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Comic Book Nation: The Transformation of Youth Culture in America
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Comic Book Nation: The Transformation of Youth Culture in America

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  419 Ratings  ·  36 Reviews
As American as jazz or rock and roll, comic books have been central in the nation's popular culture since Superman's 1938 debut in Action Comics #1. Selling in the millions each year for the past six decades, comic books have figured prominently in the childhoods of most Americans alive today. In Comic Book Nation, Bradford W. Wright offers an engaging, illuminating, and o ...more
Paperback, 360 pages
Published September 18th 2003 by Johns Hopkins University Press (first published 2001)
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Ryan Mishap
Dec 29, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
Although this is nearly fifteen years old--the book was published before the the last decade saw super-heroes conquer the box-office, geek culture thrive, and a show about comic book nerds on prime time TV winning Emmys--there still an interesting history here. While the premise that comic books have interacted with and influenced culture in the United States is obvious, I'm not sure that chicken-and-egg problems don't arise here.

After finishing this book, I came away feeling more like so-called
Mar 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
A great overview, not only of comic book history, but of U.S. History and how various events and societal attitudes effected the comic book industry. It was not always a cakewalk for comic creators and it is interesting to read about the industry's evolving tactics to stay relevant in a changing world that is filled with competetors for the time/attention of the nation's youth. I found the conclusion to be a bit dreary and defeatest, ending by implying that comics appear to be losing out to othe ...more
May 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: All who would like to learn more about comics
Shelves: about-comics
From my blog: Reviewing Comics

A clear understanding of the history and development of comics is crucial for any comprehensive study of the medium. Bradford W. Wright’s Comic Book Nation (2001) addresses this need by providing a socio-cultural history of the comics from their origins until today. It should be noted from the beginning that Wright focuses almost solely on the mainstream American comics but given the longevity and overall cultural influence of the genre, such a focus is only adequat
Jan 03, 2009 rated it really liked it
This was a great book for those who are devout comic readers, or for anyone who likes sociology and pop-culture. I'm sure to everyone else, it's subject matter is irrelevant. This book gives a great look at the history of comic books and how they became the staple they are today. It looks at everything from DC to Marvel and all the early stuff in between and the social issues they address and influence.
Oct 12, 2017 rated it liked it
t's interesting to read a history of comic books from a social historian's point of view, even if he doesn't quite achieve the book he describes in the foreward. Wright does cover the broad changes in comics between 1938 and 1999 or so, but he diverges from his theme at times. It's interesting to note the early social justice themes of superheroes such as Superman, though I'm not convinced that was as wide-ranging in those first days of constant invention and experimentation as Wright claims. Bu ...more
Nov 14, 2009 rated it really liked it
Wright takes a close look at the history and emergence of the comic book in the United States and examines such books within a larger sociological context that deals with the two way relationship between comic books and society. The book looks at how the values and events of past decades have served as inspiration for comic book creators. With the country’s involvement in the Second World War, the comic industry created several patriotic characters and war driven stories. With the arrival of the ...more
Brittany Cormier
Feb 11, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
This book was very informative, but I had trouble getting past it's 2 most major flaws. The book completely neglects comics such as the Archie's, and gives a fairly poor explanation as to why. Also, the book focus too much on the genre of horror such as Tales from the Crypt. The reasoning for this is apparently that these were the comics that were instrumental in the origins of the banning of comic books and censoring of comic books. I found these two aspects frustrating because the Archie's and ...more
Mari Stroud
Oct 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Loved it without reservation. It would be obvious that Wright is a lively and sincere comics fan even if had been omitted, and it's because he loves them that he's able to give such an insightful, expansive history and occasional critique of the medium across its eighty year history. He rejects as hardly worth debate the notion that comics are juvenile and inconsequential, but ground his observations in the larger trends rather than jargon-laden "decoding." (Which I appreciated a great deal: to ...more
Mike Hankins
Dec 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 20th-century-us
I assign this as the text for my course on Comic Books in US History. It's a great overview of the history of comics, but pays special attention to where they fit in a broader view of American history in general. So for example, it's not merely about how at one point in the 70s, Spider-Man got dark and Gwen Stacy died -- it goes beyond that to argue how her death was a reflection of the broader social movements and swings in the national mood that were going on in the 70s. And it does that for a ...more
Ash Rowe
Apr 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
For a history lesson on comic books I found this book to be extremely interesting.

The Author takes up from the birth of comics and the struggles it went through. Pointing out how they reflected what America was going through at certain times.

I thought it was a well written book about the history of comics. I enjoyed learning where it all started and the complications they had to endure and how they would pull themselves out of ruts and when they either had new ideas for new comic characters or
Mihail Manokin
Nov 16, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm glad that book was not just a "story of comic books" with a short expression of author's preferences and personal tastes. Instead I saw here a great anthropological research of this industry - thing I don't read every day (supposedly because where I live such books are rarely published and written or known). It's definitely a great research, though lacking in some parts, but fairly objective. Though I still feel like the audience here was left out of the author's attention. Great book to rea ...more
Andrew Miller
Dec 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
Wright succeeds in using comic books to reflect cultural shifts and changes in America. Superman changes with America as he evolves from a 1930s superhero helping the poor and touting a New Deal philosophy, to a hero of the 1950s engaging containment and conservatism. Anyone who enjoyed reading comic books as a child will find Wright’s writing as a warm reminder of times gone by, but he will do so in a way that will cause you to see comic books in a new light: as evidence of cultural shifts. I h ...more
Bill Wallace
Jul 14, 2015 rated it liked it
Maybe I'm too familiar with the subject, but this book seemed like a compendium of obvious observations. Too much of its length is comprised of synopses of individual issues and facile analysis that feels isolated from the society and history it is supposed to reflect -- remarkably like talking to someone who only knows comic books. My favorite chapter is the one on the Cold War, where the focus is less on the comics' content or which super hero was more popular and more on how the comics reflec ...more
Nov 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
This was an incredibly fun read that combined scholarly rigor and fluid narrative effortlessly. In addition to the fundamental gap in American cultural studies that this book begins to fill, it also has consistently well written topic sentences, well integrated visuals every few pages, and huge margins for note-taking. Stan Lee is the clear hero of Wright's narrative, and it falls apart a bit in the pitfalls of millennial panic and post-9-11 exceptionalism at the end, but I was on board until th ...more
Sep 12, 2008 rated it liked it
Great history of US comics, as far as I know. Liked that he covered the role of comics in culture, and placed it pretty solidly in the context of the time.

I do wish he'd covered some more recent comics (even at the time of publication "Watchmen" was definitely not the only example of "comics as art"), and provided more analysis about whether comics affected culture or if they were just influenced by culture.
Mar 17, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: non-fiction
I had to read this for my U.S. History class, and although I thought I would enjoy it, I did not. I had trouble getting through the book. Honestly, I ended up skimming through a large portion of it too. We had read "The Devil in the White City" earlier, and I was ready for another exciting and interesting book. This just wasn't it.

I think it has some good history and comic book facts, but not being the biggest fan of the subject history already, it didn't capture me. I do believe, however, that
Oct 02, 2008 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this approach to studying comics and appreciate the vast amount of research required to present this information.

His foreword emphasizes the importance of reading comics, at least in part, for a sense of enjoyment and escapism, and he mentions how he wrote his book while listening to rock and roll music. Comic books, like rock and roll, certainly have a lot of roots in American culture and reflect/influence our youth's values and morals.

Would recommend this to anyone interested
Oct 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
Fantastic! This book was awesome! It is probably my favorite book this year! It is a wonderful history of comic books and how they were influenced by American culture and how American culture was influenced by comic books. The author does a great job of putting things in context. I think my favorite chapters were a about the Cold War era! I highly recommend to anyone that is interested in comic books or American studies. Also make sure you find the updated version the one I read stopped in the 9 ...more
Wayland Smith
Jul 06, 2013 rated it liked it
A detailed history of the development of comic books in the US. It was a bit dry at points, but had some good stories in it that I didn't know. I learned some things from this about a medium I've been very interested in for years. If you're a fan of comics and want to learn more about them, it's certainly worth a read. Also, if you're interested in censorship in the US, there's a good bit about that as well.
Dec 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: comics
A good overview of the history of the comic book industry, with a few gaps that really need to be fixed in a revised edition. For instance, Image was massively important, but only gets a passing mention. Also, with the explosion of comic book movies, I'd like to see a new chapter on how this has effected the sales of comics, if at all. But as an overview of the industry up until the 90s, this is a great starting point.
Dec 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book provides an overview of the history of comic books from the forming of the first publishers to the 9/11 issue of Spider-man. Since it covers such a large time frame, it focuses on the major themes of each age of comics. I found this to be very readable and easy to follow. It's worth reading for fans of comics. I'm only hoping that a newer edition will be published that will react to the big jump in popularity of superhero movies. Someday perhaps.
Dec 19, 2010 rated it really liked it
Read this for work too! Who would have thought that comic books are the way to teach American History! I think that some of my students learned more American history through this book than they did from their high school text books. An interesting, worth-while read.
Ketan Shah
A great history of the American comic book.Full of great examples .Really places historical context into those 'quaint' comics of yesterday. I liked the parts about World War II and how it affected the comic book industry.
Scott Gillespie
Nov 19, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: book-books
A self-proclaimed "scholarly" history of comic books in America with more of an emphasis on the sociocultural aspects than aesthetic qualities or personalities of the medium. At times dry, but overall a fair read about that growing pile of boxes that follows me from home to home.
Frank Taranto
May 02, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, comics
A very interesting social history of the comic book and its relation to American culture.
I did not realize that the original DC superheroes were socially revelant and poltical.
Wright seems to have a good grasp of both the comic book medium and the people who loved it.
Wayne Wise
Oct 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing
A really well researched history of the comic book industry with a focus on how it both reflected and influenced the changes in pop culture and the public perception of youth in America.
May 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
Not only did this book open my eyes to the cultural importance of comic books, but it helped me complete a huge graduate research project AND provided useful information for my Master's thesis.
Mar 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Can't wait to actually have time to finish it...
Nov 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
I loved this book. The history of comic books is an amazing one. :)
Jan 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
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