A source of entertainment for both kids and adults. The nice graphics and the catching story, the continuous battle between good and evil, the inner feelings of the main character, the funny conversations or depicted situations, the drama, the action, the comedy, ahhh...
Comic books give many of us a great way to relax, to forget about the mundane things and return to that time of our life when superheroes and super villains were real and they used their powers to fight each other. It the time when kids look for idols and role models. People they want to be. It's the time of happiness and inner peace when you don't feel the everyday worries and stress. I think that's mainly one of the reasons adults still enjoy reading them. It gives them back something they lost or they don't want to lose: their childhood.
Believe it or not but, but the first known comic book appeared in Europe in 1837 and was published in several languages. It's name was "The Adventures of Obadiah Oldbuck" and it was a lot different than the comic books we know today. Back then there were no balloons, the text being situated under the panels, describing the story. There were more like books than comics, but those are the pioneers. The first comic books were published like part of a magazine. Soon the newspapers noticed the increased attraction in the phenomenon and started to publish short stories as a weekend bonus. In 1897 "The Yellow Kid in McFadden's Flats" comes out, introducing the phrase"comic book" printed on the back cover and the balloon as a mean to show what the characters are saying. For a while, this was considered to be the first comic book. Thus the basis of the industry was created.
The first real monthly comic book("Comics Monthly") was printed in 1922 and lasted for 12 months. Walt Disney released in 1931 the first Mickey Mouse comic book named "The Adventures of Mickey Mouse". After that several others followed. Around this period characters like Flash Gordon, Dick Tracy and Tarzan made their appearance in comic books. Different companies sponsored or ordered comic books to promote their name or products, increasing people's attraction for this kind of literature.
In 1938 "Action Comics #1" comes out and the world is changed forever. Why you ask? What was so special about this comic? It featured Superman. Yes people, that's how old Superman is. This was the first time ever the main character of the book has amazing powers, like bouncing bullets of his chest, flying, running faster than a train, leaping buildings and other cool stuff. Superman was the first in a long line of heroes end villains that had supernatural powers. A year later another great hero is created, Batman. Allthough he doesn't have any super powers, he has great gadgets and he's a man with secrets and tragedies in his life, not as pure as Superman.
A sad chapter in this history is Dr. Fredric Werthham, a psychologist that considered comic books to be bad for children. He started a seven year study on the effects of the comics on children. In 1954 he published "Seduction of the Innocent", in which he states that these are a major cause of juvenile delinquency and that children got wrong ideas about life, the laws of physics and social status. In 1954 the "Comics Code Authority"(CCA) was created following an U.S. Senate investigation in which Werthham was called to testify. This way the comic book companies had to follow a set of guidelines. The ones that qualified received the approval stamp. Many comics went out of, mainly horror ones business. Others transformed into magazines, the CCA having no authority over them. With time the approval stamp got smaller and smaller. These days the CCA lost it's importance and comics may or may not have the approval. It makes no difference.
Shortly after, comics got back on track. Many more superheroes were created by both DC Comics and Marvel: Conan The Barbarian, The Fantastic Four, Daredevil, The X-Men, Hulk, Iron-Man, Spiderman to name just a few. New stories and new adventures were invented. The 70's changed the way comics were created. They took a more serious approach and touched issues as drug abuse, pollution and racism. The characters and stories became more complex to reflect the changes in the social climate. At first they were not approved by the CCA, but seeing the support from the public their guidelines changed. This in turn gave the opportunity to create new comics that were previously denied by the CCA.
In my opinion comics have kept up with the new trends in media. In fact movies have been and continue to be released featuring famous Marvel and other heroes. Great titles like "Blade", "Hulk", "X-Men", "X2: X-Men United", "X3: The Last Stand", "Daredevil", "Fantastic Four", "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer", "Spiderman" 1,2 and 3, "Ghostrider" and so many others continue to hold a top place in the box office, reviving or creating new adventures for our heroes. Cartoons also make people aware of the complexity of the characters and their background, bringing back to life their old stories in an animated and revamped way.
Whatever other people might say, you're never too old for comic books. It's actually like learning history. Old comics and heroes have been around longer than many of us. And they most certainly have a greater history than many of the contemporary literature characters. Just reading all those comic books is like reading entire novels, spanning over almost a century and depicting the social environment and events of the time. They are more that just drawings. They are truly a form of art.