Comic books are beloved among enthusiasts and collectors, as evidenced by the thousands who attend conventions such as Comic Con every year. They have long been part of popular culture, and historians generally divide the production of comic books into five ages.
The Platinum Age of Comic Books began with the publication of America's first comic book in magazine form in the U.S. in 1897. Famous Funnies: A Carnival of Comics, considered the first true American comic book, was published in 1933.
The Golden Age of Comic Books began in 1938 when Superman hit the scene. The Golden Age of Comic Books lasted through the end of the 1940's, and was characterized by superheroes. Superhero comics rapidly declined at the end of the 1940's, and were replaced by teen humor, science fiction, and horror comics.
The Silver Age of Comic Books saw the return of superheroes to the major publishers Marvel and DC Comics. The Fantastic Four were created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby during this time, causing a revolution in the industry by introducing a naturalistic style of superheroes who struggled with human emotions.
The 1960's and 1970's saw a surge of underground comics, published independently and reflecting the youth counterculture of the time. The 1980's saw a surge in alternative comics, and a wider acceptance of adult-themed comic books.
The Bronze Age of Comics, beginning in the seventies, saw the return and modernization of horror comic books. Swamp Thing, Conan the Barbarian, and Doctor Strange were more common in this age than traditional superheroes.
The Modern Age of Comic Books was largely influenced two series: Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, and Watchmen, both by DC Comics. Antiheroes grew more popular, and tones grew, according to fans, "grim-and-gritty." Specialty comic book stories began to appear widely; saleds boomed in the early 1990's when collectors began investing in multiple copies. The graphic novel has also grown in popularity, thanks in part to artists like Neil Gaiman, author of the Sandman comics.
Comic books are a valued commodity among collectors, and naturally the better shape a comic book is in the more it is worth. The most valuable comic book to date is Action Comics #1, wherein Superman makes his first appearance-- two copies have sold recently for around 1 million dollars each.