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These are illustrated notes for chapter 3 of Roger Sabin's 'Comics, Comix and Graphic Novels: A History of Comic Art'. This chapter covers the emergence and growth of the superhero, which was largely an American phenomenon. I have never been drawn to superhero comics, but reading the history of them makes sense of them. They emerged at a time of a economic depression and it was inspirational or at least some form of relief to see a character have strength and the ability to bend the laws of physics and the law and assert control over the world.
Superheros are a big rippling muscled metaphor for, dependending on the hero, war, peace, justice, right and wrong, ideal communities. Never small issues it seems.
As superheros grew in number and popularity, something powerful happened that changed the history of comics dramatically. It was a restriction on what was acceptable for children in comics. A dramatic clamp-down if ever there was one. A comics code was drawn up following public outcry about violence and sexual references and political undercurrents in comics. Precode comics were confiscated by worried parents and new comics were issued, devoid of anything sexy, political, anti-authoritarian and unreasonably violent. Of course, as with many restrictions, a rebellion was hot on its heels, as we shall see in my next notes.
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