Rereading the Silver Age has reminded me that back when I started college, my personal view of DC and Marvel consisted of three ages.
First came the four years after I discovered comics in ’64 (Justice League of America #30) through 1968. As I’ve mentioned before, things changed big-time that year as Marvel finally expanded its line and DC axed Gardner Fox, Arnold Drake and other writers for suggesting DC give them a better deal.
From my perspective the changes at DC (I wasn’t reading much Marvel at the time) sucked. Carmine Infantino was publisher instead of an artist, and while I like Ross Andru’s work on Metal Men and Wonder Woman he was not a good replacement for Infantino on Flash. Denny O’Neil took over JLA from Gardner Fox and his writing was awful. House of Mystery dropped Dial H for Hero. Wonder Woman became plain Diana Prince and the Metal Men got secret identities. The Doom Patrol died. That sucky, sucky artist Neal Adams replaced Murphy Anderson on The Spectre. Okay, I admit that last one showed poor taste on my part but the rest of it? I still think it sucked.
While it would be a few years before I started buying comics regularly again, I flipped through them on the stand and read friends’ copies. The next few years were the joyless Phase Two: a lot of efforts at “relevant” comics dealing with searing issues of the day — racism! Sweatshop labor! Pollution! All worthy issues but they don’t adapt well to comic-book heroes’ methods of solving problems; dealing with the issues realistically usually produced clunky, unsatisfying stories (there are exceptions). They didn’t entertain me then and I don’t like them much better now.
Part of this was DC and Marvel responding to the 1960s zeitgeist; part of it, I suspect, was DC backing away from the Batman TV era and trying to show that comics weren’t campy and silly. IIRC, supervillains didn’t show up much in that period.
Then came the third era, starting in 1972-3, when comics got fun again. More supervillains. Writers I liked better — Len Wein on Justice League of America was way preferable to Denny O’Neil or Mike Friedrich. Wonder Woman got her powers back, even if the first year or so after that was a mess. I discovered lots of enjoyable new comics — Doc Savage, Luke Cage, Hero For Hire, Beowulf, Jungle Action (though I didn’t get to reading those until a college friend of mine loaned me the run) and later the JSA’s return in All-Star Squadron.
It wasn’t until well after I’d graduated college that I heard the term “Bronze Age.” At the time I equated it to “1970s” but looking back I think there has to be more to it. A previous post discussed the beginning point of the Bronze Age; my question for today is what defines the era.
Was it the Big Two embracing horror again? Of course that started with House of Mystery and House of Secrets back in ’68 but it certainly got bigger in the 1970s (Son of Satan, Ghost Rider, Dracula, Morbius). Or maybe the Big Two jumping into sword-and-sorcery?
Was it the dominance of a younger generation of creators, fans turned pro? Many of them got their start in the Silver Age too but with so many old hands gone by the 1970s, Gerry Conway, Cary Bates, Elliott S. Maggin, etc. had a lot more impact.
Was it Marvel’s 1960s style of storytelling become common at DC too? The slight but definite increase in nonwhite representation? Other suggestions when I proposed the question elsewhere were that comics became more imitative rather than breaking fresh ground; increased interest in retcons and continuity (which fits with former fans turning pro); a smoother mix of politics and comics (some of Steve Gerber’s stories, for example).
And whatever defines the Bronze Age, when do you think it stopped? Definitely by Crisis on Infinite Earth but was it earlier? If so, when?
I don’t think I have a hill on which I intend to die over this topic but maybe I’ll discover one in your answers.
#SFWApro. Covers top to bottom by Murphy Anderson, Neal Adams, Ricardo Villamonte and Joe Orlando.