The Nickel and Dime Decade: American Popular Culture during the 1930s

By Gary Dean Best | Go to book overview

CHAPTER THREE Comics and Popular Literature

COMIC STRIPS

Comic strips did not originate in the 1930s, having begun in American newspapers in the 1890s. From the very beginning, "comic" strip was a misnomer since many of the strips featured adventure or took the form of mild soap operas. The strips burgeoned during the 1910s and 1920s and reading them became a ritual for Americans, especially on Sundays.

Some of the most durable strips, however, originated in the 1930s. On the humorous side, Blondie began in 1930, L'il Abner in 1934, and two Walt Disney characters made the transition from movies to comics in 1930 (Mickey Mouse) and 1936 (Donald Duck). The decade was more notable, however, for its adventure strips. Buck Rogers brought science fiction to the comics in 1929, and was soon joined by Flash Gordon in that genre. The jungle, too, exerted an appeal for Americans seeking escape from the realities of the depression, with the popularity of features like Tarzan and Jungle Jim. Crime strips mirrored the popularity of that theme in radio and the movies, beginning with Dick Tracy and then by a variety of crime fighters who possessed superhuman powers: Mandrake the Magician, the Phantom, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and others. Readers could also escape into history with Prince Valliant, and to exotic places with Terry and the Pirates.

Slapstick violence had always characterized even the humorous strips, but the action strips that proliferated during the 1930s featured it on a larger and more serious scale. Some bemoaned the trend and saw it as indicative of an ominous historical movement. The violence of the comic strips, the Saturday Review (SR) opined, mirrored (and in fact preceded)

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The Nickel and Dime Decade: American Popular Culture during the 1930s
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction ix
  • Chapter One - The Setting 1
  • Chapter Two - Fads and Crazes 19
  • Chapter Three - Comics and Popular Literature 39
  • Chapter Four - Newspapers and Radio 55
  • Chapter Five - Music, Movies, and the Arts 73
  • Chapter Six - Sports 91
  • Chapter Seven - Style and Life 107
  • Chapter Eight- Coping 123
  • Conclusion 139
  • Notes 143
  • Bibliography 157
  • Index 163
  • About the Author 169
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