Saturday, July 2, 2011

Which Creation Epitomized Marvel in the Bronze Age?

Doug: Today's question is sort of multiple choice, and you can even feel free to add in your own topics of conversation. A few weeks ago I was thinking of several of Marvel's Bronze Age creations -- superstars of the '70's, if you will. And I was contemplating all of the Bronze Age goodness that these folks typify and it got me to thinking of you, the faithful reader. So I'm throwing this out to the masses: Which Bronze Age creation from the House of Ideas epitomized the creativity, envelope-pushing, and general style of Marvel between the years 1970-1985?

I'll start with a short list, and if you feel really strongly about a character I didn't name, go for it in all your convincing finery. Here are the four-color wonders I was daydreaming about --

  • Man-Thing
  • Ghost Rider
  • Dracula
  • Warlock (yeah, I know he was created in the Silver Age, but...)
  • Werewolf by Night
  • Shang chi, Master of Kung fu
  • Luke Cage, Hero for Hire
  • Howard the Duck (I wasn't thinking of him, but what the heck...?)
Enlighten us!


Rip Jagger said...

Focusing on the word "epitomized", I'd have to say Ghost Rider. GR was the best blend of superheroics and monsterdom that Marvel produced, able to move pretty seamlessly within both genres. Marvel's monsters always kept a claw just in the broader superhero universe.

Now I'm not saying GR was the best series by any means. Of the list posted I'd give the nod to Dracula and after that to MOKF. I've just begun re-reading the Man-Thing stories and I'm much impressed with these all over again. It's been many years.

Rip Off

david_b said...

Doug: Good suggestions, but while Luke Cage was more or less exploited following the 'black urban trend' started in the Silver with Sam Wilson and DC's Malcom in the Titans, then flourishing with the low-budget blaxploitation genre, it didn't push the Code envelope as much as Morbius, Werewolf At Night, and the onset of zombie/'walking dead' stories.

We then saw a rise of all the B&W magazine publications which took it artistically a step further, which I don't recall DC venturing into, unless I'm mistaken.

But starting with the topical Spiderman drug issues (another once-verboten concept), I agree that pushing the concept of 'living dead' characters in four-color comics shredded what we once knew as the governing Comics Code.

Redartz said...

Upon reading the title of today's topic, the first character that came to mind was Howard the Duck. Neither the most important or influential character, yet he exemplifies the rather quirky, esoteric nature of bronze age Marvel.

Granted, Conan the Barbarian was by no means a bronze age creation, but he also stands out as a 70's icon for me. Seemingly every Marvel house ad during the time featured Spidey, Hulk and Conan...

Karen said...

Since we're covering a span of 15 years (1970 t0 1985) I'd say that the all-new, all-different X-Men from 1975 are my choice. The arrival of this team completely changed Marvel, and produced the only true superstar of the post Lee/Kirby era, Wolverine.


J.A. Morris said...

I'm with Karen on the All New X-men & Wolverine epitomizing the Bronze Age.

If I had to pick a runner-up, I'd go with the Defenders. It didn't matter if the writer was Thomas, Gerber, Englehart or DeMatteis it was always fun and quirky, featured offbeat villains, etc.

Plus,the Blue Oyster Cult references just scream "Bronze Age of comics" to me!

William said...

For me, what defines the bronze-age in terms of comics are Marvel Team-Up and Marvel Two-In-One. It was a brilliant formula for the time: take two of Marvel's most popular characters (Spider-Man and The Thing) and team them up each month with what was usually a lesser known or "B-List" character. That way you introduce new readers to characters and genres they may have never have been exposed to otherwise, such as Werewolf By Night, Man-Thing, Dracula, Captain Marvel, The Cat, Iron Fist, Shang-Chi, Black Goliath, etc. etc.

When you think about it, those two titles alone pretty much spanned the entirety of the bronze-age Marvel Universe. The variety of characters and story types in those books was like a pu pu platter of Marvel Comics characters and concepts. Pure gold! (err, I mean bronze).

Piperson said...

Great comments from everyone. While Ghost Rider, Drakula, Conan, Shang Chi and Luke Cage were derivatives of this age, I find them too genera specific to represent the WHOLE of the bronze age. There's a good argument for the Defenders, the non-team team and Howard the duck. I find the X-Men speaks more about the coming age than the age from which they were created.
I would go with Warlock, created by Thomas and Kane, 2 creators at their peak creating a new character for a new time, and perfected by Starlin the new hotshot of his time, and speaking about metaphysical subjects so trendy in the 70's. He has a little of best everything that makes the 70's what it was. interestingly enough, he also died at the end of the bronze age as well.

J.A. Morris said...

A while ago I read a fan review on Amazon that referenced a lot of what mad the Bronze Age great. Go here and read the first review by JAW:

This post by Doug made me think of that review.

Terence Stewart said...

I'm going to have to agree with Redartz, and name Howard the Duck. I think that series was the culmination of the outlook that the new wave of creators - Steve Gerber among them - brought to Marvel, kickstarting the Bronze Age.

Edo Bosnar said...

I'm having a hard time deciding between Howard the Duck and Warlock; I guess I'd say pretty much anything created/written by Gerber, Starlin or McGregor kind of epitomizes Bronze Age (or at least earlier Bronze Age) Marvel to me.

Fred W. Hill said...

I'll second that, Edo. At least during the '70s, the Marvel Bronze Age was far more diverse than the Silver Age as epitomized by such series as Conan the Barbarian,Tomb of Dracula, Warlock, Man-Thing, McGregor's run on Black Panther, Master of Kung Fu, and Howard the Duck. To be honest, I appreciated it more as I got older than when I was a kid in the '70s, mostly interested in the typical superhero fare, but still I did get interested in the other fare and the bits of philosophical musings authors such as Gerber, Englehart and Starlin included in their stories. An exciting burst of creativity that seemed to mostly die out at Marvel by the early '80s.

vancouver mark said...

I agree that Starlin, Gerber, Englehart and McGregor epitomized all that was great at Marvel between 1972 and 1976 or so, but this Bronze Age is apparently defined as being 1970-1985. I would suggest that by the late 70's Man-Thing, Howard and Warlock were virtually forgotten.
In fact, every Marvel title begun in the 70s was gone by the early 80s.

No other title epitomizes this fifteen-year span better than the all-new all-different X-people. By the end of 1976 it was undoubtably the most important Marvel mag every month (or two), and still would be nine years later.

Joseph said...

I was going to vote for Luke Cage, but I really like the point that William made about the team up books. The cast of rag tag characters I was introduced to in the pages of MTIO remind me of what I loved so much about the Bronze Age - heroes with flaws and character (Jack of Hearts, Singray, Man Thing, and Shang-Chi were some of my lesser-known favorites).

PS: check out the review that J.A. recommended - it reiterates some of the points that some have made here.

vancouver mark said...

If X-Men was to be disqualified as being a Silver Age creation, I would have to vote for Master of Kung Fu. Nowhere near as dominant and influential in the medium as the X-Men, of course, but it captured much of the heart of Bronze Age Marvel.

Shane said...

Dazzler (haha).

Piperson said...

vancouver mark said..."I agree that Starlin, Gerber, Englehart and McGregor epitomized all that was great at Marvel between 1972 and 1976 or so, but this Bronze Age is apparently defined as being 1970-1985. I would suggest that by the late 70's Man-Thing, Howard and Warlock were virtually forgotten.
In fact, every Marvel title begun in the 70s was gone by the early 80s.

No other title epitomizes this fifteen-year span better than the all-new all-different X-people. By the end of 1976 it was undoubtably the most important Marvel mag every month (or two), and still would be nine years later."
And still might be today.
I agree with what you said which makes me think that this 15 year definition of the Bronze age is sorely in need of correction. For me 2 of the greatest influences on the Bronze age were Steranko and Adams. Steranko started a little earlier but Adams started around '68' which is where I have made my division and '78' for the Copper age starting with Claremont/Byrne X-men, Cerebus, Elf Quest and Frank Miller's DD. For those who need further convincing, I've written about it here -

vancouver mark said...

I agree that this is an awkwardly-defined "age" that actually spanned a couple of distinctive periods.
Following the books at the time I remember grumbling at the shift that happened in the late 70s, when most of the innovative writers seemed to disappear. In 1976 we had Warlock, Howard, Man-Thing, Omega, Killraven and McGregor's other two books (I loved his brief stay on Power Man), as well as Englehart's Avengers.
By 1978 these were all either gone or simplified into a lowest-common-denominator standard of story and art that was basically boring.

To me, I'd also say that the Silver Age ended in 1968 with the Marvel Explosion and DC's flood of short-lived new titles. The next age began with Steranko and Adams invigorating the artform, followed by Kirby's DC work, the new genres of sword-and-sorcery and horror books, and the arrival of a new generation of innovators at Marvel.
In 1978/79 this period ended and a new one started, centred on the new X-Men and Frank Miller's work, as well as the new direct-sales market, that would last until 1986 and the double-whammy of Dark Knight and Watchmen.
So I would call that whole eighteen-year period a "Bronze Age," with its two distinctive halves.
But you can call it Bronze and Copper if you prefer.

William said...

I can agree somewhat with the last two posts. The Bronze Age is not easily defined. But I'd call the period after Watchmen and DKR up through most of the 90's the "Dark Age" of comics. And the from around the time Quesada took over at Marvel to the present I'd label the "Retcon Age".

Edo Bosnar said...

Hmmm, the last few comments are straying into that territory that I'd call "what, in fact, is the Bronze Age of comics?"
There's already been a few discussions of that sort on this blog, I think, and a number of others dedicated to the Bronze Age. Since we're talking about Marvel in this thread, my definition of Bronze Age is mid- to late 60s (the rise of Roy Thomas) to end of 70s (rise of writer/artists like Miller, Byrne and Simonson).

Terence Stewart said...

I've come to the coclusion that the Bronze Age of comics (and Marvel in particular)can't really be pinned down starting at a specific point - it was more a gradual shift across the line from around 1970 to 1975. I've been having a bit of fun trying to pinpoint when certain Silver Age series became Bronze Age here:

Inkstained Wretch said...

I'm not a huge fan of this character - though I enjoyed his appearances in the Defenders - but I would point to the Son of Satan as the most Bronze Age creation of all.

I mean, the very notion that you can borrow/rip-off movies like the Exorcist and the Omen and create a superhero? When could that have ever happened but in the Bronze Age?

While the character never became a big star, he did hang around and become a regular part of the Marvel Universe, which was the standard for most of characters created in that era.

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