The origin of the hamburger dates back to 15th century accounts of a delicacy of spiced beef known throughout Europe. The modern day hamburger grew to prevalence in the 18th century when sailors from the large port city of Hamburg, Germany, brought back a minced meat patty known as the Hamburg steak. Soon New York City food stands began marketing the "steak cooked Hamburg style" to German sailors. By the late 1880's the automatic meat chopper had revolutionized the hamburger from the salted shredded meat version popular in Germany, to the chopped meat patties still seen today.
A number of people have laid claim to inventing the modern day version of the hamburger, but it wasn't until 1921 when the White Castle restaurant of Wichita, Kansas introduced the hamburger to the masses. By 1940, the McDonald's restaurant of San Bernardino, California began serving their version of the hamburger, revolutionizing the fast food industry and ushering in the golden age of the hamburger's dominance as the supreme meat sandwich in history.
"I'll Gladly Pay You Tuesday For a Hamburger Today"
An intelligent but lazy man, Popeye's good friend J. Wellington Wimpy was first introduced in the 1930's as a hamburger obsessed con-man, whose love of the minced meat sandwich would led him to lie, beg, steal, and defraud from both friends and strangers. His catch phrase "I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today" represents both his love of hamburgers, and his deep fiscal irresponsibility. Wimpy was the first of many comic characters to fall sway to the power of the hamburger.
The Hamburger in Archie Comics
The hamburger makes frequent appearances in Archie's Pal Jughead, and the solo titled Jughead. An essential part of Jughead's characterization is his incredible appetite. although he has been known to enjoy all types of food, Jughead is particularly fond of the hamburgers from Pop Tate's Chock'lit Shoppe.
Some of Jughead's most notable hamburger related adventures include Jughead's victory at the National Hamburger Eating Contest of Akron, Ohio; his campaign against mini-slider style burgers; and nearly losing his soul to an evil witch over the "ultimate burger".
Critics have contended that Jughead's love of hamburgers condones gluttony and poor eating habits to children, who lack his seemingly super-human metabolism. Furthermore, Jughead's hamburger addiction has been portrayed as a defense mechanism to his fear of the opposite sex. It has been suggested that Jughead "hides" from women behind an endless supply of food. Still despite the obvious dangers of Jughead's hamburger obsession, he is regularly portrayed as a happy well adjusted aficionado of the chopped meat delicacy.
Speedsters and Supermen
At an average of 209 calories and 20 grams of protein per patty, the hamburger is an excellent source of energy for speedsters and supermen needing a power boost.
When his super metabolism went haywire in Action Comics #454,
Superman turned to the hamburger to save him from starvation. By consuming a mountain of sizzling meat and cheese, the Man of Steel was able to fuel his body long enough to defeat the villains behind his sudden metabolic disorder. If not for the hamburger, Superman would not have been around to aid in the defeat of universal-level menaces such as Darkseid, the Anti-Monitor, Doomsday, and Parallax.
No hero owes more to the hamburger then the Flash, Wally West. When he was first introduced as "Kid Flash", Wally needed to consume vast quantities of food to maintain the energy he needed to run at super speeds. This dependence on food continued through his early years as the Flash, when Wally would regularly be seen scarfing down several burgers on his way to an encounter with villains such as Captain Cold or Vandal Savage.
Even in the world of comics, some things seemed beyond the power of the hamburger. The flash's implausible reliance on food as a power source was made glaringly clear in the book "The Physics of Superheroes" by Professor James Kakalios of the University of Minnesota. Professor Kakalios wrote that, to achieve even 1% of the speed of light, the Flash would have to consume approximately 150 million cheeseburgers each time he ran.
Given the cow to villain ratio in the DC Universe, it was clear that there were simply not enough cattle available to support the Flash's energy needs. In the mid 1990's the speed force was introduced as the new explanation for the Scarlet Speedster's power, thereby pushing the hamburger from its place of prominence in the world of comic books.
The mid 1990's ushered in dark time for the hamburger in comics. Once a vital part of the Flash's war on crime, the hamburger now drifted aimlessly from comic to comic serving as nothing more then a one note prop for comic book gluttons like Wimpy, Jughead, the Hamburgler, and Homer Simpson.
As the public concerns turned towards the high cholesterol and sodium content of the hamburger, the world of comics followed suit. In Iron Man #221, the Iron Avenger stopped a buffoonish "villain" known as Flex from destroying a fast food restaurant out of anger over the
public's obsession with "red meat, salt, and grease". Although Iron Man stopped Flex, he openly shared Flex's disdain for "unhealthy" foods. Such public condemnation from an A-list hero was highly damaging to the hamburger's reputation.
During the 1990's whenever a wealthy hero like Iron Man, Psylocke, Angel, or Batman was shown eating, they were shown enjoying fine cuisine. Other heroes like Storm and Animal Man came out as vegetarians. Martial artists like Iron Fist and Daredevil demonstrated a clear preference for healthy far-eastern cooking, while street-level heroes like Spider-Man were depicted as preferring hot dogs and pizza over the hamburger. It seemed as if the hamburger was destined for comic book mediocrity alongside the taco, fried chicken, and Blood Pack.
The hamburger muddled its way through the next decade with little fanfare. It seemed as if the golden age of the hamburger in comics had come and gone. Then in 2006 Marvel Comics launched an event that would put the hamburger back on the map.
In Civil War, the heroes of the Marvel Universe were torn into two factions over the controversial Super Human Registration Act. Captain America's stance against the Act caused him to come into conflict with agent of SHIELD. Cap refused to help SHIELD hunt down those heroes who opposed the Act, and during a violent confrontation, Cap escaped the helicarrier by smashing through a window and hijacking an F-15 in mid flight.
When the story was recounted days later, a clearly amused American General told of how Cap forced the pilot to land in a nearby field and then took the young pilot out for a hamburger and fries. Despite the Captain's betrayal, the General was charmed by Captain America's wholesome gesture towards a fellow serviceman.
The hamburger was back! When he needed a gesture of respect to a fellow soldier, and a means of extending the olive branch to proponents of the Act, the living legend Captain America chose to send his message with good old fashioned "red meat, salt, and grease." This simply meal of meat, potato, bread and cheese was Captain America's way of saying "we may be at odds, but we're all still Americans." No more eloquent a gesture could have been made.
Fresh off the high from the Civil War, the hamburger was once again thrust into comic prominence during DC Comic's Brightest Day event. After he was brought back to life, Boston Brand a.k.a Deadman, was reluctant to rejoin the world. He refused the JLA's legal assistance in reestablishing his life and questioned whether or not he even wanted to live.
Out of frustration, Boston turned to the white ring for answers and was told to "eat a cheeseburger". Although he didn't know it at the time, the ring was teaching Boston to embrace life by reminding him of his favorite food. Boston's took his first steps towards a new beginning by going to a diner with the beautiful Dove and enjoying a cheeseburger with all the trimmings. Shortly after, Boston and Dove kissed. The cheeseburger had reminded Boston of all of the pleasures that life has to offer.
The good times continued for the hamburger in 2008 when a flashback issue of Ms. Marvel revealed that Major Carol Danver's call sign in the Air Force was
"Cheeseburger". The issue recounted how Carol first obtained her powers while testing a new model Stark fighter plane. Once again demonstrating his obvious prejudice against the well loved meat patty, Tony Stark smugly questioned the wisdom of entrusting his jet to someone named "Cheeseburger". Stark later learned that, like her namesake, Carol could be a tough on the outside, tender on the inside, smoking hot piece of meat.
Fresh off of major roles in two flagship events, the hamburger's future in the world of comics looks bright. In addition to its regular appearances in Jughead comics, the hamburger has seen time at Krusty Burger, Krusty Krab, Warriors Bar and Grill, the cover of "Tangled Webs"
and as part of the nom de plume of the grossly disfigured "Hamburger Lady". The hamburger has weathered good times and bad to remain the premier sandwich in the comic book universe.