When Superman swooped onto the front cover of Action Comics #1 in June 1938 he transformed the world on and off the page forever. The next decade was hijacked by dozens of masked and caped saviours in tights, many of whom are still ubiquitous in art and pop culture today.
The Golden Age of DC Comics, a new book from Taschen edited by Paul Levitz, chronicles those heady years when the fantastic adventures of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and The Flash ruled the page. In the thick of war and Depression, readers were hungry for spectacular escapist entertainment where the public was protected and good always prevailed. More than just cheap thrills, these comics often provided a moral code for children and during wartime ran storylines reflecting current conflicts. As the war ended, however, the popularity of superhero comics waned, and by the mid-1950s comics had become scapegoats for a rise in juvenile delinquency.
Comics not only record evolving fashions, drawing styles and language. They can, if the character’s right, reveal the hopes and fears of a generation. One of the most fascinating aspects of the Golden Age is the extent to which those superheroes became inextricably bound up with the identity of America itself.