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Retro Comics and Popular Culture – Why We Just Can’t Get Enough!

Written by Sandra Raine

Comics have gone hand-in-hand with TV shows and movies since, well, forever. Who doesn’t have fond childhood memories of watching the Caped Crusader win the day against uncountable bad guys every week? Or of seeing Superman dart through the skies above Metropolis on TV every Christmas?

In recent years, our commitment to retro comics has enjoyed a resurgence for a number of reasons. The rise of ‘geek chic’ and ABC’s extensive commitment to the Marvel Cinematic Universe television series has ensured that superheroes who seemed destined to remain confined to ink in dusty comic book stores have become an intrinsic part of popular culture.

In cinemas, Wonder Woman performed wonders when it came to shattering Hollywood’s glass ceiling, not only due to it (finally) being a film with a female superhero as the lead, but also thanks to its female director. The $103 million debut was lapped up by critics and viewers alike.

However, it’s not just movies and TV shows that are bringing retro comics back to life in such glorious technicolor. You just have to look at the online slot game industry to see how pervasive our former heroes have once again become. Let’s look at Star Raiders as an example.

DC Comics released Star Raiders as a graphic novel on 1 January 1983. The 60-page story was loosely based on Atari’s Star Raiders game. The original 120-page target was slashed when the Great Video Game Crash of 1983 saw many console producers and game makers go out of business (with Atari’s business strategy and tactics playing a leading role in the crash). Despite the reduced page count, the Star Raiders graphic novel was well received – and lives on to this day through formats like online slot machines.

The internet has played its role in the recent rise of retro comics in popular culture too. The proliferation of software like Photoshop suddenly opened up image manipulation to a much wider audience. Suddenly, you no longer needed to be an artist in order to create comic book imagery – you just needed a computer and a little free time. Creating comic-book style art had become available to the masses.

Image credit: Pixabay

It is this growth of the target audience that has been so important in the recent revival of retro comic books. The stereotype comic book reader (Big Bang Theory’s Stuart leaps to mind) has been blown out of the water. Those of us who grew up with the first incarnation of these superheroes can appreciate their new lease of life, while those who missed out on the pen and ink versions can now learn to love the characters who have been given a new lease of life.

Of course, comic books still hold their appeal for the younger generation too. The escapism offered by superheroes appeals to even the youngest of children. As such, we can expect the recent revival of retro comic book figures to last well into the future.

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Sandra Raine

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