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Seeking superheroes

By 1945, some 400 superheroes were created in comic strips but few survived. The ones that did, however, like Batman, Superman and Spiderman, still rake in millions at the box office. It was also during this time that comics made the widespread jump from the one strip published in the daily newspaper to the magazine format of the comic book.

In the 1950s, the comic book found itself under fire and a "Comics Code" was adopted, according to Comix, A History of Comic Books in America, by the Comics Magazine Association of America. Comic books carrying the seal incorporated provisions like:

If a crime is committed, it shall be as a sordid and unpleasant activity.

In every instance, good shall triumph over evil and the criminal shall be punished for his misdeeds.

No unique or unusual methods of concealing weapons shall be shown.

Nudity in any form is prohibited, as is indecent or undue exposure.

Suggestive or salacious illustration or suggestive posture is unacceptable. Females shall be drawn realistically without any exaggeration of physical qualities.

The Comics Code was ignored, however, through the 1960s and 1970s by underground, self-published writers and artists who are considered the pioneers of the modern day graphic novelists. The most popular of that genre, Heavy Metal, hit the stands in 1977 featuring colorful drawings of big buxom women and stories about drunken acid trips and hard core rock and roll. It later became a full featured animated movie.

The "Comics Code" was amended in 1971 and again in 1989, however, and both modifications were less stringent than the 1956 original set of guidelines. They also included provisions for adult comics as well as those traditional comics written for children.

Other memorable dates include 1986, when Marvel Comics was sold to businessman Ron Perelman, who tried to boost sales through the use of gimmicks like holograms and glow-in-the-dark features. In 1989, the year the first Batman movie, came out sending comic book sales through the roof. And in 1993 Superman died, causing such an outcry by fans that DC Comics brought the superhero back a few editions later.

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