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20th century boys: the (temporary) end of the superhero set

The short-term disappearance of the superhero post-World War II

To anyone who’s paid attention to the comic book industry across the last half-century or so, the dominance of the superhero genre has been the one constant that can be relied on. While everything else – characters, creators, even publishers – can come and go, the fact that superheroes are the cornerstone of the American industry has been an unchanging fact for almost as long as most people can remember. From today’s perspective, it’s almost impossible to imagine the cape and cowl set fading into near obscurity – yet in the decade between the end of the Second World War and the mid-'50s revival of the Flash at the dawn of the Silver Age, that’s exactly what happened.

Those hoping to find a smoking gun that killed the men and women of steel will be disappointed to discover that there was actually no singular reason behind it all. Instead, the circumstances surrounding the genre’s disappearance are – perhaps fittingly given the social and political turbulence of the era in the aftermath of World War II – complicated and made up of a number of different events overlapping and coinciding in unexpected ways.

Superheroes do not pay

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About the Author

Graeme McMillan avatar

Graeme McMillan

Staff Writer

Popverse staff writer Graeme McMillan (he/him) has been writing about comics, culture, and comics culture on the internet for close to two decades at this point, which is terrifying to admit. His work has appeared in The Hollywood Reporter, Wired, Polygon, Inverse, Time Magazine, and the Los Angeles Times, and he also co-hosts the Wait What podcast three times a month and writes the Comics, FYI newsletter. He completely understands if you have problems understanding his accent.

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