I have an annual membership with DC Universe Infinite. When it first started out, as DC Universe, it was meant to be a streaming service. It’s where TV shows like Titans, Doom Patrol, and Swamp Thing all got their start before being moved to HBO Max. Once HBO Max became an option, DC Universe, as a streaming service, became redundant.
But something else DC Universe (and, subsequently, DC Universe Infinite) was an immense catalog of digitized comic books from across the publisher’s history. This library of comics is why I remain a subscriber. And they keep adding to the collection on a weekly basis. So many comics…
26,111 individual issues to be exact.
I’ve always been a fan of DC’s comics. Growing up (and into my 30s) I had what I would consider an impressive collection of comic books. But I never had anything in my possession that stretched back earlier than 1986. The website has digital comics from 1938 on.
Recently, I’ve found myself looking back at Golden and Silver Age comic books. I started with Action Comics #1 and continued on. It’s amazing to note the many differences in those early comics compared to modern publications. And this goes well beyond how the characters are written and drawn between then and now.
One of the bigger things I’ve noticed is the way stories were told back in the day. Those earliest issues would feature multiple complete stories in each issue. Later, approaching the Silver Age of comics, issues would often contain a one-and-done story. Rarely did a title require more than one issue to resolve the story being told. That sort of things was saved for special occasions, like when the Justice League would team up with the Justice Society from Earth-2. Those stories might bleed over into a second issue.
These days, it’s as if comic book creators are mandated to write stories that are meant to take at least six issues to paint the complete picture. And why would that be? Because six issues is easily collected into a graphic novel.
Another interesting thing I’ve noticed has to do with the story titles. So many exclamation points! I found that early comic issues did not title the stories inside. But once they did start the trend of titling each story, they wanted to hit the reader with the importance of what was going on. It’s obviously a life or death situation with a title like “The Monster Menace from Mars!” Oh, yeah, they liked alliteration, too.
I wish I was a more intelligent person. Or maybe I wish I simply had the time and energy to devote to these old comic books. And not just DC, but Marvel and comics that were published by the various other publishing companies that have come and gone throughout the years. Because I have a feeling that comic books, like movies, television, literature, and art, have had a way of reflecting society and culture in unique ways.
I’m sure that, somewhere, there’s a college professor who has taken it upon his or herself to teach an in-depth class on the history of comics and their effects on society. I’d take that class.