Doug: Even though it's only been a week since the last Side-by-Side extravaganza, consider this new territory as today we embark on a journey through what many term the Silver Age of Comics. However, the advent of the Silver Age is significantly different temporally at the Big Two. At DC, change was afoot in 1956 with the release of Showcase #4 and the all-new Flash. Most folks will say the release of Fantastic Four #1 in 1961 brought the Silver Age to the House of Ideas. We've decided to pick things up in 1962, simply for the sake of having some familiar things to discuss. Whilst you'd recognize DC, Marvel's emergence would come along just a bit more slowly. As we've been doing, our sole resources are The Marvel Chronicle and the DC Comics Year-by-Year coffee table books, and both of those books use cover dates (not publication dates) to mark time. As you've done in the past, feel free to contribute other anecdotes, memories, or general information that we don't happen to mention.
Doug: As we usually do, we'll lead off with some "real world" happenings. In January, the first subway without a crew aboard debuted in New York City, and in April West Side Story won the Best Picture Oscar, while The Manchurian Candidate, Lawrence of Arabia, and To Kill a Mockingbird were also in the theaters. In political issues, the South African government arrested Nelson Mandela in August, charging him with "incitement to rebellion"; in October, James Meredith became the first black student to register (with the help of federal marshals) at the University of Mississippi. Also in 1962, the first transatlantic television broadcast took place via the Telstar satellite, the Cuban Missile Crisis cooled off, and Andy Warhol's exhibit of Campbell's tomato soup cans was on exhibit in West Hollywood. And Marilyn Monroe died.
Karen: It was a dynamic time for the world. The old ways were starting to be challenged. Marvel fits perfectly in this year.
Doug: As we stated above, we are beginning in 1962 so we're not simply talking about monsters, etc. at Marvel. DC already had a 5-year lead when Fantastic Four #1 came out, so in fairness we're putting a little ground under Marvel's feet before we start discussing. Which company do you think will have the upper hand by the time we get to the bottom of this post? I think you'll find this to be a great era coming from both companies. One note that may also justify our dividing line would be the fact that comics went from a price of 10c to 12c in 1962. Do you suppose fans were as up in arms as I recall being when they rose to 30c from a quarter?
Doug: I want to go on record right now and state that as a Marvel Zombie, I am going to have a hard time being objective in this report. Just sayin'. I'm going to depend on some of you DC-types to keep me in line.
Karen: Same for me. My problems with Silver Age DC have been voiced before on the blog. But I'll try to be objective.
Doug: January was significant in the Superman universe, as Kara Zor-el was unveiled to the public in Action Comics #285. No longer her cousin's "secret weapon", Supergirl was now free to move about in her own right. In February, Aquaman earned a solo title, over 20 years after making his debut. Creators George Kashdan and Nick Cardy steered the King of the Seven Seas' adventures. The story introduced the magical water sprite, Quisp. Funny -- as a Bronze Age Baby, I remember Quisp as a cereal character! In the same month the origin of the Justice League of America was told in JLA #9. Over at Marvel, a certain Dr. Henry Pym showed up in Tales to Astonish #27, albeit not in uniform. "The Man in the Ant Hill" was brought to us by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby -- you know we'll be hearing from those guys pretty regularly. That same month one of Marvel's long running alien races debuted in Fantastic Four #2, as the Skrulls menaced our new heroes. Funny that they would not be heard from again until the end of the decade. In March the FF got their familiar blue costumes, and the first Fantasticar was introduced in FF #3 -- the first issue to bear the bravado "The World's Greatest Comic Magazine!"
Karen: It's surprising that Aquaman never had his own title prior to this. I always think of him as being a pretty big deal at DC in the 60s, but perhaps that perception is based more on his appearance on the Super-Friends cartoon in the 70s than anything else.
Karen: At one time I had a copy of Tales to Astonish #27 (inherited from my uncle) but I sold it during a rough patch for $300. Ouch. I do think it is interesting that Pym went from what should have been a one-shot appearance in a monster mag to becoming a super-hero. Many of Marvel's characters seemed to be influenced in some degree by the sci fi and monster films of the 50s and 60s. Pym was surely somewhat a product of "The Incredible Shrinking Man" just as the Hulk was a combination of Frankenstein, The Amazing Colossal Man, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
Doug: As Spring arrived, so did the Metal Men, in the pages of Showcase #37. Robert Kanigher wrote the words and Ross Andru drew the pictures, and readers were treated to a fresh take on robots. With science fiction an important genre both in print and at the movies (and on television, for that matter), the Metal Men capitalized on the idea of artificial intelligence. These were not your father's robots, though; no, the Metal Men were androids who could think and feel, and a year later earned their own title. In May the villain Abra Cadabra debuted in Flash #128, and more significantly (especially to more recent events at DC) Dr. Light was introduced in JLA #12. Marvel countered in the pre-summer months by unleashing their version of a modern Frankenstein Monster and calling him the Incredible Hulk. Running only six issues initially, the Jade Giant has nonetheless become one of Marvel's most recognized characters. The Hulk bowed in May, the same month that Stan Lee brought the Golden Age Sub-Mariner to the present in FF #4. Interestingly, Namor was revived by the modern version of his old nemesis, the Human Torch.
Karen: The Metal Men have always intrigued me, as they almost seem like they'd fit in better at Marvel. The Hulk was a character that seemed to have trouble finding an audience initially. Perhaps fans were not ready for a monster as a hero? The Thing would seem to have broken that ground, but he was part of a team. The Hulk was decidedly an anti-hero from the beginning, nearly causing as much trouble as the enemies he fought. Funny to think that he was without a home of his own for some time, until he joined Giant-Man in Tales to Astonish.
Doug: The DC book makes only one mention of events in the summer months, with July's Atom #1 by Gardner Fox and Gil Kane (for my money, some of Kane's best work was at DC on the Atom as well as Green Lantern), so we'll end it with the last reference they make -- October's Green Lantern #16 and the introduction of Star Sapphire. In reality, she was GL's girlfriend Carol Ferris, proving once again how dumb superheroes and their girlfriends can be. Marvel had maybe, just maybe, a bit better of a summertime with the debuts of Dr. Doom in July (FF #5) and the Amazing Spider-Man in Amazing Fantasy #15 (August). The Mighty Thor also hit the stands in a book cover-dated August, in Journey Into Mystery #83. Now I know we are looking back on this through the lens of history, but it would be difficult to imagine that Marvel's fresh new look wasn't just a bit eye-grabbing. Maybe I'm wrong, though -- after all, it did take Marvel the better part of a decade to supplant DC's lead in market share. To close the summer months, Ant-Man got a costume in Tales to Astonish #35 in September, the same month that we saw the first Marvel super-villain team-up. In FF #6, Dr. Doom convinced Namor to ally with him against the Fantastic Four.
Karen: I wish I could have experienced that amazing burst of creativity as Marvel put out one new character after another. Dr. Doom, Spider-Man, Thor - all within a few months of each other!
Doug: As the year ended, the DC book doesn't give us much beyond the aforementioned intro. of Star Sapphire. In Marvel's now-exploding universe, Loki debuted in Journey Into Mystery #85 in October. Alicia Masters was introduced in FF #8 in November, the same month that a new Two-Gun Kid debuted in Two-Gun Kid #60.
Doug: You know what we have here from Marvel? Freedom. Freedom to do whatever they wanted. Shoot, the company was almost bankrupt, so freedom to fail was all they had left. And boy, did they take it and run.
Karen: It's really not fair to compare the two companies this year, as DC had reached a nice, stable point and Marvel was just being born. Come about 1965 or so, I think the comparisons will be on a more even playing field.
NOTE: If the font seems like it's all over the place in this post, I think we can chalk it up to the Blogger demons at work again. We hope it's not too distracting! Thanks.