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    

Amazing Fantasy #15 Vol 1 Pgx 7.5 Beautiful High Grade 1st App Spider-man 1962Fantastic Four #1 Silver Age Enormous Key 1st Ff Extremely Rare Solid Vg-/vg Journey Into Mystery #83 Vol 1 Pgx 4.5 Nice Mid Grade Unrestored 1st App Of ThorX-men #1 Pgx 7.0 Beautiful High Grade Unrestored 1st App X-men And Magneto 1963Amazing Spider-man #129 Cgc 9.4 White Pages 1st Appearance Punisher !!Brave And The Bold #28 Vol 1 Pgx 4.0 Mid Grade Unrestored 1st App Justice LeagueMarvel Dc High Grade X-men Wolverine Spider-man Avengers Comic CollectionAmazing Spider-man #129 Vol 1 Nice Higher Grade Unrestored 1st App Of PunisherWerewolf By Night #32 Cgc Graded 9.2 White Pages #1305797003 1st Moon KnightFantastic Four #48 Vol 1 Very High Grade 1st Appearance Of The Silver SurferJoe Chiodo Original Comic Art Cover Savage Sword Of Conan #66 Vintage Bronze AgeMarvel Comics Silver Age Lot: The Avengers #2 #3 #4 #6 #7 #8 #17Fantastic Four #48 Cgc 9.4 (1966) – No ReserveIncredible Hulk 181; 1st Full Wolverine; Mvs Intact; No ReserveSideshow Collectibles Deadpool X-force Statue 256 Of 1500 Premium Format MarvelDaredevil 76 Original Comic Art Gene Colan Tom Palmer Nr 1970Incredible Hulk # 181 - (vf-) - 1st Full Appearance Of The WolverineHero Initiative Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 100 Project Cover: Stan SakaiBatman #251 Bronze Age Joker Key Wow Neal Adams Smoking Hot Book! Fvf GemFantastic Four #1 Cgc 5.0 (1961) – No ReserveEthan Van Sciver Spider-man And Foes Gigantic Original Art! 19x24 Inches!Incredible Hulk #181 Vol 1 Super High Grade 1st App Wolverine Complete With MvsAmazing Spider-man #129 Marvel 1974 - 1st App(s) Of The Punisher & The Jackal!!!Tim Sale, Batman: Dark Victory 6 Page 15, Janice Porter, Barbara Gordon, Nr!Nyx #3 1st Appearance X-23, Wolverine's Daughter, High Grade Not CgcWonder Woman #38 Finch 1:100 Color VariantSideshow Collectibles Spider-man Legendary Scale Bust Mib Super Rare! #95/750George Tuska Iron Man #63 Original Marvel Comic Bronze Age Art 1973Avengers #4 Vol 1 Pgx 8.5 Very High Grade Unrestored 1st Sa App Captain AmericaCgc Ss 8.0 Avengers # 57. Signed By Stan Lee In Rare Gold Ink. 1968. 1st Vision.John Buscema Savage Sword Of Conan #100 Original Marvel Comic Bronze Art 1984Batman Adventures 12 1st App Harley Quinn Suicide Squad Beautiful ConditionHarley Quinn #1 Adam Hughes Variant Cover Suicide SquadAmazing Spider-man #300 Cgc 9.8 White Pages First Appearance Venom !!The Incredible Hulk 181 Very Good ConditionWerewolf By Night #32 Cgc 8.5 Origin & 1st Appearance Of Moon Knight White PagesThe Batman Adventures #12 (sep 1993, Dc)Sideshow X-men Mystique Comiquette Polystone Statue In ShipperAmazing Spider-man #129 - 9.6 Near Mint Nm - 1st App Of The Punisher! Cgc Comic All-star Comics #58 Cgc 9.8 Off-white To White Pages 1st Power Girl !!!Incredible Hulk #181 Vol 1 Very Nice Unrestored Qualified 1st App Of WolverineDc “legends” Original Art John Byrne, Karl Kesel Firestorm#1 Cgc Graded Spider Man Comic Book (1963 The Amazing Spiderman) Marvel Comics1940 * Batman #4 * Dc Comics Est 2.5 Gd+ Rare Off White Pages * Joker 1st GothamMarvel Spotlight 5..1st Ghost Rider! ...vf 8.0...sharp!Xm-studios Iron Man Mark 7 Vii Statue - Not Sideshow Or BowenHawkman #4 1st Appearance & Origin Of Zatanna ~ Fn ~ Dc ComicsAmazing Spider-man #300 Cgc 9.8 - 1st Venom - No ReserveSideshow Silver Surfer Exclusive Edition Comiquette Polystone Statue 345/600Showcase 22 1st Appearance Of Silver Age Green Lantern Hal Jordan October 1959Iron Man #1 Silver Age 1st Issue Huge Key Wow Vg+/vgf BeautyTales Of The New Teen Titans # 44 Cgc 9.8 White Pages. Unrestored.Don Heck Captain Marvel #9 Original Comic Book Silver Age Art 1969 1/2 SplashFrank Miller Punisher Sketch. Cgc Ss 9.8 Original Art!!! Rare Journey Into Mystery #85 Marvel 1962 - 1st App(s) Of Loki & Odin - 3rd App Thor!Hercules # 6 Cover By Jay AnacletoBatman #189 Cgc Nm 9.2 - 1st Silver Age Scarecrow! - Gorgeous Mint BookBatman Adventures #12, 1st Harley Quinn, Ready For Cgc, Mega Key, Suicide Squad Batman Adventures #12 Cgc 9.4 1st Harley Quinn Appearance Suicide SquadGene Colan, Tomb Of Dracula 10 Page 21, No Reserve!