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Penny Dreadfuls, Story Papers, and Protosuperheroes (1825–1935)

Penny Dreadfuls, Story Papers, and Protosuperheroes (1825–1935)

Chapter:
(p.19) Chapter 1 Penny Dreadfuls, Story Papers, and Protosuperheroes (1825–1935)
Source:
The British Superhero
Author(s):
Chris Murray
Publisher:
University Press of Mississippi
DOI:10.14325/mississippi/9781496807373.003.0002

This chapter examines the tradition of periodical adventure stories that existed in Britain during the period 1825–1935, focusing on “story papers” and “penny bloods,” also known as “penny dreadfuls.” It first provides a historical background on the emergence of British comics before discussing “story papers” and “penny dreadfuls,” and especially their relationship with similar publications in America and the characters who, in retrospect, can be seen as protosuperheroes and villains. It also shows how these publications established the market and audience for adventure comics in Britain and influenced the rise of a similar market in America, where dime novels and pulp magazines, along with newspaper strips, would later influence the rise of superhero comics. The chapter concludes with an analysis of three of the early treatments of the superhuman from science-fiction literature: Edward Bulwer-Lytton's The Coming Race (1871), Philip Wylie's The Gladiator (1930), and Olaf Stapledon's Odd John (1935).

Keywords:   story papers, penny bloods, penny dreadfuls, British comics, protosuperheroes, villains, adventure comics, dime novels, pulp magazines, superhero comics

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