Celebrating the Unpopular Arts
In the words of Ace, “How long will this keep going on?”

In the words of Ace, “How long will this keep going on?”

Since I started my Silver Age rereading three years ago I’ve had a lot of fun. Enough that I’ve periodically wondered if I should make it something bigger, rereading the Bronze Age or going all the way to Crisis on Infinite Earths. I think not.

By this point — mid-1965 — I’m reading a lot more comics than when I started. If I do the 1970s, I’ll be reading even more simply because I have many more available. There are other things I want to read, both comics and books, and a Bronze Age or 1980s reread would take too much time away from them. Besides, part of the fun of rereading the Silver Age is that I wasn’t able to read the books this way originally. Buying two comics a week I couldn’t follow all the series I liked; shopping with my parents I couldn’t take my time and flip through books I wasn’t buying. In the 1970s and 1980s, by contrast, I was reading or flipping through pretty much everything (no matter the sales clerks reminded me the drug store wasn’t a library) so a reread wouldn’t cover fresh ground.

That brings me back to my original idea of reading to the end of the Silver Age — but when exactly was that?

There’s a solid consensus that Flash’s debut in Showcase #4 gave birth to the Silver Age. It’s not unanimous — some people argue for Captain Comet’s 1951 debut, as he became the first successful post-Golden Age superhero — but picking the Scarlet Speedster doesn’t seem to start any flame wars that I’ve noticed. The end of the Silver Age, though? That’s murkier.

Silver Age buff Commander Benson favors 1968 as the last year of the Silver Age (as he discusses in some of his excellent blog posts). Marvel broke free of its distribution agreement with DC, leading to an expansion of the line; DC fired Gardner Fox, Arnold Drake and multiple other writers who asked for retirement benefits. It was also the year that Joe Orlando turned House of Mystery and several other books into the horror anthology format they’re best known for.

I vividly remember my shock when I picked up HOM for my usual fix of “Dial H for Hero” and Martian Manhunter only to discover an anthology of weird horror stories. No question that was the right decision — the long run of Cain and Abel as horror hosts proves it — but it was an abrupt, unannounced change and I was not happy with it.I was just as badly shaken by Fox’s departure from Justice League of America, turning the book into a campfest by Denny O’Neil. He toned down the camp later but I never liked his work on the League. So yes, that year definitely makes a reasonable cutoff (though the Commander has always emphasized that’s his personal taste, not one he expects anyone else to share).Others have picked the start of Kirby’s Fourth World books a few years later, or the Green Lantern/Green Arrow series, or the 1975 debut of the new X-Men (too late for my taste). Or I could simply pick the start of 1970 as the cutoff point, though you can see from what was on sale at the start of the year that there’s no dramatic change from what was on sale in 1969.

Even if I had a strong opinion on which turning point marks the end of the Silver Age, I’ve realized I don’t want to stop there. Part of my goal in beginning this reread was to see how comics evolved and changed. Stopping in 1968, or when GA/GL launches means ending just as the change starts. I want to go further.

So I recently decide to read until March 1972, when Justice League of America #97 came out. Not that it’s a particularly classic issue — Mike Friedrich didn’t write classic issues — and as I’ve mentioned before, it wasn’t the first issue I bought after my family moved to America. However it was the month I became a hard-core comics reader again. I picked up that issue because it retold the JLA’s origin; bought a Flash issue with a Silver Age reprint; and a Strange Adventures with “Planet That Came to a Standstill.” It was a good month to be a tween.

Picking that month means I also get through most of the Fourth World books and almost the entire GL/GA run, plus Wonder Woman losing her powers, Clark Kent moving to TV and a few other changes. It works for me

Now you know. And knowing is half the battle. The other half, of course, is reading all the comics.

#SFWApro. Covers top to bottom by George Perez, Carmine Infantino, Joe Orlando, Neal Adams, Gil Kane, Adams and Adams.


  1. Gavin

    The silver age is easier to date because it is mostly new or long dormant titles starting up. I’ve read opinions on when the golden age ended and the silver age started for Superman, Batman and the other continuing characters and have never bothered to check how close in time their cutoffs were.

    The DC bronze age, for me, started at different times for different characters. Batman hit the bronze age with Denny O’Neal, Frank Robbins, et al. Superman clocked in when Superman 233 dropped. Wonder Woman probably during the powerless period, but I try to ignore that, and the issues after that followed are a scattered mish-mash between silver (even golden) and bronze age elements so the “Twelve Labors” series might be where the line would be best drawn. GL/GA is bronze age.

    1. Figuring out the Silver Age/Earth One beginnings for the characters who’d been in print since the early Golden Age is tough. Mike’s Amazing World does some deep-in-the-weeds work on it: http://www.mikesamazingworld.com/mikes/index.php?page=fanboy
      If we go with post-powerless period as the Bronze Age beginning I’d include her first few issues as they set her up at the UN,, then just forget the run of “Kanigher reuses his old scripts with new art” existed.
      Your assessments for Batman and Superman make sense. For Flash there’s no neat cut off so I’d pick Flash 209, when Cary Bates became the new writer.

      1. Gavin

        Yes, the UN issues are the start of the bronze age for Wonder Woman. We’ll ignore the “Kaniger relapse” issues and then everything flows.

        For Flash, I always thought of when Irv Novick started and when Barry’s lost the crew cut as when the Bronze age started. So, perhaps the first post-John Broome issue is the cutoff? Cary Bates’ start makes a lot of sense, though. I did a bit of research and it looks like Gil Kane drew the first non-crewcut issue, which I was not expecting!

        For JLA, when they moved to the sattelite was the marker I always went with, though Black Canary’s debut also works for me.

        For the Legion, I think Dave Cockrum kicked it off.

        I love this game!

  2. Edo Bosnar

    Ah, yes: the endless debate about when the Silver Age ended and the Bronze began. DC is hard to pin down for me, but I’d say Marvel’s Bronze Age began sometime in the late 1960s, esp. in titles in which Roy Thomas took over the writing chores – his Avengers and X-men in particular definitely have a Bronze Age vibe to them. As does, for that matter, Iron Man once Archie Goodwin became the main writer.

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