The 1970s were troubled years for the comic book industry. A sharp drop in the birthrate meant that fewer children were buying comics, and sales declined. While some publishers tried to promote new comic magazines aimed at an older audience, others drastically cut their production. Television also continued to compete for the same audience, offering animated cartoons (The Superfriends, 1973-1986) and even live-action shows (The Incredible Hulk, 1977-1982; Wonder Woman, 1976-1979) based on comic book characters.

With newsstand sales plummeting and many companies folding, the comic book medium was saved at the end of the decade by direct market distribution. This method consisted of a network of specialized comic stores that bought comic books on a nonreturnable basis—once the stores purchased the comic books from the publishers, the stores could not return unsold comics. Bolstered by guaranteed sales of their product, comic book publishers rebounded.

Marvel preserved its position as a leading comic book publisher with a successful line of X-Men comics in the 1970s. The X-Men were mutants who had special powers, such as being able to levitate objects or shoot a powerful beam from their eyes. The original X-Men appeared in 1963, but the comic did not gain a large following until the late 1970s. The series eventually spawned an entire line of spinoffs, such as X-Factor and X-Terminator. (Source : Encarta)



In the 1960s the comic book industry began to move in new directions. A leader in this trend was Marvel Comics, which introduced a host of new superheroes who had special powers but also suffered many of the same insecurities as real people. The first such heroes were the Fantastic Four, created by Marvel’s Stan Lee in 1961: Mr. Fantastic, who could stretch his elastic body almost without limit; the Invisible Woman, who had the power to make herself and other things invisible; the Human Torch, who could transform his body into flame; and the Thing, who was made of orange rock and had superhuman strength. Despite their powers, the Fantastic Four suffered the same difficulties in life as anyone else. The Fantastic Four comic would also introduce other popular superheroes-with-flaws, such as the Silver Surfer (1966).

The Incredible Hulk (1962) was another character that Lee created. The Hulk was the “alter ego” of Dr. Bruce Banner, a scientist who was accidentally exposed to massive amounts of gamma radiation. After the exposure, whenever Banner’s temper flared he turned into a green-skinned, muscle-bound monster called the Hulk. The most successful Marvel character may have been Spider-Man, another Lee character who debuted in 1962. Spider-Man’s true identity was Peter Parker, an awkward teenager who is bitten by a radioactive spider and gains speed, agility, and strength. Despite these advantages, Parker still suffers many of the same personal problems as a regular high school boy—and this helped make him one of the comics’ most popular characters. Marvel’s innovations led to huge sales and a spot at the top of the industry along with DC.

A different sort of innovation took place during this period among so-called underground cartoonists such as Robert Crumb, Gilbert Shelton, and S. Clay Wilson. These artists covered a wide range of subject matter—even incorporating sexual content and drug use—as they pushed the limits of comics, or comix, as they liked to call them. Eventually these underground artists achieved popular recognition and some became famous, like Crumb, the creator of memorable characters such as Fritz the Cat and Mr. Natural.

The offbeat comic magazine Mad was first published in the 1950s, but it gained in popularity during the industry changes of the 1960s. The publication was one of the sole survivors of the EC Comics empire, which crumbled under governmental scrutiny of the industry in the early 1950s. Featuring a host of talented regular writers and artists, Mad’s anti-authoritarian skewering of popular culture—everything from movie satires to comic strips and side-panel cartoons—found a wide audience among teenagers and young adults of the era. (Source : Encarta)



During World War II the demand for superheroes ran high, and several of the most famous and enduring characters debuted during this period. These heroes included Captain America, who battled Nazis beginning in 1941; Wonder Woman (1941), who boasted superhuman strength and speed, special bracelets that deflected bullets, and a magic lasso; and others, such as The Sub-Mariner (1939), Green Lantern (1940), the Flash (1940), and Captain Marvel (1940).

After the boom of the war years and with the early coming of television, comic-book readership dropped dramatically. Many publishers went out of business, and others turned to stories featuring violence and horror. The most extreme case was William Gaines’s line of horror comics that became popular during this period under the EC label, including titles such as Crypt of Terror, The Vault of Horror, and The Haunt of Fear.

This trend toward violence and horror tales resulted in a public outcry that reached a peak in 1954. In that year psychiatrist Frederic Wertham published Seduction of the Innocent, a book sharply critical of the comic book industry, and the U.S. Senate held hearings on Juvenile Delinquency (Comic Books). To prevent government censorship, publishers were compelled to set up the Comics Code Authority (CCA), a self-regulating body with broad policing powers. The comic book code saved the industry from probable ruin, but it also stifled creativity in the field, discouraging artists and publishers from exploring new styles and genres. Sales slipped even more. (Source : Encarta)


The first comic book to be published with some brand-new material was The Funnies, which ran for 13 issues in 1929. Some early comic books were created for manufacturers to give away as a special bonus, such as Funnies on Parade, which was made for Proctor & Gamble in 1933. The first comic book to sell on newsstands was Famous Funnies in 1934. In 1935 came the appearance of New Fun, the first comic book containing exclusively original material. New Fun was published by DC Comics, which would go on to become one of the largest comic book publishers in the world. In 1937 DC began publishing Detective Comics, the first series utilizing a single theme from issue to issue.

Comic books vaulted into the public consciousness in 1938 with the debut of the character Superman in Action Comics. Superman, who came from a dying planet as a child, was endowed with special abilities under the Earth’s sun—he could fly and boasted superhuman strength, X-ray vision, and other powers. He also had a secret identity as a mild-mannered newspaper reporter named Clark Kent. The popular new character sent sales of Action Comics soaring, and an American myth was born.

The success of Superman ensured the viability of comic books as a form and gave rise to countless other superheroes. One of them was Batman, so named for his costume that looked like a bat. He fought evildoers not with superhuman powers but with uncommon physical skills and intelligence. This character debuted in 1939 in Detective Comics and quickly became as well known as Superman. Both characters have been featured in television series and motion pictures through the years, gaining further popularity. (Source : Encarta)



October 2003 (Newstream) -- A reward of up to $1 million is being offered by prominent Baltimore business executive, Stephen A. Geppi, for a near mint condition copy of the rare 1938 comic book that first introduced Superman and launched an icon of American pop culture.

The reward is in conjunction with the First Annual Las Vegas Comic-Con (, October 31 - November 2, at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center where Geppi will exhibit a copy of the fabled "Action Comics #1."

Originally sold for ten-cents each in 1938, even worn copies of Action Comics #1 today are valued at tens of thousands of dollars each. Less than 100 copies are known to exist.

"I'll pay at least $25,000 for an un-restored, complete copy in good condition, and up to $1 million for a genuine, "near mint" condition copy of Action Comics #1," said Geppi, President and CEO of Diamond Comic Distributors, a $300 million a year business that distributes comics, collectibles, toys and games throughout the world. He is also the owner and publisher of Baltimore Magazine and a part owner of the Baltimore Orioles.

The distinctive cover of the 64-page comic book depicts Superman lifting an automobile.

Experts caution there are inexpensive reprints of the 1938 comic book in the market, but these are easy to distinguish because the modern copies were printed on significantly larger pages than the valuable originals.

"The Golden Age of Comics really started with the introduction of Superman. Action Comics #1 has been called the Queen Mother of comic books, giving birth to both a popular superhero and an entire genre of Americana," said Robert Brueggeman, Event Director of the Las Vegas Comic-Con, a three-day public event that will bring together artists, writers and publishers.

"I hope this reward prompts people to check their basements, attics, garages and elsewhere for vintage comic books and memorabilia they want to sell. You never know what grandpa might have stashed away," said Geppi.

"We'll have experts available at the Las Vegas Comic-Con to give free appraisals to everyone who brings in their old comic books for evaluation," said Brueggeman.

Geppi's $1 million reward is for a copy of Action Comics #1 that grades at least 9.4 (near mint condition) on the CGC grading scale.

For additional information about the reward offer, contact Stephen Geppi at (410) 560-7100 x 169. For information about Las Vegas Comic-Con, October 31 - November 2, call (866) 36-COMIC, or go to