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150 Years Of American Comics, From Uncle Sam To The Marvel Cinematic Universe

Vintage Marvel comics are seen for sale at St. Mark's Comics in New York City.
Vintage Marvel comics are seen for sale at St. Mark's Comics in New York City.

Political cartoonist Thomas Nast is often credited with popularizing the image of Uncle Sam — a mid-19th-century cartoon personification of the U.S. government.

Fast forward 150 years, the comic industry is more than alive and well.

Graphic novel sales are booming. And the Marvel Cinematic Universe — the film adaptations of Marvel Comics, originating in 1939 — encompasses more than 20 blockbusters.

How did we get here?

In “American Comics: A History,” author Jeremy Dauber chronicles the interplay of American comics and American values over the last 150 years.

The story of American comics is the story of America’s last 150 years: the development, growth, and transformation of cherished American institutions, cultures, and practices, and comics’ frequently central role in their business and their appeal. It’s a political story of how a long-marginalized, at times even despised medium helped shape American thought and action. It’s the story of a changing American audience: of American immigrants and American fears, American ideals and American anxieties, all in word-and-image form, a perfect vehicle for addressing contemporary issues.

We talk with Dauber about the evolving landscape of American comics.

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