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The Patron Saint of Superheroes

Chris Gavaler Explores the Multiverse of Comics, Pop Culture, and Politics

Stamp Collection 12

Without the 1954 Comics Code, we wouldn’t have the Marvel pantheon of the early 60s. No Avengers, no Spider-Man, no X-Men. We wouldn’t even have DC’s Justice League with the rebooted Flash and Green Lantern of the late 50s. The comics industry created the Code in order to avoid censorship legislation after the Senate held hearings on the corrupting influence of horror and crime comics. As a result, horror and crime comics vanished, and superheroes swooped into the market vacuum.

I’ve been writing a lot about the Code lately. My next book, Superhero Comics, is due out next year from Bloomsbury, and the Code defined the genre for most of its existence. Personally I’d like to replace the ambiguous Golden, Silver, Bronze, etc. Ages with Code-defined eras, but more on that later. I’ve also been tinkering with a one-act play based on the Senate hearing transcripts, with the publisher of EC Comics getting grilled by the senators. EC’s line of SuspenStories got literally blown out of proportion and hung on the walls for photo ops. Johnny Craig’s cover is one of the most famous in comics. Matt Baker’s Phantom Lady is up there too.

Because I was looking at these images so much, I decided to tinker with them as images too. That was my first draft.

Stamp Collection 1

Perfectly respectful, but not all that thrilling unless you really zoom in to see how the transparent Code stamp overlays with each cover. But I knew I wanted to use the stamp as a main element.


And I knew I wanted to combine it with the comics that the Code put out of business.


So instead of using the entire images, I started isolating individual figures. This is time-consuming but fairly easy in Word Paint.

process 2

You keep whiting-out the edges until you have just the parts you want.

sources 2

Then the fun part starts. Select, copy, and paste new combinations.


I liked the idea of a sheet of stamps, like the kind I haven’t bought at the post office in years.

Stamp Collection 2

Then it was a matter of deciding on the best pattern.

Stamp Collection 3

And playing with the framings.

Stamp Collection 8

Until just right.

Stamp Collection 11

I finished another yesterday using superhero comics from the same period.

sources 3

Now I’m wondering how it might look on the cover of Superhero Comics.



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