Although the United States didn’t join WWII until 1941, American comic book artists were already jumping into the fight in 1939 with the rest of Europe and Asia by creating their dare and do superheroes. Detective Comics’ (DC) Superman was one of the first to grace the scene, already being a major figure in the Great Depression. His popularity expanded to more than just paper, though. Superman was also featured in cartoons with episodes focused on fighting the Japanese, such as “Japoteurs” and “Eleventh Hour.”
Despite the fame he had, Superman could not compare to Captain Marvel. Created by Fawcett Comics, Captain Marvel sold more comic books than Superman and starred in a full-length feature film—not cartoons. DC later sued Fawcett Comics because Captain Marvel was too similar to Superman. The judge at the trial ruled in agreement with DC, concluding that the story lines of Captain Marvel were too similar to Superman to be original. The case was scheduled for a retrial, but Fawcett decided to settle the matter outside of court. It wasn’t long before Captain Marvel died off along with Fawcett Comics.
Batman, Namor the Sub-Mariner, the original Human Torch, the Angel, Boy Commandos, Green Lantern, and many others were also hot on the shelves as the war progressed from 1939 to 1940. But comic book sales were just getting started, even though they were already immensely popular. The excitement grew in 1941 with the release of Captain America. It sold out of its first issue with the cover featuring a fierce Captain America giving a nasty punch to Adolf Hitler. In 1942, comic books sales grew from 15 million to 25 million copies sold per month in 1943.
Captain America’s sidekick, Bucky, along with Wonder Woman, were two big supporters of recycling the mass amounts of comic books and any other scraps of paper readers could find. The heroes encouraged children to gather bundles of paper and donate them to the troops. This action to support the troops was what turned the worth of those books from a dime into thousand-dollar fortunes in later years.
Children in America weren’t the only ones enjoying the superheroes; troops were as well. Comic books of all sorts were sent to servicemen in their care packages. The servicemen enjoyed them and found a sense of hope and escape with each turn of the page. Some heroes were even featured as nose art, perhaps to add continued encouragement while in the skies.
Superman and other comic book stars could end wars and win battles with what seemed like one swish of their capes, but everyone else had to hold on for much longer. The superheroes of the Golden Age were the boost of strength and patriotism that many needed.