Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Suggestion Unboxed - Separating the Ages


Humanbelly: What is your personal Silver Age/Bronze Age line of demarcation?

J.A. Morris: I'm also curious about your line of demarcation for the Bronze Age/Modern Age.

David B.: Which major comic company holds that honor of 'demarcation' over the other?

Thanks to Paul at Longbox Graveyard for the image.

33 comments:

Edo Bosnar said...

For me, the answers to HB's and David's questions blend into each other, since I tend to differ from most people on this. I think the Bronze Age began at Marvel first, already sometime in the late 1960s, when Roy Thomas slowly started to take over the writing chores on a lot of titles, and John Buscema and Gene Colan began doing more of the art. What I've read of the Avengers, Spider-man, Daredevil and the X-men (with Adams as artist) from the late '60s already has a Bronze Age "feel" to me.
Although I'm less familiar with DC's output from that late '60s/early '70s period, what I have read seems to indicate that the company was playing catch-up here. A number of its characters and titles seemed to stay rooted in the Silver Age into the early '70s, although I guess Jack Kirby's move to DC and the introduction of his Fourth World titles did mark a pretty big shift - so I guess I'm willing to agree with the generally accepted demarcation of 1970 in that case.

J.A.'s question is tougher for me to answer, because from about late 1984/early 1985 onward, I drifted in and out of comics buying and reading several times until my definitive break in about 1992. I can just say that I think before my first fade-out (i.e., 1984/85), the Bronze Age was still going on, while once I started reading a few things less than 2 years later, mainly post-Crisis DC stuff, the Bronze Age seemed to be over...

Colin Bray said...

I have both a personal and a more general approach to these questions.

On a personal level I was born in May 1970 while, say, Avengers #74 was on the racks. I I went to University in September 1988 when Avengers #293 was on the racks. So I treat these dates as demarcation points in my own personal 'long Bronze Age.'

More relevantly, I tend to go with relaxation of the Comics Code (or the Spidey drug issues that led to it) for the beginning of the BA, and the introduction of 'improved' printing techniques in Marvel comics in the mid-80s ('85?) for the end. I remember these bright, shiny comics appearing out of nowhere and being unsure whether I liked them or not....and quite probably not.

On whether Marvel or DC had the march on the Bronze Age, really not sure. DC had more variety across the ages, with the horror titles concurrent with Silver Age-style holdouts like The Flash keeping the faith right through to the late 70s.

An endlessly interesting subject!

Anonymous said...

To me, the Bronze Age began when Kirby left Marvel. The Kirby/ Lee Marvels are the defining comics of the era. Kirby going to DC is akin to the Beatles breaking up.

The end of the Bronze Age is a bit trickier. My line of demarcation is 1986. Watchmen, Dark Knight Returns, the end of Crisis, Image artists rise, Jim Shooter on the way down... 1986 was too momentous and contained too many paradigm shifts to be part of the Bronz Age. What came after could be called the Dark Age, which lasted until... Huh. Are we still in it? Is this the Corporate Age? Event Age? New Rise of the Independents? Hollywood Age? Digital Age? Post-Modern Age? I feel like the comic book landscape is too fractious to label. All I know is we're in the Golen Ages of Reprints and Coloring.

- Mike Loughlin

Redartz said...

A good case can be made for calling 1970 the Silver/Bronze age demarcation. With Kirby's switch to DC and Spidey's drug books (as mentioned by Edo and Colin), and the debut of Conan, even the ads seemed different (compare some DC ads for, say, the "Zeroids" from the later 60's to the ads from around 1970 (Lee Jeans ads and the "Race to Danger"). There was simply a different feel to the comics at the turn of the decade.

As for the Bronze/Modern eras, 1986 seems the choice for me. Crisis on Infinite Earths pretty well marks the division, along with Marvel's 25th. anniversary covers. 86 brought Byrne to DC (less earth-shaking than KIrby's departure in 70, but big nonetheless). And on a personal level, my wife and I married in 86, so there was a priority shift on my part and the way comics fit in my life.

As for companies leading the way- perhaps Marvel changed earlier from Silver to Bronze, and DC led the way from Bronze to Modern. Just a gut feeling...

Colin Jones said...

I discovered Marvel comics in November 1974 so that would be the start of my personal Bronze Age and I stopped reading comics in late 1983 so that was the end of my Bronze Age. I returned to reading Marvel comics in 2007 so that's the start of the Modern Age of comics for me and since November 2013 I've only bought downloaded graphic novels so I'm now in my Digital Age of comics. Just out of curiosity, when did this term "Bronze Age" first get used because I was unaware of the phrase before I started reading this blog in 2013.

Doug said...

Any thought on the demise of Marvel's split books and the advent of solo mags for Cap, Subby, Iron Man, Hulk, and the Silver Surfer? That seems to place Edo's posit in the spotlight.

As to the end? I think the end of the Claremont/Byrne/Austin collaboration in X-Men could be a signal. After that, both companies began to market mini-series, which was quite different than anything that had come before (the short-lived series of the Bronze Age notwithstanding).

Doug

Colin Jones said...

Just to be clear - at the end of my comment I meant the Bronze Age of comics - I know about the other Bronze Age, Achilles, the Horse of Troy etc. I just wondered if the term "Bronze Age" in respect to comics was being used in the '70s/early '80s and if not when did it start being used.

William said...

To me, the Bronze-Age started in 1970 after Kirby left Marvel and went to DC, and created The New Gods and Fourth World stuff. At both of the "Big-Two", comics drifted away from the more campy stories and got a bit more sophisticated.

And I personally think that the last year of the Bronze-Age was 1986. After that year, comics started a downhill slide into the grim and gritty darker stories that continue to this day.

That being said. I really think you can almost divide the "Ages" of comics by decade. The 1960's being the Silver-Age, the 70's the Bronze-Age, 80's the Copper-Age, and then in the 90's it all just sort of slides into chaos and comics basically throw out any pretense of artistic integrity and let the suits take over.

Around this time, good storytelling was pretty much cast aside in favor of big marketing events like the "Death of Superman", the "Knight-Fall of Batman", The Spider-Man "Clone Saga", and the biggest most overhyped marketing event of all -- the rise of Image Comics. This was also the age of gimmicks like foil stamped, holograms, and multiple covers, etc. So, I'd call the 90's the "Speculation or Marketing-Age".

However, despite all that, there were still some really good comics that came out during the 90's, but they were few and far between.

Unfortunately, these days there is almost nothing at all that appeals to me. So, I guess I'd call this modern age of comics the "Vacuum-Age" (because it pretty much sucks).

Edo Bosnar said...

Colin, I'm also a bit curious about when the term Bronze Age became the norm. Back in my youth, I had only heard of terms Golden and Silver Age, while - like you - I first saw the term Bronze Age when I discovered the comics blogosphere some time in the early 2000s.

Doug, interesting point about the end of the Claremont/Byrne X-men signalling an end to the Bronze Age. I've mentioned in other posts in the past that I sometimes think 1980 is sort of a cut-off point, because that's when the launch of Pacific Comics heralded an era of more independent (i.e., not big 2) comics publishers and it was around that time that New Teen Titans by Wolfman/Perez began, and Frank Miller became the writer/artist on Daredevil (soon to be followed by Byrne in a similar role in Fantastic Four). It definitely seemed like the start of something new, although I now hesitate to say it's not the Bronze Age - although I think it definitely marked the end of what I'd call the 'high' (pun intended :P) Bronze.

J.A. Morris said...

Since I blog about Bronze Age Reprints, I generally go with the "standard" definition:1970-1985.
I find 1970 to be a good starting point. Kirby leaves Marvel, Lee is on his way out as a writer, writing only FF and ASM. Robin goes to college. Within the next 2 years, Capt. Stacy is killed, Speedy was addicted to drugs, Roy Thomas takes over as EIC and writer or ASM. None of that would've happened in the Silver Age.

Technically, that means I could review reprints of Secret Wars (published January 1984, cover stamped April '84) and SW-era stories. But I have generally avoided this because I think SW really feels like the end of the Bronze Age and the beginning of the Modern Age.

But one could make the case for other years as the endpoint.

1980 makes sense as a demarcation point. "Jean" dies, Byrne and Austin leave UXM, Wolfman and Perez go to DC, Roy Thomas goes to DC, other stuff I'm probably forgetting.

I think by 1982 (if not '81), we see a different sensibility in the Marvel stories (sorry if sounds vague). I think there was a lot more freedom for storytellers to get crazy. Think about Gerber's 70s tales, there's nothing like them in the 80s.

Or you could say that the Bronze Age ends when Shooter takes over as EIC. I'm not a Shooter-hater (he wrote some great stories and did some good things as EIC), but the freewheeling style of the Bronze Age starts to disappear when he takes over.

But I'm sticking with 70-85.

It's really like a change of decades. There's often bleed-over from one into the next. For instance, in 1981, some fashions that we associate with the mid-to-late 70s were still commonly seen.

Garett said...

I think the Bronze Age starts when the baby boomer creators, born around 1950, start to come in. Barry Smith on Conan, Bernie Wrightson on Swamp Thing, then Byrne, Perez, Staton, Starlin and all the rest. Guys like Neal Adams and Roy Thomas are transition figures, born a little earlier in 1940.

The end is when the Generation Xers like Jim Lee and Todd MacFarlane come in, in the late '80s. There Frank Miller and Bill Sienkiewicz are transitional figures, born in the late '50s.

For me there have been 2 eras since the Bronze Age. Roughly, the 1990s Image era when artists ran the show and stories were poor, and the 2000s to now, when writers dictate every detail of the story and the Marvel Method of artist involvement is out the window.

Humanbelly said...

Boy, great, great, GREAT observations out there-- really good stuff.
I'm liking the by-the-decade approach for a very rough short-hand.
I'm also liking the point that demarcation lines are going to be malleable and squishy at best.

Having been a complete Marvel Zuvembie kid at that point (and for several years following), the easy visual short-cut for me tended to be: presence of those iconic corner-boxes on the top left of the cover = Silver Age. Those boxes disappeared about mid-1971, I think (?), along with the 15-cent cover price. Then it was that ill-fated one month attempt at 25-cent giant comics, followed by a 20-cent cover price-- and the house cover design went to that "boxed" image format for awhile. So, the Silver Age includes the entire time that comics were 15 cents (for me). I know that's a bit late in the game for some folks' thinking, but I think it's a good hovering-point. In Spidey, we have the introduction of Morbius right then, after his 100th issue (hello, Monster Craze?); in Avengers we start the set-up of the Kree/Skrull War in the Silver, and definitely wrap it up in the Bronze (which I think is a particularly apt landmark); in FF, Kirby has indeed been gone for a year, but many of the covers still have a "Silver Age" feel to them, and while the book looks good in Buscema's hands, it doesn't seem to have any other big development at that point to denote an era-shift; and in The Hulk we've finally, FINALLY had a shake-up of the soap-opera status quo with the recent introduction of Jarella and her world, which becomes the driving motivator for ol' Greenskin for well over a year.

Sooo, for any easy-placement rule of thumb, ol' HB's sayin'-- "look for the cornerbox!"

HB

Garett said...

We have a new prime minister here in Canada today, Justin Trudeau, and I bring it up because of this: his father Pierre was prime minister from 1968-84...pretty much the Bronze age! Could he have been the true source of this shift in comics...and perhaps Justin heralds the return of comics greatness?? Fingers crossed! : )

J.A. Morris said...

Following up on Garett's post, I can't help but be reminded of Pierre Trudeau's appearance in Uncanny X-Men #140:
http://sequart.org/magazine/43658/claremonts-days-of-future-past-a-story-about-kitty-pryde/x-men-days-of-future-past-tpb-cbr-page-102/

Redartz said...

HB- excellent observation regarding the "corner boxes". Those Marvel covers with the banner across the top and circle in the corner are a definite Bronze Age hallmark. It sort of holds true for DC as well: the old "Superman/National/DC" bullet ran from the 40s all the way to the start of the Bronze Age. Then the simple "DC" circle carried them, and us, into the 70's.

Doug said...

HB raised a point above that got me thinking, and maybe this is a topic in and of itself. He remarked about there being no big event in the FF around 1970 aside from Kirby's departure (a blip on the radar of that book by that point, in my estimation). Was that magazine at all innovative in the post-Kirby years? If you think about it, the Marvel Universe was basically created within the walls of the Fantastic Four. But since issue #100 (just a nice round number, nothing else), has anything ever happened in that mag that became a major part of the canon of the MU? I'm sure there's something, but in a quick run-through of the arcs and issues in my mind, I'm going all the way up to the Phoenix story we discussed last week before I hit something that stuck. Help me out.

So Marvel's innovation left the "confines" of the FF and branched out across its line. Would that be fair to say?

Doug

Colin Bray said...

Re: the corner box debate. I have a SA-collecting friend who flat-out refuses to buy a single comic including the 'Marvel Comics Group' cover masthead. They just aren't 'his' Marvel - and yet that same masthead is beguiling to us BAB-ers.

On such things Ages turn...

Humanbelly said...

Boy, that's a tough one, Doug.
To some degree, that argument might even be applied more broadly to Marvel in general, the later you go in the MU's existence. But for the FF--

Hmm-- a couple of minor characters, Thundra & Firelord (he was first in the FF, right?), spring to mind as folks that at least still exist. Reed & Sue's separation and near-divorce back in the early 70's was definitely a tough, brave milestone as far as depicting a "real-life" personal crisis and its effect on our superheroes-- but I'm not sure if that could be called an innovation. Did John Byrne give us any whole-cloth new things? Terrax the Tamer, I suppose? Four Freedoms Plaza replacing the Baxter Building? I dunno-- there certainly were a lot of good, fun arcs (even great ones), but I can't think of anything groundbreaking myself. Even the best "new" aspects of the book were always twists on earlier material, or derivative, or re-introductions.

It's a little painful to read through the title book-by-book, because it SO OFTEN was getting "re-invigorated" and "a fresh, new beginning", and "finding its glory by going back to its roots", etc, etc, etc. Every flippin' new creative team was bent on throwing out the previous team's work and STARTING WITH A FRESH NEW DAWN, or something similar. Although the massive attempts at change in later years were far from good, constantly trying to recapture the specific elements of a past-era's glory is not a wise or productive path to take. Y'ain't gonna create a fuel-efficient car for the 21st-and-a-halfth Century by exhaustively meditating on the wondrous creation that was the Model T, y'know?

HB

Edo Bosnar said...

J.A., the elder Trudeau also appeared in X-men #120 - in the opening splash page and on p. 2 (sorry, my internet-fu isn't good enough to find images posted somewhere).

Anonymous said...

For me, I'd have to go with two slightly different spans: I'd say Marvel's Bronze Age started in 1971...besides Kirby being gone, we got the "drug trilogy", Conan started taking off, and the Code was just beginning to loosen up on horror-type stories. You could maybe say 1972 (Luke Cage, Tomb of Drac, and Defenders) or even 1973 (Gwen's death, MOKF, and Ghost Rider, plus stuff like MTIO and Doc Strange on the horizon). I think it ended for Marvel around 1990, with the rise of guys like McFarlane, Lee, Liefeld etc.

For DC, I'd say it started when Kirby got there in 1970/71, and ended after the Crisis (or maybe after Legends) around 1987, with the new Superman, Batman: Year One, the new Justice League, and stuff like Suicide Squad. Comics like Watchmen, DKR, and the indie stuff fit right in that time too.

Mike Wilson

Edo Bosnar said...

Doug, I don't even know how you can ask about anything major happening or innovations introduced in FF after ish #100, since you and Karen reviewed the momentous issue in which the Marvel U and the world at large was given none other than Gaard. 'Nuff said ... :P

Doug said...

Daggone it! I knew I was going to forget something important!

We have to run a column on one-hit wonders, and characters who should have been no-hit wonders.

Doug

Anonymous said...

Everyone thinks comics were at their best when they were twelve, don't they?

Thats why the earliest fanzine writers - the Roy Thomas age group - referred back to the 40s/early 50s as a golden age, just as we think 70s comics were great(but had to settle for the term "bronze age" as gold was already taken). No doubt there are thirty year olds enthusiastic about the 90s too....

As a vital art form, comics are always changing, so I prefer to use a more neutral term like "the 60s" rather than Silver Age.

-sean

pfgavigan said...

Hiya,

Couple of things I want to put forth. Could someone please give me an example of what they mean when they use the word 'innovate'. Not just to say that Kirby did something new but what he did and why it was different!

There's been the suggestion in several postings that the beginning of the Bronze Age, at least at Marvel, could be placed somewhere in the period leading from Kirby's departure to Stan Lee surrendering the editorial duties to Roy Thomas. I can agree with that, but I would also like to advocate that it would have equally as much to do with the arrival of the young creators upon the scene, especially the writers.

I was thinking, Englehart, Conway, Wein, Wolfman and many of the others were all fans of many of the books that they worked on. They actually wanted to be part of the industry rather than viewing it as a wayside station on the road to their future careers. I've read that Wein and Wolfman in particular used many of the ideas and views that they held toward the characters and situations that they developed while reading the books when they had the opportunity to write them.

Does that mean that the beginning of the Bronze Age is marked by the rise of the Fan Fiction author?

Seeya,

pfgavigan

pfgavigan said...

Hiya,

Hey sean, really wished I had seen your comment before I posted. You are absolutely right. The thrill of discovery, especially in our youth, makes whatever we enjoy the best ever!

As an example, while I do watch and enjoy Doctor Who my favorite doctor was and shall always be Patrick Troughton!

Seeya,

pfg

Doug said...

OK, since I used the word "innovate", I guess I'm responsible for answering PFG's request for clarification. If I only go with a definition -

"make changes in something established, especially by introducing new methods, ideas, or products."

-I'd say that Kirby was indeed innovative, if in ideas alone. But if you are looking for genre-bending innovation, I feel caught flat-footed... So I dunno -- his collages?

Perhaps I misused the word. But hey -- I knew what I meant!

Doug

dbutler16 said...

I was going to say pretty much what Edo said - that the Bronze Age started at Marvel first as (primarily) Roy Thomas took over for Stan Lee (about 1968), and that DC seemed to play catch-up. DC's Silver Age perhaps started with the O'Neil/Adams Green Lantern/Green Arrow (Batman too) stuff, though Mort Weisinger stepping down as DC editor (1970 for both) may be a marking point too. Of course, Amazing Spider-Man #96 is another potential Bronze Age starting point. The 1971 revision to the Comics Code Authority, which probably made that Spidey issue (and the similarly themed Green Lantern/green Arrow/Speedy issue, plus the horror mags which became so popular in the Bronze Age) possibly is another major demarcation point for the beginning of the Bronze Age. All in all, if I had to assign a specific year to it, I'd probably go with 1970, but I'm pretty iffy in that.

If I'm murky on the beginning of the Bronze Age, I'm even more-so on on the end. John Romita, Jr starting on the X-Men in 1984 turned that title darker, and the proliferation of Marvel miniseries in 1984 that also seems like the beginning of the end to me. However, the annoying trend of having all of the Marvel Annuals tied in together into one big story, which started in 1987, definitely seems like a Modern Age thing. For DC, it seems a bit more clear. Crisis on Infinite Earths, Watchmen, and The Dark Knight Returns are all 1986, so that seems like a very good ending point for Bronze Age DC.

pfgavigan said...

Hiya,

Thanks Doug. I hope you realize I wasn't being chastising, merely curious.

I think it sad and strange that one of Kirby's greatest innovations in rendering dynamic motion has almost completely disappeared. His use of in figure motion lines to convey direction in an almost 3-D like manner was first abused by imitators who copied the form but misunderstood the function and then ignored by the current faux realism movement.

Seeya,

pfgavigan

Karen said...

I feel like my comics reading started at the end of the Silver Age and beginning of the Bronze Age, at least at Marvel. So I would agree with PF's remarks about the influx of new creative talent at Marvel having much to do with that. This places it in the early 70s for me. The end? I suppose around the mid-80s. It is less well defined in my thoughts.

As a side comment, I think you have to include Thor (the title, not the character) right there with the FF when you discuss universe building. So many concepts came out of that book or were refined in the title.

FF post Lee/Kirby was never as vibrant or as inventive. It had its moments but...just lacked the magic. Also, Firelord first appeared in Thor, courtesy of Gerry Conway.

Anonymous said...

The most innovative issue of post-Kirby FF is #352 by Walt Simonson. It features Reed vs. Doom traveling through time, popping in and out of the rest of the story. Their battle can be pieced together linearly if the reader goes by the little boxes that note what time it is when they appear. If you've never read it, I highly recommend seeking it out.

- Mike Loughlin.

Anonymous said...

Hmm I'll go with my pal JA Morris and say the Bronze Age was from 1970-1985 too; this coincided roughly with the time period beginning with the relaxation of the Comics Code and ending with the introduction of the Secret Wars stuff.

Sadly, I'm with William too on 90s era comics. My LCS has tons of comics from that period, and even when they are on a discounted sale price, I don't usually go for them. Once, the nice young lady at the store pointed out all that were on special, and I ended up buying the pricier older Bronze Age issues!

Garrett, congrats on your hip new prime minister!


- Mike 'too hip to be square' from Trinidad & Tobago.

Garett said...

Thanks Mike! They called it "Trudeaumania" when Pierre was elected in 1968, and some of that is happening with Justin now in 2015.

Yes J.A. and Edo, nice recall of Trudeau's appearances in X-Men.

Colin Bray said...

Re: the corner box debate. I have a SA-collecting friend who flat-out refuses to buy a single comic including the 'Marvel Comics Group' cover masthead. They just aren't 'his' Marvel - and yet that same masthead is beguiling to us BAB-ers.

On such things Ages turn...

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