Comic books have been published for more than a century, and collectors categorize them into five ‘Ages’: Platinum (1897-1937), Golden (1938-55), Silver (1956-69), Bronze (1970-79), and Modern (1980-present). Rarity, title, issue, and condition determine value, although often one of those variables is far more important than the others. Some popular comic-book franchises include Spider-Man, Superman, X-Men, Batman, Green Lantern, and Incredible Hulk.

One of the first newspaper comic strips, which were precursors to comic books, was Hogan's Alley, published in 1895 by Richard Felton Outcalt. This strip had the first 'speech bubbles,' and its lead character, The Yellow Kid, had his own book, "The Yellow Kid in McFadden's Flats," printed in 1897. This book actually coined the term 'comic book,' and it marks the beginning of the Platinum Age, which ran until 1937.

Subsequent newspaper comic strips such as Mutt and Jeff were reprinted in the form of books, after which publishers began experimenting with weekly comic books, selling them for 10 cents at newsstands. These pre-superhero comics were mostly pulp stories—tales of detectives, criminals, exotic travel, and adventure. The first costumed hero was The Phantom, who debuted in 1936, and wore a purple costume and black mask.

The Golden Age began in 1937, and comic books, previously meant for adults, were now focused more on youth. In 1938, a revolutionary new series, Action Comics, published by DC, introduced Superman, the first comic book character with superhuman abilities. Batman followed a year later, in Detective Comics #27, which was grittier than comics Superman appeared in, and initially read more like a mystery than a superhero comic.

Superman got his own comic book in 1939, and this new format became the standard for American comics. The Golden Age lasted until 1955, and introduced characters such as Captain Marvel, The Green Lantern, The Flash, Captain America, Wonder Woman, and The Spectre.

Next came the Silver Age, with the revamping of The Flash, whose stories brought superhero comics back from their post-World War II slump. During this era, Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and other artists at Marvel created some of the best-known comics ever, including superhero teams like Fantastic Four, the Avengers, and the X-Men. These comics are known for the emotional depth of their characters, unlike the eternally optimistic heroes of the Golden Age.

Spider-Man first appeared in 1962 to great success—he was a real, average guy, with a fantastic alter-ego that readers could relate to. Other characters introduced in this era in...

The Bronze Age (1970-1979) broke a lot of rules. Black superheroes, such as the Falcon, appeared, as did foreign heroes like Banshee, Sunfire, and Nightcrawler. Comics as a whole got more realistic, with Green Lantern and Green Arrow teaming up to take on real issues like urban crime and drug abuse. Innocent characters sometimes got killed off, superheroes often fought spirits, and more gritty, conflicted, and violent characters such as the Punisher and Wolverine appeared.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Cover Browser

Cover Browser

Philipp Lenssen's incredible archive of over 94,000 comic book covers - Wow! Wham! Yikes! Browse by title from the … [read review or visit site]

TheComicBooks.com

TheComicBooks.com

Jamie Coville's in-progress ode to the history of 20th century comic books. Start with his Newsstand Period Part 1 … [read review or visit site]

Popeye's Thimble Theatre

Popeye's Thimble Theatre

Bruce Shults takes us on a comprehensive Popeye fan tour, from the early comic strips to cartoons and collectible m… [read review or visit site]

Barnacle Press

Barnacle Press

This collection of obscure newspaper comic strips provides scans browsable by title, year and date. Showcases comic… [read review or visit site]



Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Frank Cho Original Art - Wasp Sketchcover - No Reserve AuctionTeenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 1st Printing (1984) Cgc 9.8 Highest Graded Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 1st Printing (1984) Cgc 9.0Amazing Spider-man #14 Cgc 6.5 1st App And Origin Of The Green Goblin Hulk AppAmazing Spider-man #300 -near Mint- 9.6 Nm+ Marvel 1988 - 1st App/origin Venom!Amazing Spider-man # 3 Cgc 7.5 1st App Doc Ock Villain Like Vulture 2 Stan LeeAmazing Spider-man 300 Cgc 9.8 No Reserve!!! Mcfarlane / Venom MovieAvengers #1 Marvel 1963 - 1st App & Origin Of Avengers - Thor, Iron Man & Hulk!Amazing Spider-man #129 Cgc 9.4 Oww Nm Key 1st Punisher & Jackal Netflix SeriesHigh Grade All Marvel Bronze Age Comic Lot Collection Spiderman Hulk Gsx 1 X-menShowcase #4 Cbcs 9.2 Mxp Oww Crossover Pgx Cgc Origin & 1st Silver Age Flash KeyMarvel Comics ** X-men # 1 ** Cgc 4.0 ~ 1963 Key 1st Issue 12cBatman #181 Dc 1966 - 1st App Of Poison Ivy - Check Out Our Comics Books!!!Incredible Hulk 181 First App Wolverine Bronze Key Issue Fine Cond Mvs IntactFantastic Four #48 Cgc 7.0 Ow Mega Key 1st App Silver Surfer And Galactus!!Dc Golden Age Silver Age Superhero Comic Collection Lot Superman Lois Lane #1Fantastic Four (1961) #48 Cgc 8.0 - 1st App Of The Silver Surfer And Galactus!Batman #232 Nm-/9.2 1st App Of Ra's Al Ghul Cgc Ready!key Issue!l@@k!Marvel Team-up #141~1st Black Suit Spider-man~ties W/ #252~venom~cgc 9.8 White The Amazing Spider-man # 5 Cgc 5.0 Ow Pgs 1st Doom App Outside Of Fantastic FourThe Amazing Spider-man #300 X 3 Lot Of 3 Comics 1st App, Of Venom Wow No ReserveThe Incredible Hulk #181 (nov 74, Marvel) Excellent Condition!! With Value StampGreg Staples 2000ad Judge Dredd Vs Judge Death Original Painting Fantastic Four #45 (1966 Marvel Comics) 1st Appearance Of Inhumans No ReserveAmazing Spider-man #20 Cgc 8.5 1st App Origin Of The Scorpion Ditko KeyAmazing Spider-man #6 Cgc 7.5 1st App And Origin Of The Lizard Curt Conners KeyNice Dc House Of Secrets 92 Comic Book First Appearance Swamp ThingMarvel Comics The Amazing Spider-man #300 1988 1st Full Venom Newsstand EditionAmazing Spider-man 300 Chromium Cgc 9.8 No Reserve!! Mcfarlane/ Venom / MarvelAmazing Spider-man #13 Cgc 6.5 1st App And Origin Mysterio - Next Movie Villian?The Amazing Spider-man #300 Cgc 9.6 Stan Lee AutographBachalo Spider-man All- New Wolverine #1 Cgc 9.8 J. Scott Campbell Cargo Hold Variant Cover! The X-men #1 Pgx 8.0 Signed Stan Lee 1st Origin X-men Magneto The Walking Dead # 1 1st Print White Label 1st Rick Grimes Cgc 9.8 Nm+/mAvengers #1 And # 2 Both In 5.0 1963 Bright ColorsChamber Of Chills 1953 #19, Witches Tales #10, 2 In One Lot! Amazing Spider-man #3, Cgc 5.0 Vg/fn, Off-white PagesBatman # 73 - Joker's Utility Belt Good+ Cond.Superman #16 (g/vg) 3.0 Golden Age Dc Comics 1942 1st Lois Lane CoverHero For Hire #1 Vol 1 Near Perfect High Grade 1st Appearance Of Luke CageDetective Comics #359 • 1st Batgirl • Nice Gd+ (2.5) • Joss Whedon Film ComingSpider-man 1 Chromium Cgc 9.9 / Only 9 Exist At Grade / Mcfarlane / MarvelGreen Lantern #76 Cgc 9.0 Nm Mega Key Start Of The Bronze Age All Auctions .99Fantastic Four #52 (1966 Marvel Comics) 1st Appearance Black Panther No Reserve Uncanny-x-men-1 1963 Cgc 4.0 Key Issue 1st X-men & Magneto Appearance ! MarvelAvengers #1 Cgc 5.0 Mega Key Origin And First Appearance Avengers Lee KirbyNyx #3 Cgc 9.8 Nm/mt 1st App. Of X-23 Laura Kinney White Pages Current LabelFantastic Four #52 Cgc 7.5 Oww Mega Key 1st App Blank Panther + Inhumans MovieAmazing Spider-man #13 -higher Grade- Marvel 1964 - 1st App Of Mysterio!!!Amazing Spider-man #101 Cgc 9.2 High Grade Comic 1st Morbius Living VampireAmazing Spider-man #50 (1967) 1st Appearance Kingpin (wilson Fisk) 8.0 VfIron Fist #14 Marvel 1977 - 1st App Of Sabretooth - X-men - Check Out Our ComicsSuperman's Friend Jimmy Olsen #134 -near Mint 9.0 Nm- 1st App Of Darkseid!!!Amazing Spider-man Huge Run #50-649 Spiderman Comic Collection Venom Silver AgeFalsh #123 Vg / Fine 5.0 1st Golden Age Flash In The Silver-age 09/1961 Dc KeyMarvel Comics Iron Man # 55,~6.5 (nm-) Key: 1st Thanos & Drax The Destroyer!-$1!Amazing Spiderman #32,64,76,77,83,85,88,89,90,91,92,93,94~silver Age LotAvengers #1 (1963) Cbcs 6.0 1st Avengers MarvelHouse Of Secrets #92 Nm 9.2 1st Swamp Thing Wrightson 1971 Grey Tone Cvr .99