Comic Book Nation by Bradford W. Wright
The Transformation of Youth Culture in America

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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 exposé 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.


About Bradford W. Wright

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Bradford W. Wright is an associate professor with the University of Maryland University College—European Division.
Published March 22, 2001 by Johns Hopkins University Press. 360 pages
Genres: History, Political & Social Sciences, Comics & Graphic Novels, Arts & Photography, Children's Books. Non-fiction

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The Guardian

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Comic Book Nation: The Transformation of Youth Culture In America Bradford C Wright 336pp, John Hopkins University Press, £23.50 According to the New York Times , one in four magazines shipped to US troops during the second world war was a comic book.

Jul 21 2001 | Read Full Review of Comic Book Nation: The Transf...

Publishers Weekly

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Wright, a faculty member at the University of Maryland's University College, charts how these popular pulp stories (over 100 million comics were printed in 1949) mirrored myriad, often conflicting, political positions: Superman's first enemies were corrupt politicians and slum lords aligned again...

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William Savage’s Comic Books and America: 1945-1954 (1990), which Wright acknowledges his debt to, focused too narrowly on an anomalous era of comic book publishing (at the end of the Golden Age typified by the comics published during the Second World War and previous to the Silver Age, embodied ...

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The problem with a title such as Comic Book Nation is that comics geeks--a large portion of the book's potential readership--will pick it up expecting something all-encompassing and be sorely disappointed that the "nation" under discussion excludes vast realms of comicdom.

Jun 13 2001 | Read Full Review of Comic Book Nation: The Transf...

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