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Scott’s Classic Comics Corner: A New End to the Silver Age Pt. 1

So many great geek debates focus on the beginning or ending of various comic book ages. The shift from Silver Age to Bronze Age has never been crystal clear to me, but there are a few favorites that are constantly mentioned. Sometimes people point to a specific book. Conan #1 and Green Lantern/Green Arrow #76 are often cited as the first books of the Bronze Age. Other times, it may be a certain ‘event’ such as Jack Kirby’s move from Marvel to DC or Mort Weisinger’s retirement.

I’ve heard all of these a million times and they make me yawn. I like to be a contrarian (read: pain in the ass), so I’m planning on arguing on behalf of a few nominees this week for the defining line in the Silver Age/Bronze Age sand.

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Today’s nominee is Metal Men #37. Yup, Metal Men #37. Don’t have that listed among your ‘keys’, do you? Think I’m crazy? Well, look at what we’ve got here.

1. Plotline involves non-imaginary ‘Death’ of title characters
2. Major redirection of long-running Silver Age title
3. Complete redesign of all central characters
4. Exploration of Discrimination and Anti-Human sentiment

Do any of those themes sound like they might become mainstays in comic books for the next two decades?

For those of you who haven’t read it, Metal Men was a fun title was quite representative of the Silver Age. It was a team book with a lots of infighting (like Fantastic Four and Doom Patrol), but also had a lot of the scientific elements that were key to books such as Atom and the Flash. Robert Kanigher and the Andru/Esposito team steered the Metal Men through their first few years of adventures. Eventually, things became a little formulaic and creator changes ensued.

With new creators came a major shift in tone and the former goofball heroes became the hunted as an enemy of mankind. This arc crescendoed with Metal Men #37, when the team was captured and sentenced to be executed (at a scrap yard, no less!). I don’t want to spoil too much at this point, but let’s just say that the title didn’t just get a facelift, but it underwent head to toe plastic surgery.

To me, Metal Men #37 represents a shift in the approach to comic book storytelling. The willingness to completely overhaul a title and introduce themes such as ethics and the role of non-humans in society are signs than an era has ended.

Next Up: The Final Tower

19 Comments

My guess is this’ll be up on the Wikipedia Bronze Age article by the end of the day.

I have to say that I think it comes a bit too early (spring of ’69) and the focus shift and retooling that you note were things that happened elsewhere in books that are definitely silver age (more on the Marvel side than DC but it’s there).

Just to toss out my own random suggestion, how about Kirby’s DC books. They fall in 1971 and it represents changes in the industry that occurred rapidly in the early 70′s. Kirby might not have been going in the same direction as the rest of the comics industry but things were moving in general.

This seems like a fun topic. And what a moody Sekowsky cover! I understand that there probably won’t be a real and true answer to when the Silver Age ended, but I think it’s a neat thing to bat back and forth a bit. It’s intereresting to see all the themes from the following years begin to creep into comics.

I agree with the date of circa 1969, but only because I subscribe to the real time theory of comics. Real Time = silver age. Marvel Time = bronze age. http://enterthestory.com/realtime_marvel_1960s.html

I agree that it’s too early. I’d call it a harbinger of the end of the age, much as Morrison’s JLA in 1997 was an early look at the kind of book that would become the norm around 2000. This started the ball rolling, but I don’t think the true end of the Silver Age came until the Death of Gwen Stacy.

I know the classic Doom Patrol run ended with the team dying. Was Metal Men 37 before or after?

This is very interesting! I loved watching the evolution of the first “Silver Age” book being argued and defined by comic historians.
The problem I have with these micro-history eras is two fold. First, they seem primarily concentrated on superhero comics as the defining points of comic book history. Then the historical discussion seems tainted by the collectible aspect., as investors in old comics throw around weight in order to recognize a book to increase it’s value. (Anyone recall the days when people used to claim Fantastic Four #1 started the Silver Age?)
I hope this spread around some and gets a few people talking about the beginnings of the Bronze Age.

Keep in mind folks, that this is only one of a handful of nominees I’ll present this week!

If you didn’t find this one 100% convincing, maybe the next one will change your mind!

As for the Doom Patrol, they died about a year ealier, but I see that as more of a standalone hissy fit thrown by Arnold Drake after his baby was cancelled. He got the bad news and decided that if he couldn’t play with his toys – no one else could. Love that guy!

Scott, will you be considering British, European (or even Canadian?) comics?

I hope to see an article about Swamp Thing. I have been convinced it’s the first Bronze Age book for years.

1. It’s the first new horror comic of note since the code.
2. Like the later New X-Men, it was written by Len Wein.
3. He was an antagonist, but not a super hero. No costume, no secret identity.
4. Bernie Wrightson is an excellent example of the non-Kirby and non 50′s influenced style that would take over during the 70′s.
5. Social issues were touched on.
6. It’s a really damn good series.

I think that Patrick and the Random Stranger have the right time.
Fall, 1972.
The Fourth World books were cancelled, ending the Silver Age. And just then Swamp Thing #1 came out, heralding the Bronze.

But is there a generally agreed upon term for the period AFTER the Bronze, and when exactly it started?

just to clarify things for me.. the bronze age consisted of the 70′s, 80′s and 90′s comics.. correct? as for what to refer to the “age” coming AFTER that… why not the “platinum age”?

marvelcomicsgroupy

September 17, 2008 at 7:08 am

As for the Marvel Silver Age ending, I would think that it was over either at the end of Jack Kirby’s run on FF or when Gwen Stacy died.

For DC, if I had to guess, I’d say ended when Speedy’s heroin addiction came to life. Or when Neal Adams joined the Distinguished Competition.

I’ve also heard others say the Bronze Age started when the books shrunk in size, (Marvel’s 25 cent era), but I don’t go for that. It’s all about the approach to the genre.

I’m not going to discuss non-American comics much here – mainly due to my ignorance. Although, Captain Canuck’s demise isn’t a bad ending point for the true Bronze Age.

As for what we want to call the post-Bronze Age – that’s for another column. I’ll be dealing with mostly pre-Crisis issues here.

Oh Patrick, while I certainly love the Swamp Thing, your statement that it’s the first post-Code horror book hurts the part of my heart dedicated to Charlton.

Have fun and keep looking for hidden milestones!

All metal men issues are key.

Timmy, “why not the platinum age?” Two reasons: 1) The way it’s going the value of the metal is going down not up, and platinum is more valuable than gold. And along that thinking: 2) “Platinum Age” has already been defined by Overstreet as pre-Golden Age comic-type books, circa 1897-1938.

Not the Indestructible Man

September 23, 2008 at 7:01 am

Steel.

The “STEEL AGE” of comics?! hmm.. it has a certain ring to it I guess. Titanium? Lead? Copper? How about the “ALUMINUM AGE” since most storylines these days seem like they are being recycled.. LOL! ;)

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