Saturday, August 29, 2015

BAB Classic: Dude, Look -- It's My Magnum Opus!

NOTE: This post originally ran on March 24, 2011. I've had "Kraven's Last Hunt" on my mind as I've been looking through the Mike Zeck Artist Edition. Fabulous art in that tale. So this weekend we'll revisit this fun topic/argument. Thanks!

Doug: So the other day I'm down in the comic room sliding side-to-side on the Total Gym (just like Chuck Norris), looking at my library, when the trade paperback for Crisis on Infinite Earths catches my eye. Of course I note that it's by Marv Wolfman and George Perez, and I'm suddenly struck with an inspiration for an Open Forum! Today's question is: Toss out the name of a writer or artist, and give us your opinion on what is their very best work. And if you can narrow it to a particular story or arc, that's even better. When did they peak?

For example, let's go back to Wolfman. Would anyone out there say that Crisis was "it" for him, or would you lean more toward some of his work on the New Teen Titans mag? How about something out of Tomb of Dracula? Perez? Man... Personally I love his art on the first several issues of the Wonder Woman reboot back around 1987 or so. I thought he drew Diana's hair in a different and very attractive fashion -- I know that may sound weird, but it was far removed from any depiction of her we'd seen before. That was eye-catching, and the rest of his images, notably the way he drew Paradise Island and the various Greek backdrops was super as well.

What the heck would you say about someone like John, or brother Sal-, Buscema? Curt Swan, Neal Adams, John Byrne? Chris Claremont, Frank Miller, or Roger Stern? Stan Lee?? When was their very best output?

It's your turn. Who ya got and when ya got 'em?

Friday, August 28, 2015

The Spinner Rack - a Variation on a Theme

Doug: No month and year for you today, kids. Nope -- I have something else in mind. Today's a tell-all from you to the rest of the BAB community. Our fun this time around is going to be in telling of those books that you recall obtaining at a specific time and place. I'm sure many of us know that we used to get a stack of comics in a cardboard box shipped from a place like Westfield Comics and brought to us by the UPS man. Others among us (looking at you, HB) used to subscribe to a few titles and eagerly awaited the mailman's arrival after a certain amount of time had passed. And that's cool - we've all been there. Let me show you what I'm after --

Purchased for me by my Aunt Mary while at the Old Chicago indoor amusement park.
Purchased by my summer sitter, my mom's cousin, at Southside Drugs in Kankakee, IL
Purchased by me after my mom drove me all over town looking for it. Bought it at Mickey's Books and Novelties (yup - those kinds of "books and novelties". Hey, I was 11; I didn't see anything other than the spinner rack! I swear...)

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Take 5: Science Fiction Films of the 1980s

Karen: Boy, it's been a while since we did a Take 5! The premise here is to name your five top picks of the post's topic. Last weekend, I happened to put on the old classic Arnold Schwarzenegger film, Predator. I've always enjoyed that film, not only for the fantastic creature design of Stan Winston and his team but for the solid story and wonderful characters and performances by Arnold, Bill Duke, Sonny Landham, Carl Weathers, Jesse Ventura, and of course, Kevin Peter Hall as the Predator. It was a great combination of action and science fiction. It also got me thinking about the science fiction films of the 80s. There were so many good science fiction films released in this decade (well, and a lot of terrible ones too). But a ton of great ones that I still think of fondly and will sit and watch just about any time. So why not do some reminiscing? 

Karen: I'll list my five top picks for my favorites of that decade, then you list yours, and let's all discuss. Deal? 

1. The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
2. Predator (1987)
3. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
4. The Thing (1982)
5. Aliens (1986)

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Guest Writer - If I Had a Buck... Oh Captain, My Captain

Doug: Martinex1 is in the driver's seat today, friends. He has another fun one in store for our discussion purposes, so do him right! And pssst... this is the last "guest post" we have in the queue, just so all you Junior Chipmunk bloggers know.

Mike S.:This round of “If I Had A Buck” has only a very tenuous linking thread and concept… the heroes have monikers with the rank of “Captain”. 

Beyond that there is not that much to connect this crew. We have spacefaring captains, and we have captains with specific nationalities; we have WWII captains, and we have humorous hungry captains. We have hard punching captains, and we have captains with cosmic powers; we have Canadian captains, and we have carrot chomping captains. Sorry, we are sold out of Cap’n Crunch!

So choose your preference, spend your dollar, and share your thoughts. For the purpose of having all dollars make sense (get it?), the Captain Britain comic will sell for 30 cents.

Until Major Victory, Major Force, and Colonel Sanders have comics, make mine the Bronze Age!

Here is an outline of the comics on sale:

Captain America (Marvel) No. 262;  50 cents.  1981. Cover by Mike Zeck and John Beatty.   “Death Of A Legend” by J.M. DeMatteis and Mike Zeck.   2nd of a 3 part story involving Nomad, the Ameridroid, and the Red Skull.

Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew (DC) No. 1; 60 cents.  1982.  Cover by Scott Shaw, Ross Andru, and Robert Smith.  “The Pluto Syndrome” by Roy Thomas and Scott Shaw.  Featuring Rubberduck, Yankee Poodle, Alley Kat Abra, and Superman!

Captain Atom (DC) No. 4;   75 cents. 1987.  Cover by Pat Broderick. “Father’s Day” by Cary Bates and Pat Broderick.   Includes an appearance of General Eiling (a prominent character in the Flash TV series).

Captain Marvel (Marvel) No 43;  25 cents.  1976.  Cover by Al Milgrom and Bernie Wrightson.  “Destroy Destroy” by Steve Englehart and Al Milgrom.  Guest appearance by Drax the Destroyer.

Captain Canuck (Comely Comix) No. 10;  50 cents.   1980.   “Beyond, Part 2” Story by Richard Comely; Art by George Freeman.   Don’t confuse him with the Guardian, he’s Captain Canuck.  (IDW has a nice collection by the way).

Captain Hero Comics Digest Magazine (Archie) No. 1;  95 cents.  1981.   Cover by Stan Goldberg.  Digest format.  Collects thirteen stories including “The Plight of the Bumblebee”, “Evilheart’s Revenge”, and “Dial M for Monster”.

Captain Savage and His Battlefield Raiders (Marvel) No. 16;  15 cents.  1969.  Cover by John Severin.   “War is Hell …On Ice” by Arnold Drake and Don Heck.   This short lived series mimics the format and styling of Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandoes. 

Captain Britain (Marvel UK) No. 35;  10 p / 30 cents.   1977.   Cover by Bob Budiansky, John Romita and Frank Giacoia.  “That Camelot Might Live” by Gary Friedrich, Larry Lieber, and Ron Wilson.  Brian Braddock continues his adventures, plus some backup reprints of the FF and Nick Fury. 

Marvel Spotlight starring Captain Universe (Marvel)  No. 9; 50 cents.  Cover by Steve Ditko. “The Mystery of Mister E” by Bill Mantlo and Steve Ditko.   From the pages of the Micronauts comes Captain Universe.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

'Cause Life Is Just a Dream Here -- DC Comics Presents #26


DC Comics Presents #26 (October 1980)(Special 16-page New Teen Titans preview)
"Where Nightmares Begin!"
Marv Wolfman-George Perez/Dick Giordano

Doug: When I came to the New Teen Titans, they'd already gone through their eponymous newsprint series, as well as the Tales of the Teen Titans stretch. They were just into the fancy Baxter paper volume when I arrived from my self-imposed high school hiatus. I'd been a fan of the original Titans crew, specifically from the revival in the latter 1970s (boy - those do not hold up at all!). So when I could get my hands on the first few issues of the Baxter series as back issues, adding them to my beginning collection (I think I had #s 5 or 6 "new"), I was pretty excited. After all, I've always been sort of a "ground floor" guy when it comes to comics. It's with a virgin eye, then, that I arrive at the steps of DC Comics Presents #26 today -- I'd not read it prior to research for this review. And by the way, DC has been publishing very affordable trades of the New Teen Titans, and the first volume (reprinting this tale, plus issues 1-8, online for approximately $10) is my resource for today's comments and pretty pictures.

Karen: We took pretty different paths to the Titans. I think I had read one issue of their pre-Wolfman and Perez series. I jumped aboard the New Teen Titans around issue #9 -I remember that 'puppets' cover. They didn't steal me away from the X-Men, but I definitely became a fan. It seemed very accessible, despite some of the characters having long histories.

Doug: We open across the street from S.T.A.R. Labs, where some goons have taken hostages. Robin has arrived to assist the NYPD (that's correct, we're not in Gotham City). The crooks are firing on New York's finest, but Robin tells a cop that he has an idea. He gets some cover, then heads across the street to launch his plan. But as he takes the first few steps he begins to fade, staggering to a halt. As the cop reaches to steady the Teen Wonder, Robin regains his wits... at the hand of Wonder Girl! She wants him to turn around and head into the Teen Titans' Tower with her, for a scheduled meeting. But something's not right with Mr. Grayson. He doesn't recognize the building, and apparently has no knowledge of any meeting! But once Donna's shepherded him inside, the confusion continues. Creators Marv Wolfman and George Perez (with some slick inks by Dick Giordano) use the next several panels to not only accentuate Robin's mental state but also to introduce us to these New Teen Titans: Changeling (offended that Robin referred to him by his former moniker of Beast Boy), Cyborg, Starfire, Kid Flash, and Raven.

Karen: The first thing I have to comment on is that reading this from the original comic, it looks terribly muddy. It was actually kind of difficult to read at times. I was also distracted by the way Robin's eyes were drawn/inked in his mask whites in some panels. He had 'googly-eyes' -you know, pointing in different directions! In most panels, the mask eye holes were just white. It was really odd. Otherwise, the art is great. The characters all look terrific.The Perez/Giordano combo is a good one.

Doug: I agree about the eyes. Obviously the art samples today are from the new "cleaned up" printing. But I will say that I also noticed Robin's eyes, and it does seem odd. I think I just prefer my masked men (and women) drawn with plain ol' white eyes.

Doug: It's Raven's arrival at the Tower that provides the reader with the team's debut problem. A scientist not yet named was messing around with things he couldn't control (dang scientists... Oh, sorry Karen) and wouldn't you know it -- he let some super-nasty protoplasm enter our dimension. When I was reading this I almost laughed out loud -- this "creature" looks like Silver Age Brainiac-5's pal "Proty", but hopped up on some serious steroids. Would you feel threatened by a large bread dough? Raven has learned that the creature is going to destroy the Earth by converting the oxygen in the atmosphere to methane (I think that's what cows and pigs do, right? "Smell my dairy-air", you know?). And since the JLA, Avengers, and FF are not readily available, it's Titans Time!

Karen: Yes, those scientists, always ruining everything with their discoveries... well, in this case, it's more likely they'd make everyone chuckle. A big blob turning the air into methane? Not really the most awe-inspiring foe. And maybe it's me, but boy does it feel talky. Maybe because there's so much exposition, what with introducing everyone and explaining what's going on.

Doug: Arriving in NYC, the team engages the creature on the rooftops of Manhattan. Wolfman and Perez use this juncture in the book to show the readers what these new kids can do -- it's effective storytelling; even though I recognized what the authors were up to, they pulled it off in such a way that I didn't feel insulted or like I'd wasted time. But as Robin scales the building stairs he suddenly feels all woozy again. He begins to black out, when suddenly he feels someone's arms wrapped around his legs. It's the cop he was talking to at the beginning of the story and yep -- Robin's back where we began. The cop had tackled him as Robin had staggered into the terrorists' shooting angle. Robin wonders if he's been caught up in a dream, and really begins to doubt himself. But knowing he's the one best suited to end the terrorists' control of S.T.A.R. Labs, Robin fires his new Rocket Grappler to get himself up to the roof. But upon landing all those stories in the sky, he's again beset by the dizziness. When his head clears, the protoplasm is upon him!

Karen: That rocket grappler was huge! Where was Robin keeping that?

Doug: Dear readers, we just didn't have enough room to squeeze in the panel Karen references. Suffice it to say the device was about the size of the jack in your car. No utility belt was going to hold that doohickey!

Doug: The creature had snared Raven, and the Titans rushed to her aid. Unlike in most team books, this group fights together, which I welcomed. In that issue of the Champions we reviewed a few weeks ago, both of us were put out by the formulaic "I'll be the one to win the day" strategy employed by L.A.'s team for the common man. We find that the protoplasm can absorb energy, but also repel it. Changeling's rendered useless, and Starfire's energy bolts are hurled back at Wonder Girl. It's Cyborg who is able to wound the creature with a blast of white sound. That proves to be the most effective offense yet, and even causes the creature to take a powder. Raven's left on the ground in a pile -- but again in an effort to educate the readers in regard to these new characters' powers -- we "see" her soul reanimate her body. She admonishes her teammates for allowing the creature to leave, and firmly expresses the urgency with which the team should move.

Karen: I have to agree with you, especially after all the X-Men reviews we've done, seeing a team actually fighting as a unit rather than as individuals was refreshing. Wolfman was already showing that Wally was obsessed with Raven, and Raven was certainly mysterious. I liked that her astral form was a dark, menacing bird -- all the other characters I could think of with astral forms were drawn as ghost-like, invisible versions of themselves.

Doug: The Titans indeed move, on land and through the air, to arrive shortly at S.T.A.R. Labs. They hurry through the building to arrive at a laboratory, finding it completely trashed. Cyborg cryptically says that he knew they'd end up in this lab, and inexplicably excuses himself from the mission! Not so fast... the protoplasm appears and wallops Cyborg good. The team again engages, but the scientist we'd seen in Raven's vision is on the floor in distress. He calls to Robin and tells him that fighting in the manner that they are will do no good. Unfortunately, he's the one who brought the creature through the portal, and knows how to defeat it. He urges all of the Titans to leave the room, because they have to siphon the oxygen. Starfire says she'll cover everyone's departure, as she can continue to fight since she won't be affected by the declining oxygen levels. Robin protests, but she urges him to allow it. The scientist is right -- eliminating the oxygen causes the beast to go ballistic, firing methane clouds into the room. Starfire maneuvers the creature to the dimensional portal and blasts it through. She immediately destroys the computer that had opened the portal in the first place. Victory!

Karen: That was rather tidy. Starfire doesn't need to breathe? Hmm...OK.

Doug: I know I've seen her in space with no helmet or anything like a Legion transuit, but to not need oxygen? As they say, was there "more on that later"?

Doug: Cyborg, back among the awake, is very curt with the scientist. He tells him that he's not surprised the man screwed up, because it's what he does. Then Cyborg stalks away. Robin is mystified, but the scientist tells him he's not surprised at the reaction... from his son. Obviously "to be continued". Someone off-panel calls Robin's name, and he whirls to find himself back on the street with the cop we'd met at the beginning. Robin had urged the police to evacuate the air supply from the lab where the terrorists were holed up. That had done it -- the baddies gave up pretty quickly once it was apparent they were either going to pass out or possibly die. The solar reactor the terrorists were after had been preserved. A scientist came by to thank Robin. That's right -- the same man from Robin's "nightmare" who'd unleashed the protoplasm. Robin wandered away once everything was stabilized. He muttered to himself that he'd need to sleep this one off. But in the shadows we see Raven, who comments to herself that this was no dream, no nightmare -- in fact, the New Teen Titans are very real, and soon to be a very real part of Robin's life. So I guess back in 1980 we should have been on the look-out for New Teen Titans #1, to see how this would turn out!

Karen: The situation with Cyborg and his dad was obviously going to provide some good story material. Actually all of the characters, new and old, seemed interesting. It was just this story that came across as flat for me. I wasn't too thrilled with the back-and-forth mechanism, or the menace. But as far as introducing the team, it wasn't bad.

Doug: The first time I read this, when I was out in Washington, DC in July, I was a little put off by it. The story just seemed too formulaic -- as I remarked above, it's pretty obvious what the creators are trying to do here. But I sort of self-chastised myself for feeling that way... Of course they wrote it this way. Duh... in 1980, who knew these characters? Sure, Robin, Wonder Girl, and Kid Flash were "household names" in the comics community. But I'd wager that a fare number of readers didn't recall Beast Boy from the old Doom Patrol. I know I wouldn't have. So as I did the second read for this writing, I really came to a spot where I enjoyed the story. No, I'm still not sold on the idea of a huge farting blob threatening the Earth, but the opportunity to see these young heroes strut their stuff was fun. Raven was played effectively as a mysterious, and Starfire was interesting. Cyborg seemed to be the guy with the token chip on his shoulder, but his anger at and lack of acknowledgement of his father was interesting enough to make me wonder where that plotline would go.

Karen: Origin stories, and especially team origin stories, can be very difficult things to do well. In this case, they were trying to launch a team of both old and new heroes, using a name that had been around for over a decade, but making it seem fresh and exciting.I guess you would call this a pre-origin story, but it still achieves its objective.

Doug: I think your coining of the term "pre-origin" is apt, as the team appears fully-formed. I am certain that back in the day, having been a reader of the Titans revival of the '70s I would have wondered where Speedy, Mal, Harlequin, and the whole Titans West kids were hanging out. There's certainly no mention of them here.

Doug: Many writers and fans have stated that the New Teen Titans were DC's answer to the X-Men juggernaut (no pun intended) being contemporarily crafted by Chris Claremont, John Byrne, and Terry Austin over at Marvel. I can see that. Although seemingly a bit younger than the mutants, the broad array of powersets and colorful costumes, with a nice splash of anticipation for more information, surely made the Titans the success they became in the 1980s. I have the first two volumes of the new trades, and in the past I'd purchased trades of the arcs, "The Judas Contract" and "Terra Incognito", both of which I've read and liked. So a "hat's off" to Wolfman and Perez -- I think I'll be back!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Now That's a Legit Fight... A 100-Word Review

Doug: Yeah, I know. Last week I said we'd have a review of DC Comics Presents #26 for you today. And we will... tomorrow. Your hosts seem to swim in two separate pools of busy-ness, and to be honest, neither of us like it much. Karen keeps remarking to me that we need to quit our jobs and find some way to get paid to do just this -- fun stuff! Don't I wish. But you won't go away without a comics fix today, my friends. Last Thursday before turning in I was messing around on my Kindle and came across my digital copy of Avengers #158, which just happens to contain my favorite superhero tussle of all time (not to be confused with the greatest book of all time with a superhero tussle, Silver Surfer #4). The back half of the book is a separate story that leads into #159's conclusion of the introduction and first battle with Graviton. But the first half of #158 contains a battle for the ages. For The Ages... Check it out:

Avengers #158 (April 1977)(cover by Jack Kirby/John Romita, Sr./Joe Sinnott - how's that for a Hall of Fame?)
"When Avengers Clash!"
Jim Shooter-Sal Buscema/Pablo Marcos

Doug: Jim Shooter shook up the Avengers, and this issue typifies his torment of the team’s relationships. Wonder Man, only back from the dead for 6 issues, assists Wanda after the battle with the Black Knight. The Vision broods over the fallen Knight, when he hears WM say “Lean on me, Wanda.” Uh oh. Having increasing feelings of inadequacy, the Vision explodes in anger. Ferociously attacking his teammate, the Vision basically substantiates everything he feared he did not have – emotion, personality, and the ability to love. Iron Man lets them fight it out, and do they ever! One for the ages…

Now that's what the BAB calls "Gettin' Buscema-blasted!"

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Sales Tales Revisited (once again)

Doug: I'd mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I've been making solid (if slow) progress on the selling of my comic collection. We've discussed this several times in the past, but since it has been a few months I thought I'd give you a progress update.

As I'd said in that post, I have been able to sell the lion's share of my Marvel collection (approximately seven longboxes), with about the contents of an eighth longbox remaining. My DC collection only exists in three longboxes, and I've begun to make a dent in those. Of note is my recent parting with a 1st printing set of The Dark Knight Returns #s 1-4 for $155.00. That was beyond my expectations. I also moved the stories "A Death In the Family"/"A Lonely Place of Dying" as a lot for $100.00 and The Killing Joke for $50.00, both on Buy It Nows. I did pretty well on several of the other Batman mini-series I'd mentioned in that previous post, and have several more in my listings that either just sold (I'm typing this on Saturday, 8/15) or have been relisted.

Which brings me to another phenomenon - if eBay is the purest form of capitalism (and I think it is from a basic standpoint of supply and demand), then that conversation must also include opportunism. I say that in reflection of comics or lots that I've listed multiple times, and then all of a sudden sell. The buyer and seller truly have to be in the right place at the right time for specific markets to exist. And saying that, within that conversation are books or lots that I just scratch my head as to why they won't sell. I am particularly thinking of Giant-Size Super-Heroes #1 featuring Spider-Man, Morbius, and the Man-Wolf, with cover and interior art by Gil Kane. My copy is mid-grade but very pleasing to the eye. Yet it's sat through several weeks' worth of listings. But then a book or lot will sell on a Buy It Now and I'm left to wonder, "Jeez - why didn't you take your chances and enter the bidding process?" Surprisingly (to me at least), I've had some trouble unloading some 90s X-Men comics.

Another series of wins were my sales of the Gitcorp DVD-ROMs. I had four of them (always wanted all of those). I sold the Avengers disc for $150 through a bidding war, Iron Man for $125 on a Buy It Now, Amazing Spider-Man for $75 (guy won it on the opening bid), and Fantastic Four for $40 (again, opening bid). As several of our readers have mentioned, the discs could be copied to a hard drive. I've done that, and backed the files up in three places for safekeeping. There was no reason to keep the discs. And that being said, later on I am going to sell some of my Marvel Masterworks, such as the first two volumes of Avengers, first volume of Fantastic Four, etc.

Lastly, I'd reiterate my "formula" for setting that opening bid for those of you who haven't been involved in these conversations previously. I regrade the comics, always with a fresh and objective eye, and double check the 2014 Overstreet Guide price. I start with a Buy It Now of approximately 85% of Guide, and then set the opening bid at approximately a third of that value. So truthfully, if a buyer wins with that opening bid they are getting a heckuva "deal". At least as far as the Guide goes, and whatever that means... I said at the very beginning that I wasn't just going to flat-out give anything away. While I've lowered my prices on some relists, I've always felt like I got something in return for my trouble.

So where has the money gone? Way back when I started this journey, just over a year ago, I'd mentioned to you that repayment of our sons' college loans was about to kick in, and we also needed to get rid of a vehicle that was beginning to nickel and dime us, replacing it with a new car. We also had a wedding in our family as I've discussed earlier. To say that the proceeds from my sales have been a boon would be an understatement. With just the sale of that Avengers art page, we were able to make a nice down payment on my wife's new car. Our wedding expenses have been covered - easily. And now the money just supplements the budget, or we save it for things we couldn't now do with the loan payments occupying a large slice of our budgetary pie. And to think: I was offered $3000 for the whole collection. I've already made that five times over, and am still going. And I think I'll keep going, on into my collectibles, some of my comics history books, and so on. Of course I've treated myself to several of the IDW Artist Editions*, and that's OK by me. Paring down has not been a bad thing,

*Don't judge. Well, OK, go ahead. I have purchased all of these at nice discounts, though; in fact, I have the Herb Trimpe's Hulk and Joe Kubert's Tarzan, vol. II on pre-order, each bought for only $49.00. After those two arrive this fall, I will have -

Joe Kubert's Tarzan, volumes I and II
Herb Trimpe's Hulk

There are video reviews of these books on YouTube that will really give you an idea of how awesome these reproductions truly are.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Guest Writer - The Bronze Age and Comics as a Youth Sub-Culture

Doug: Happy Humpday, kids! We have a new writer to feature today, and it's our pal from the UK, Colin Bray! Colin sent us a topic several weeks ago, and just a few days past turned in the finished product. It's a perfect Open Forum topic that we're sure you'll enjoy. Thanks, Colin!

Colin Bray: What is a “youth subculture”?

A youth subculture consists of some or all these elements:

  • a source of personal identity.
  • its own exclusive language.
  • its own style.
  • culture beneath the mainstream radar.
  • culture given time to grow naturally, like a petri dish in some forgotten corner of the laboratory.
  • a narrative for exploring and explaining the world.
  • an ethical space or dimension.
  • a space created for people ‘in the know’ by people ‘in the know’.

During the entire history of comics, I would argue they have only existed as a widespread youth subculture in the Silver Age (Marvel only) and Bronze Age (both Marvel and DC). In fact the wonder and beauty of comics in the Bronze Age was that they were drenched in youthful subcultural-ness (is that even a word?) and yet wore it lightly for such an extended period of time.

During the Silver Age…

It all started with Stan, of course. Perhaps accidentally he hit on the appeal, the language (‘Excelsior!’) the storytelling and the sense of an in-club (‘Marvelites’) in the brief years before Beatlemania and the rise of teenage dreams. Marvel then surfed on not only their own creative power but the wider 60s cultural wave through the rest of the decade.

Prior to Fantastic Four #1 a few of these subcultural elements had existed in proto-form. So Julius Schwartz and other DC creators were early sci-fi fan boys, and comic art stood out on the racks for those who had the eyes to see. But their full potential was yet to be explored and comics were generally seen as and remained a preteen thing.

During the Bronze Age…

If we fast-forward to the early 70s the factors that made the Bronze Age unique were falling into place:
  • the 60s fans had grown up, or were growing up, and still bought and read comics.
  • new micro-generations of readers were coming through every few years and creating a dynamic, varied readership, immersed in a shared language and universe(s).
  • the newer creators were fans themselves so knew and spoke to an audience they understood
  • the relaxation of the comics code - but crucially the Code itself stayed in place to set creative limits/challenges and give parents the trust to let their children read these often-subversive stories.
  • stories read, absorbed and discussed (mainly through the letter pages and to a lesser degree at cons and in the small fan press) completely out of mainstream view.

The Copper Age Onwards…

The golden age of the Bronze Age had to end sometime but by the end of the 1980s the three ‘Ms’ - movies, mainstream and marketing – had pretty much killed the original subculture. After the crash comics went back to being the niche product they remain today, movies notwithstanding. And not ‘niche’ in the same, cool way they were during the 70s – the innocence has gone and cannot be regained. Superhero characters and trademarks are now ubiquitous but comics themselves will never recapture the strange, wonderful combination that marked the Bronze Age as a shaper of young minds.

Is this an accurate or reasonable analysis? Discuss!

From Daredevil #77, offering a link between one youth subculture and another – the inspiration for the name of Liverpool post-punk band The Teardrop Explodes.

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