31 May 2015

Comic Bikes

Geeky as I was, I was never much of a comic book fan, though many of my junior-high and high-school peers were.  However, they missed--by a decade or less--what many consider to be the "golden age" of animated magazines.

That period, it seems, began during the 1930's and continued until the early or mid 1960's. (Interestingly, that period is sometimes referred to as "the Golden Age of Radio".) Kids--boys, mostly--spent their allowance or money made from delivering newspapers or selling lemonade on cartoon-filled booklets that parents, teachers and other authority figures hoped the kids would "grow out of" in a hurry.

Around the same time, many a young lad saved his money for something that was much more socially acceptable--and which he "grew out of", usually without any prodding from said authority figures.

The thing typically lured a boy away from that second obsession was driver's permit.  As soon as he got it, the object of his former obsession was passed onto a younger sibling, tossed in the trash or left to rust in a basement or barn.

That object is, of course, a bicycle.  And many a boy's dream--at least here in the US--was a two-wheeler from Schwinn, which was sometimes referred to as "the Cadillac of bicycles." 

Not surprisingly, during the "golden age" of comic books, Schwinn very effectively used that medium to promote their products.  (They also used such publications as Boys' Life magazine, which every Boy Scout received.)  Not surprisingly, those magazines and comic books carried advertisements from the Chicago cycle colossus.  But more than a few had "product placements" not unlike the ones seen in movies or TV shows:  You know, where you can see--if only for a second--the Schwinn badge on the bike some character is riding.


Given everything I've just said, it shouldn't come as a shock to learn, as I recently did, that Schwinn issued its own comic book in 1949: the very middle of the Golden Age of comics.    Schwinn touted them as "educational", which indeed they were:  Included were segments about safe riding, locking up the bike and Alfred Letourner's speed record--accomplished, naturally, on an early Schwinn Paramount. 

Including Alfred Letourner's ride (and the bike he rode) exemplifies what I have long known about most "educational" publications:  They are teaching the consumer to buy a specific product, or to influence said consumer's parents to buy it for him or her.  And, indeed, most of what was in Schwinn's comic book--even the parts that showed the development of the bicycle during the century or so before Ignaz Schwinn started making bikes--had the purpose of showing that Schwinn bikes were at the top or end (depending on your metaphor of choice) of the evolutionary chain, in much the same way that the "history" we're taught as kids is meant to show us that all historical events were props that help to set the stage for our country's greatness--or, at least, the dominance of the group of people to whom the writers of the history belong. 


Still, I have to admit, I had fun looking at the Schwinn comic book.  Sure, it's schlocky, but it does offer a window into the almost-adolescent exuberance of the United States just after World War II.


  1. Siring up memories here. Not about comics which never did anything for me but J K Starley who made his bicycles where I was born and shared my birthday...

  2. Coline--You're in good company and in the midst of history. I envy you.

  3. Such a nice content. one can also get information on bike from infoshutter