[[caption-width-right:300:And the rest is history.]]

In June of [[TheGreatDepression 1938]], National Allied Publications began a new comic-book series, featuring several different heroes. A new character created by two young men from Cleveland was featured on the cover. The comic was ''Action Comics'' #1, and the character was Franchise/{{Superman}}.

Thus began The Golden Age Of Comic Books. Throughout the Golden Age, comics as a medium were not yet synonymous with superheroes as a genre -- horror stories, [[FunnyAnimal funny animals]], mystery-solving detectives, Westerns, romances, and more all remained popular throughout this period, in some cases more popular than superheroes. However, the gradual rise of the SuperHero defined the Golden Age in many ways. The SuperHero had antecedents that went back beyond {{Superman}} -- indeed, Superman was in large part a product of these -- but they had never come together in this way before. The two-fisted pulp action hero merged with science fiction and fantasy, which merged with the crimefighting vigilante, which merged with ancient heroic sagas, to produce an explosion of new characters, individual men and women with strange abilities and the responsibility to use them against evil.

The first {{Super Hero}}es were generally Superman [[FollowTheLeader ripoffs]]. Characters like Wonder Man, Flash Lightning, and Dynamic Man, with the full set of beat-bad-guys-up powers, proliferated quickly. In fact, DC sued Wonder Man's publishers, Fox Productions, for copyright infringement, and won (WillEisner, who "created" Wonder Man, actually testified against Fox). Probably the most popular character of the Golden Age was not Superman, but Fawcett Comics' [[ComicBook/{{Shazam}} Captain Marvel]]; at its height, ''Captain Marvel Adventures'' was published weekly and sold 1.3 million copies per month, and the Marvel Family included Mary Marvel, Captain Marvel Jr., the three Lieutenant Marvels, Uncle Marvel, Freckles Marvel, and Hoppy the Marvel Bunny. Eventually, more specialized heroes started showing up. Franchise/TheFlash, with the ability to run faster than anyone else (incidentally the first hero with only one power); Doll Man, with the ability to shrink down to six inches high; the Human Torch, with the ability to become living flame. These, in turn, received their own imitators, and a wide range of characters and titles were thus born. (Almost universally in Golden Age comics, each issue contained several short stories, each featuring a different hero. Only the biggest characters got their own books, and even they usually had back-up stories featuring other characters.) Also popular were the pulp heroes themselves, translated to four colors. Based on precedents like Franchise/{{Zorro}} and Literature/TheScarletPimpernel, these were usually {{Badass Normal}}s, occasionally with a gimmicky weapon but often with just their fists, who took out racketeers, white slavers, and saboteurs with aplomb. They often wore cap-sleeved leotards, finned cowl masks and buccaneer boots. Franchise/{{Batman}} sprang from this breed, crossed with a dash of the crime-chasing detective.

This was also the era of the {{Sidekick}}. After Robin was introduced in 1940, nearly every hero picked up a young lad or lass to assist them in crimefighting. The Human Torch had Toro; Sandman had Sandy, the Golden Boy; Bulletman had Bulletgirl. PluckyComicRelief adult sidekicks were also popular; they were usually fat and clumsy, like GreenLantern's Doiby Dickles or ComicBook/PlasticMan's Woozy Winks. This being prior to the concept of political correctness, a few regrettable characters showed up here as well, especially the Whizzer's "Slow Motion" Jones, a chubby black man with huge lips and a heavy drawl.

Even before America entered UsefulNotes/WorldWarII, the {{Super Hero}}es would often fight minions of the Axis powers -- PatrioticFervor was almost universal. Dozens of America-themed characters were created: Miss America, The Shield, ComicBook/CaptainAmerica, and others. Some heroes joined the Army or the Navy in their secret identities (as did many writers; Bert Christman is known to have written tales of a band of fighter pilots while himself serving as an airman for the Navy). The public was thirsty for tales of good triumphing over evil. Of course, [[WartimeCartoon war propaganda]] was in full effect; Japanese soldiers especially would often be drawn as barely human, Nazis and Fascists also portrayed as green-skinned sneering half-men. (Naturally, juvenile pulps and comics produced in Axis territory did the same thing, but ''even worse''.)

However, those who are familiar with TheSilverAgeOfComicBooks are sometimes surprised to learn that Golden Age comics are often significantly less goofy, less moralistic and less blatantly childish by comparison. The [[TheThirties 1930s]] and [[TheForties 1940s]] were in many ways a less conservative era in the U.S. than TheFifties, and UsefulNotes/TheComicsCode didn't exist yet. Creators were much less concerned about making their stories age-appropriate and portraying heroes as moral exemplars. Superman was a rougher, more aggressive, somewhat mischievous character, described by his creators as "a thorn in the side of the establishment" -- hardly the paragon of LawfulGood we have today. Batman was a dark and violent vigilante who didn't hesitate to use guns long before the 1960s turned him into a camp icon. Possibly as a reflection of real-life women moving into traditionally masculine roles as men left for the war, Golden Age female characters tended to be bold, assertive, fast-talking career gals, often tougher and more independent than their Silver Age counterparts. (This may also reflect the fact that a larger percentage of the comic-reading audience was female during the Golden Age than at any time after.)

The precise end of the Golden Age is vague. After World War II ended, SuperHero comics became less popular, with other genres such as funny-animal comedy (which had already been outselling it), crime fiction, and westerns replacing it. As the 1940s moved on, more and more titles either changed genre or were canceled altogether[[note]]An extreme example is "Moon Girl", starting out under that title as a superhero comic, it changed within the span of a few issues to the more "real crime" "Moon Girl Fights Crime" and within a couple more issues to "A Moon, A Girl -- Romance!"[[/note]]. In 1950, the last Timely (later to become MarvelComics) superhero title was canceled, and the last Golden Age adventure of the ComicBook/JusticeSocietyOfAmerica went by. In 1954, Dr. Frederic Wertham published the book ''Seduction of the Innocent''. [[NewMediaAreEvil It argued that comic books were responsible for corrupting the youth of America, leading them to juvenile delinquency and sexual perversion]] (if comparison to [[TheNewRockAndRoll later criticisms of rock music, Dungeons & Dragons]], and [[UltraSuperDeathGoreFestChainsawer3000 video games]] comes to mind, that's not surprising). This led to the creation of the restrictive [[UsefulNotes/TheComicsCode Comics Code Authority]], which forbade comic book stories that included moral ambiguity, more than minimal violence, or practically any portrayal of sexuality, resulting in comics that were much more strictly and consciously kid-oriented than before. If the Golden Age wasn't already dead by that point, the Code was the last nail in the coffin.

TheSilverAgeOfComicBooks was, however, just around the corner...

Notable publishers and series of the TheGoldenAgeOfComicBooks:
* Franchise/ArchieComics
* Creator/CharltonComics
** ComicBook/BlueBeetle
* Creator/DCComics (aka National Allied Publications, National Comics, National Periodical Publications)
** ''Action Comics'' (Franchise/{{Superman}})
** ''All-American Comics'' (Franchise/GreenLantern)
** ''All-Star Comics'' (ComicBook/JusticeSocietyOfAmerica)
** ''Detective Comics'' (Franchise/{{Batman}}). It was also the oldest continuously running American comic book series, until the post-''Comicbook/{{Flashpoint}}'' reboot.
** ''Flash Comics''
*** Franchise/TheFlash
*** ComicBook/{{Hawkman}}
*** ComicBook/BlackCanary
** ''More Fun Comics''
*** Comicbook/{{Aquaman}}
*** ComicBook/DoctorFate
*** Doctor Occult
*** ComicBook/GreenArrow
*** ComicBook/TheSpectre
*** ComicBook/{{Superboy}}
*** origin of Franchise/TheDCU
** ''Sensation Comics'' (Franchise/WonderWoman)
* Creator/DellComics (The Owl)
* Creator/ECComics (Tales from the Crypt)
** The early comic book issues of ''Magazine/{{MAD}}''.
* FawcettComics
** ''Whiz Comics'' ([[ComicBook/{{Shazam}} Captain Marvel]])
* Fox Features Syndicate
** ''Mystery Men Comics'' (ComicBook/BlueBeetle, Green Mask, Samson)
** ''ComicBook/PhantomLady''
** Stardust the Super Wizard
** The Flame & Flame Girl
** Dynamo (formerly Electro)
** Thor (Noticing a pattern here? They also had a [[NamesTheSame Dr. Doom]])
* Fiction House
** Fantomah, the first female superhero.
* Creator/HarveyComics
** Golden Age Black Cat
** Captain Freedom
** Licensed Franchise/TheGreenHornet comics
* Lev-Gleason Publications
** Daredevil (later Daredevil & The Little Wise Guys)
** Crimebuster
** Jinx & 13
** Silverstreak (first speedster, predates Flash)
* Quality Comics
** ''Police Comics''
*** ComicBook/PlasticMan
*** ComicBook/TheSpirit
*** [[Comicbook/FreedomFighters Phantom Lady, Human Bomb, Firebrand]]
** Red Bee
* Standard Comics
** Better Publications
** Nedor Publishing
*** ''ComicBook/GhostNedorComics''
* Timely Comics (later known as Creator/MarvelComics)
** ''ComicBook/CaptainAmerica Comics''
** ''Marvel Comics''
*** Human Torch,
*** ComicBook/SubMariner
*** Origin of the Franchise/MarvelUniverse
Usually accepted as lasting from the publication of Action Comics #1 to approximately the end of UsefulNotes/WorldWarII. 1938~1945.
For other applications of the term "Golden Age", see:\\
EndOfAnAge, TheTimeOfLegends, NostalgiaAintLikeItUsedToBe.