Superheroes-A Never Ending Battle: Introduction (03:47)
This segment orients viewers to the topic of comic book superheroes.
Truth, Justice, and the American Way (02:22)
Superman was created by two Jewish teenagers in 1934. Inspired by characters from the Bible and pop culture, Jerry Siegel created the character and Joe Shuster drew him.
Newspaper Funnies (02:34)
Siegel and Shuster came of age when newspapers were highly popular and comic strip artists were celebrities. Their first comic books repackaged syndicated comics; later they bought original material.
Caped Crusader (02:11)
In 1938, Action Comics bought the character of Superman at $130 for 13 pages. The character quickly became a champion of the common man.
Immigrant Experience (02:04)
Superman is an alien who looks like a human, but transforms into the ultimate symbol of America. By 1939, Superman had his own comic book; superhero comics had become wildly popular.
Publishing Houses (02:28)
Learn about the look and niche of the four houses: DC, Marvel, Quality Comics, and Fox.
New Generation of Artists and Writers (02:47)
Most creators were sons of immigrants. For many, comic books were a path to something better.
Worker Treatment (01:38)
Like other artists, Siegel and Shuster were contracted on a work-for-hire basis; they had no rights to Superman.
Pulp Influence (02:32)
Pulp magazines featured darker, more violent characters like the Shadow. In 1939, Bob Kane invented Batman.
"I'm Batman" (03:06)
Batman had no superhero powers. Five years in, he received his iconic origin story. From then on, the lone, sad, obsessed crime fighter was implicit in the character.
Supervillains and Sidekicks (02:37)
Jerry Robinson, Bob Kane's assistant, created the Joker as Batman's arch-enemy. Robin, the sidekick, was created as a nod to the youth market comics catered to.
Captain Marvel (01:44)
Youngster Billy Batson wasn't a sidekick; he could transform into adult superhero Captain Marvel. This was the first series to use realism and introduce the superhero family.
Licensing comic book heroes became a huge aspect of their success. Radio shows and merchandise brought them into everyone's homes.
World War II (01:34)
As WWII broke out, comic books began to incorporate war challenges into their stories.
Captain America (03:10)
Captain American was a patriotic character ready to fight the Nazis. Created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, he connected the home front with the soldiers at war.
Superheroes to the Defense (02:03)
The art of Captain America changed comic books; superheroes became larger than life. War gave the heroes an enemy worthy of their talents.
Heroes Among the Troops (02:06)
Comic readership was high. Learn why writing Superman comics during wartime was a challenge. Many comic book artists and writers joined the military.
In 1941, William Moulton Marston created Wonder Woman. Her stories introduced new ideas about gender and politics into the comic book world; some worried about portrayals of bondage.
Comic books often promoted stereotypes and displayed shocking racism. Heroes believed that might always makes right.
Victory and Paranoia (02:33)
After the war, superheroes seemed less appealing. Horror comics proliferated, leading to fears of a link between comics and deviant behavior. Psychologist Fredric Wertham crusaded against comics.
Comics Code (02:32)
Boycotts and public burnings targeted comics. Publishers created the Comics Code to regulate objectionable content; comics lost their punch.
Superheroes moved to television. Superman fought a never-ending battle for the American way.
Credits: Truth, Justice, and the American Way (1930's-1950's): Superheroes—A Never Ending Battle (02:00)
Credits: Truth, Justice, and the American Way (1930's-1950's): Superheroes—A Never Ending Battle
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