History Geek: Comics and Games from the 1930s

Image By Lilianna Maxwell
Image By Lilianna Maxwell

Superman and Monopoly. Can you imagine the world without them? Oh, you can? Do you know how much Superman has influenced ALL comic books, which in turn influenced radio shows, TV shows, and movies? And Monopoly? Besides chess, it is the most popular board game of all time. Both began in the 1930s.

Superman’s legacy is incredible. In comics, he is still going strong. I think every generation will get their own movie version. Before Superman, the popular comics were about normal humans in extraordinary situations. Superman was an extraordinary alien on normal Earth. This set the stage for all the superheroes to follow.

Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman is an entertaining and eye-opening look at Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. I had to explain to my campers that being a geek at that time, heck during MY teens, was not cool at all. These two geeky guys escaped into their imaginations and pulled out the icon of Superman.

Monopoly, ah, the bane of my gaming existence. I never played a full game until adulthood in an epic battle that lasted until the wee hours of the morning. (I talked about that game in a previous post.) When I first met my husband, I couldn’t believe it when he told me he and his sisters would play MORE THAN ONE game of monopoly in a day?! How is that possible? As parents we’ve played Monopoly Junior many times with our kids, even creating a family song, “Loop de Loop! Loop de Loop!” about one of the spaces. I’m sure you have your own stories of this American pastime staple.

But there were other games and comics from that era that we know and enjoy today: Sorry (hate it!), Scrabble (love it!). There was more to comics than just Superman (“just” Superman, ha…). The 1930s are called The Golden Age of Comic Books. In fact, the style of the comic book (small, thin paper booklet) started at this point in comic history. Look at some of the comic book characters that debuted in the 30s: Wonder Woman, Captain America, The Flash, the Green Lantern, Batman and Robin, Captain Marvel, and more. (Seriously, there are more; it’s stunning how many started during this time.)

Beyond superheroes, comic strips featuring stars like Dick Tracy, Popeye, and Little Orphan Annie were incredibly popular. Annie is dear to my heart since I wanted to be her after the movie from my childhood. Like Superman, this character continues on.

So what was in the air in America during the Great Depression that gave us such long-lasting pop culture? Maybe when times are tough, and life is slow, the imagination is the best place to be.

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Rebecca Angel was one of those kids that put the dragon book on top of her pile in the hopes that someone would say, "Hey, I'm into that stuff too!" Alas, she had to wait until she was an adult to find fellow geeks. Luckily, she married one and their kids are too. Rebecca is a lover of tea, science literacy, music, funky tights, RPGs, anime, manga, comics, fantasy books and movies.