Doug: Today's discussion is a request for testimonials from our visitors as to why you love this period we call the Bronze Age. Now if you're just stopping by and aren't sure exactly what the parameters are, most folks generally say that the Bronze Age started about the time Jack Kirby left Marvel Comics to start his employment at the Distinguished Competition (otherwise known as DC Comics). This would have been around the time Fantastic Four #102 was completed(summer 1970 -- I've posted the cover to FF #101, which was Jack's last cover on the title), although some would argue that Jack had really quit putting out for Marvel before that. At any rate, it's a bit tougher to pin down the end of the era, but I tend to focus on the release of The Dark Knight Returns (March 1986), the first "prestige format" series released by DC. I think you can also zero in on that title as the beginning of the rise of the anti-hero, as more violence and adult themes began to creep into comics and the envelope was pushed concerning what had formerly been taboo in the mainstream (sex, blood, etc.) and what was now not only becoming acceptable, but proliferating. Some comics enthusiasts place the end of the Bronze Age a bit earlier with the advent of the direct market for distribution and the rise of comic book specialty stores.
Doug: One of the elements of the Bronze Age that many people love is the return of the "split book", where the buyer got two stories for the price of one. Some argue that since the stories were shorter, running only 10-12 pages apiece, that good stories were harder to tell and those books suffered because of that. For others, it was more bang for the buck in terms of seeing more characters. As those titles tended to be homes for B-listers, many liked the opportunity to expand characterization for "people" who might normally be lost in the shuffle of a group book, etc. Those books often became showcases for new talent as well.
Doug: And speaking of new talent, the Bronze Age was a veritable explosion of young vibrant minds. As many of the creators of the Silver Age had been holdovers from the Golden Age, there tended to be somewhat of a status quo (particularly at DC, where stories and characters often didn't differ much month-to-month). But as the 1970's approached, many fans-turned-creators jumped into the market and reinvigorated it with new characters, different directions for established characters, and the opportunity for the Big Two to expand what they offered in that battle for shelf space.
Doug: Of course I'd be remiss if I didn't point to a few major events that have become hallmarks of the period -- the death of Gwen Stacy in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man #121, and the introduction of the All-New, All-Different X-Men in Giant-Size X-Men #1. The former was groundbreaking, as it was the first significant death in the Marvel Universe (at least affecting a major character; some could argue that another of Marvel's leading men lost a love when the Lady Dorma was lost to Namor the Sub-Mariner) and changed the status quo temendously for Spider-Man. The latter, of course, was responsible for the X-plosion that would dominate the market well into the 1990's and to the present.
Doug: So, what are your favorite memories? What did you think was particularly innovative? Which characters that were introduced were favorites, whether they lasted long or not? What trends did you see that were influential? How about all of those cool new things like Treasury Editions, the Pocket Books reprints, and Megos? Leave a comment below, and thanks in advance for your consideration.
Alpha Flight #13 - John Byrne art & cover
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