Mental Floss

26 Important Comic Books

Special Guest Star
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By Christa Wagner

Sure, it may seem silly, but, comic books mean something. Soldiers used dog-eared copies of Captain America to keep their spirits up in WWII. The Green Lantern and Green Arrow made kids actually think about issues like racism and heroin. And millions gasped when they heard the news that Superman died. In fact, the vibrant medium is so often pegged as children's pulp, or fun for the feeble-minded, that people tend to forget that comics have actually grown with and continued to reflect the spirit of our times.

HOW THEY GOT GOLDEN

Action Comics #1 (June, 1938)

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Detective Comics #27 (May 1939)

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Marvel Comics #1 (November 1939)

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Superman #1 (Summer, 1939)

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The Yellow Kid (Feb. 1896)

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THE 1940s: KEEPING IT GOLDEN

Captain America #1 (March 1941)

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Batman #1 (Spring 1940)

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All-American Comics #16 (July 1940)

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Wonder Woman #1 (Summer 1942)

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Whiz Comics #2 (February 1940)

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THE 1960s: THE SILVER AGE

The Silver Age ushered comics out of the 1950s Comics Code doldrums with a brand-spanking-new approach to storytelling.

The Fantastic Four #1 (1961) and The Incredible Hulk #1 (May 1962)

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Amazing Fantasy #15 (March 1963)

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Captain America #117 (September 1969)

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The X-Men #1 (September 1963)

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The Seduction of the Innocent (1954)

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THE 1970s: THE BRONZE AGE

The chronological boundaries of the next era in comics are ambiguous, but 1970s are considered to be the Bronze Age of comics, with the 1980s generally accepted as the Modern Age — a time characterized by new genres, Marvel/DC cross-over issues, and new titles with the same old heroes.

Green Lantern/Green Arrow #76 (April 1970)

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The Amazing Spider-Man #96-98 (1971)

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The Incredible Hulk #181 (November 1974)

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Conan the Barbarian #1 (October 1970)

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Superman vs. The Amazing Spider-Man (1976)

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OUTSIDE THE MAINSTREAM

While there are tons of artists and titles we'd love to highlight (everyone from Daniel Clowes to publishing houses like Dark Horse and Malibu) we just couldn't finish without dropping these names.

Zap Comix #0 (1967)

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Maus #1 (1986)

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Akira #1 (September 1988)

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Spider-Man #1 (1990)

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Superman #75 (January 1993)

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Just like any list, we were forced to leave plenty of favorites off. Watchmen? Persepolis? If you've got comics we need to write up for part 2, be sure to include them in the comments below.

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