Superhero Stories (04:03)
Stories about superheroes became an important part of American pop culture. Most characters who debuted in the 1950s or before were wholesome, handsome, and usually white. The characters changed when American culture started pushing against conformity.
Outcast Heroes (06:28)
In the 1960s, flawed, outcast heroes rose in popularity and appealed to readers who felt alienated in society. Spiderman continued the trend by being a superhero and a struggling high school student. The first Comic Con was held in 1964.
Allegory in X-Men (06:16)
In 1963, Marvel launched a different approach to superheroes. The characters were born with mutant powers that manifested at puberty and had to be kept secret. X-Men stories became a way for comics to talk about racism, diversity, and discrimination.
Black Panther (07:46)
All-Negro Comics launched in 1947 but was shut down after one issue. In 1967, Stan Lee debuted Black Panther in a Fantastic Four comic. The character and his African nation of Wakanda went against stereotypes of the time.
African-American Heroes (04:29)
In 1969, Falcon debuted as Marvel's first African-American superhero and Captain America's partner. His creation allowed Marvel to write and comment about the Civil Rights Movement in America.
Iron Man and the War (05:47)
In the 1970s, Marvel introduced Iron Man, a billionaire arms dealer. As public consciousness shifted on the Vietnam War, Iron Man stopped making weapons and started protecting people.
Feminism in Comics (09:04)
William Moulton Marston created Wonder Woman to symbolize female power and equality. More conservative writers took over the character after Marston's death in 1947. The original Wonder Woman did not return until the women's movements in the 1970s.
Growing Diversity in Comics (07:38)
Comic conventions grew as a place for comic fans, who felt like outsiders in society, to meet. X-Men relaunched in 1975 with a more diverse group of characters. The new team included anti-hero Wolverine.
Female Narratives in Comics (02:23)
In the new X-Men, Storm became the first black female leader of a superhero team. Writer Chris Claremont made her and other female characters have greater roles in the narratives.
Blaxploitation Hero (04:07)
In 1972, Marvel debuted Luke Cage, a street-level hero who used blaxploitation tropes. His bulletproof skin was a response to the assassination of Civil Rights leaders.
Urban Crime Fighter (03:08)
The Punisher was a response to rising urban violence in the 1980s. He was an anti-hero, who carried out vigilante justice.
Rebirth of Conservative Ideas (04:34)
Ronald Reagan's election created a push for a return to traditional values. Captain America returned to popularity. Deadpool debuted as a highly cynical, ironic character to cater to the Gen X market.
Superheroes and the Digital Age (04:24)
The internet created a platform for comic fans to communicate. "X-Men" is one of the first successful superhero movies. In the early 2000s, LGBT people began viewing X-Men as an allegory for their experiences.
Iron Man and the War on Terror (03:28)
In 2008, "Iron Man" premiered and featured Tony Stark dealing weapons in Afghanistan. His character reflected public consciousness about war.
Superheroes for a New Era (08:53)
With Islamophobia rising after 9/11, Marvel brought back Ms. Marvel as a Muslim American teenager. Superheroes have increased in popularity over the decades and became regular features of American culture.
Credits: American Rebels (00:08)
Credits: American Rebels
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