics, 5.0: Above average, but obviously used. Minor cover wear with minor or moderate creases. Minor staple tear and minor rust acceptable.
• Good/Very Good (GD/VG) Comics, 3.0: Used with substantial wear. Cover loose, or detached at one staple. Discolouration or fading apparent.
• Good (GD) Comics, 1.8 to 2.5: Substantial wear, obviously read. Dull cover. Moderate staining and soiling.
• Fair/Good (FR/GD) Comics, 1.5: Substantial and heavy wear. Cover lacks lustre. Soiled, scuffed, and possibly unattractive.
• Fair (FR), 1.0 Comics: Heavy wear. Lowest collectable grade. Spine split and roll common. Missing, rusted, or discoloured staples.
• Poor (PR) Comics, 0.5: Little or no collector value. Missing large chunks. Corners significantly round or missing altogether.
Comics guides can be also great resources for collectors in providing the value of many back-issue comics.
Comics storage & care
Take a few simple precautions to ensure that your comics remain protected so that you can enjoy them for years to come.
• Comics storage: There are a few options for storing comic books. Comic bags are available to keep your comic books dust- and dirt- free. Special acid-free cardboard backings are also available that won’t damage ink. Hard plastic cases are also an idea for more serious collectors, or more valuable comics, and these will protect your comic from just about everything.
• Caring for your comics: Keep your comics out of direct sunlight to ensure they stay in good condition. Sunlight will quickly fade comics, making the ink dull and the pages brittle. Also, try to avoid handling your comics too often as oils on your fingers will eventually discolour the comics and leave spots.