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)

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