In terms of popularity, golden age of comics is widely regarded as one of the eras when comic books were at their most popular. Sadly, it’s hard to prove this as there isn’t any concrete sales data due to their disposable nature at the time (this is also a factor that contributed to making the comics of this era so rare).
It’s also one of the most important era of comic books due to it being the age that birthed modern comic books and superheroes. They had a massive cultural impact which is evident when we take into account the lasting effect the popular golden age comics had on the industry. The only question you might have is what were the most popular golden age comics?
1. Action Comics
Giving us the first appearance of Superman in Action Comics #1 (1938), this series was credited with not only kicking off the golden age but also the superhero genre as a whole. This makes it one of the most important comic books series of all time. It was the immense popularity of Superman that propelled Action Comics to be one of the most popular comic book series’ of the golden age. The series was an instant hit and the first issue alone is estimated to have sold close to one millions copies!
2. Detective Comics
Detective Comics wasn’t an instant hit like Action Comics, however, after introducing Batman in Detective Comics #27 (1939), the title quickly became one of the flagship titles of DC Comics (which at the time was called National Comics). It’s sheer longevity alone should be an indicator of its popularity. It first debuted in March 1937 and is still being published to this day making it one of the longest-running comic book series’ in history. Surviving the golden age was an impressive feat on its own but to be still going now? This speaks volumes for the success and popularity of this title.
After his success featuring in the pages of Action Comics, it was a no brainer to give a solo series to the character that essentially birthed the superhero genre. Initially, the book just reprinted stories that were featured in Action Comics. Although, this all changed with Action Comics #7 (1940) when they began to feature new stories alongside the reprints.
This proved to be a good move too since it his popularity only increased from here. It was this title that helped solidify Superman’s status as one of the most (if not the most) iconic and beloved golden age superheroes ever created.
Following in the footsteps of Superman, Batman was also given his own solo comic after his immense success featuring in the pages of Detective Comics. From early on Batman gained immense popularity with his darker nature and memorable rogues gallery.
With the creative talents of writer Bill Finger and artist Bob Kane, Batman’s early adventures were filled with engaged stories that cemented the title as one of the most popular and influential titles of the golden age. It was this title that built a lasting legacy for what came to be one of the world’s most iconic pop culture figures of all time.
5. Captain America Comics
Before the days of Marvel Comics, the company that would evolve into them was operating under the name of Timely Comics. It wasn’t until the silver age of comics that they would achieve the level of popularity that would rival that of DC Comics but that’s not to say they didn’t have their fair share of popular titles.
One of the most popular of these titles was Captain America Comics. The cover of Captain America #1 (1941) famously featured Captain America punching Adolf Hitler in the face. It was escapades like this that thrust the title to the peak of popularity at a time when patriotic symbols were needed.
6. Wonder Woman
Wonder Woman was an important figure in the golden age of comics. At the time female representation was a much needed in comic books. Golden age female superheroes were not only scarce but also poorly represented. So when Wonder Woman appeared in All-Star Comics #8 (1941) depicted as a symbol of female empowerment, it was no wonder that she quickly earned her solo title.
Wonder Woman would go on to be one of the most popular golden age comics. As mentioned before, exact sales figures for comic books during this time period aren’t available but we do know that it was one of the DC Comic’s longest running and most popular titles rivalled only by the other two members of the DC Trinity, Superman and Batman.
7. Flash Comics
Despite what the name would have you believe; Flash Comics was an anthology title not a solo title. It did however introduce golden age Flash, Jay Garrick in Flash Comics #1 (1940). The title did heavily feature the character but some issues were about the adventures of other characters such as Hawkman and Black Canary.
It was the anthology nature of this title that helped attract a broader audience whilst also leveraging the rapidly rising popularity of the Flash himself. Flash Comics was one of the earlier comic book series from the golden age that helped establish the superhero genre’s popularity.
8. Captain Marvel Adventures
Believe it or not Captain Marvel (or Shazam as he’s now known) was one of the most popular golden age superheroes. His level of popularity even trumped that of Superman with this title regularly outselling Superman! In the early 1940s Captain Marvel Adventures was regularly selling over a million copies.
At the time the character was owned by Fawcett Comics, but they were later bought out by DC Comics at which point Captain Marvel quickly became one of DC Comics’ most beloved superheroes.
9. All-American Comics
All-American Comics was originally published by All-American Publications, the company that would later merge with National Comics to form DC Comics. This particular title was very popular with a wide range of audiences. This was largely due to the fact that they covered a diverse mix of genres. As well as the superhero genre they also included sci-fi and mystery stories.
All-American Comics also contributed a lot to comic books through the debut of various iconic characters including golden age Green Lantern, Alan Scott in All-American Comics #16 (1940), the Atom in All-American Comics #19 (1940) and Hawkman in All-American Comics #25 (1940).
10. Whiz Comics
Finally, we have another publication by Fawcett Comics, Whiz Comics. This was an immensely popular title during the golden age of comics. Just like Captain Marvel Adventures, Whiz Comics regularly sold over a million copies per issue.
Speaking of Captain Marvel, Whiz Comics is also the title credited with bringing us the first appearance of Captain Marvel in Whiz Comics #2 (1940). It would eventually be legal battles with DC Comics that brought Fawcett Comics down and allowed DC Comics to take advantage of the situation and acquire the character but that’s a different story for a different day. It’s fair to say this title played a pivotal role in the shaping of the superhero genre during the golden age.