Comic Book Nation: The Transformation of Youth Culture in America

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JHU Press, Mar 22, 2001 - History - 336 pages
22 Reviews

As American as jazz or rock and roll, comic books have been central in the nation's popular culture since Superman's 1938 debut in Action Comics #1. Selling in the millions each year for the past six decades, comic books have figured prominently in the childhoods of most Americans alive today. In Comic Book Nation, Bradford W. Wright offers an engaging, illuminating, and often provocative history of the comic book industry within the context of twentieth-century American society.

From Batman's Depression-era battles against corrupt local politicians and Captain America's one-man war against Nazi Germany to Iron Man's Cold War exploits in Vietnam and Spider-Man's confrontations with student protestors and drug use in the early 1970s, comic books have continually reflected the national mood, as Wright's imaginative reading of thousands of titles from the 1930s to the 1980s makes clear. In every genre—superhero, war, romance, crime, and horror comic books—Wright finds that writers and illustrators used the medium to address a variety of serious issues, including racism, economic injustice, fascism, the threat of nuclear war, drug abuse, and teenage alienation. At the same time, xenophobic wartime series proved that comic books could be as reactionary as any medium.

Wright's lively study also focuses on the role comic books played in transforming children and adolescents into consumers; the industry's ingenious efforts to market their products to legions of young but savvy fans; the efforts of parents, politicians, religious organizations, civic groups, and child psychologists like Dr. Fredric Wertham (whose 1954 book Seduction of the Innocent, a salacious exposť of the medium's violence and sexual content, led to U.S. Senate hearings) to link juvenile delinquency to comic books and impose censorship on the industry; and the changing economics of comic book publishing over the course of the century. For the paperback edition, Wright has written a new postscript that details industry developments in the late 1990s and the response of comic artists to the tragedy of 9/11. Comic Book Nation is at once a serious study of popular culture and an entertaining look at an enduring American art form.


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Review: Comic Book Nation: The Transformation of Youth Culture in America

User Review  - Roland - Goodreads

A good overview of the history of the comic book industry, with a few gaps that really need to be fixed in a revised edition. For instance, Image was massively important, but only gets a passing ... Read full review

Review: Comic Book Nation: The Transformation of Youth Culture in America

User Review  - Bill Wallace - Goodreads

Maybe I'm too familiar with the subject, but this book seemed like a compendium of obvious observations. Too much of its length is comprised of synopses of individual issues and facile analysis that ... Read full review


Superheroes for the Common Man The Birth of the Comic Book Industry 19331941
Race Politics and Propaganda Comic Books Go to War 19391945
Confronting Success Comic Books and Postwar America 19451950
Youth Crisis Comic Books and Controversy 19471950
Reds Romance and Renegades Comic Books and the Culture of the Cold War 19471954
Turning Point Comic Books in Crisis 19541955
Great Power and Great Responsibility Superheroes in a Superpower 19561967
Questioning Authority Comic Books and Cultural Change 19681979
Direct to the Fans The Comic Book Industry since 1980
The Death of Superman or Must There Be a Comic Book Industry?
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About the author (2001)

Bradford W. Wright is an associate professor with the University of Maryland University College—European Division.

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