Monday, January 19, 2009

6 Things I Miss About the Silver Age of Comics

While I am the first to say I love a great modern comic story like Secret Invasion or the latest issue of Nightwing, I can't help but remember the silver and bronze age of comics and what made them so much fun. Despite the fact that you could actually purchase a comic book for a reasonable price, there are several other things to love about the time.

For your reading pleasure, I offer 6 things that made the Silver Age of Comics so great and why I miss it.

1. The Comics Code Authority

I am not a prude, but why did comic books have to develop a potty mouth over the years? The Bronze Age saw a few heroes let one slip here and there, but those were powerful moments because it showed their outrage. Today, we are treated to a constant stream of zingers from the mouths of our heroes.

It's all unnecessary too. It doesn't make a hero tougher to do it. As a matter of fact, in the case of the recent All-Star Batman & Robin, it actually becomes a running joke to readers.

Yes, I know the old Marvel Knights titles and the Marvel Max titles were specifically created to cater to adult readers, but even most of the regular titles could be considered adult now.

2. No graphic violence

I'd like to show you how Batman and Robin used to handle baddies:That's it. What looks like a little tap with no blood and the bad guys go down. Now let's see how bad guys are taken down in a recent Batman issue:As you can see, it's not a great time to be a bad guy. Overkill? Yeah, I think so. How about a recent issue of Ultimatum in which the Wasp was actually eaten by the Blob? When was he ever even hinted at being a cannibal before? Nowhere.

It seems like they keep pushing the envelope further and further each month, as if they are hoping the shock value will push the sales up when they can't come up with a good storyline.

3. "Massive Crossovers" were actually special events

Back in the old days, a crossover was something special. When you saw the JLA teaming with the JSA, that meant you were dropping your money for those special comics.

Today, it seems like every single comic book is somehow tied to some crossover event. This strange phenomena seems to have started about 4 years ago with Infinite Crisis, then moved on to Civil War and hasn't stopped since. Now if you can find a comic book that contains only the titled hero in it you've got a keeper. The only exception to this is the Amazing Spider-Man title. No other heroes show up there because even they don't have a clue as to what's going on.

4. Single issue storylines

There was a time when you could buy almost any comic book--even if you'd never read that hero before--and still be able to follow what was going on. Those were the days of stories that began and ended in one issue. If it was a major story, it might go to two or even three issues, but never any further.

Today, with the push of all comic titles to be reprinted in trade paperback format, almost every single story is a 6-part storyline (the right amount of issues needed for a TPB). If you don't catch the story at its start, you'll be a little confused for a while--or you could just wait and buy it in trade paperback format three months later.

The sad thing is that many of the mid-story issues are mostly filler stories that don't advance the plot very much. They're essentially three-issue stories fattened up to be six-issue stories. With the price of comics being what they are today and with the economic crisis we're supposedly facing, they might need to reconsider this thinking.

5. Parody Books

I know Mad Magazine has been around forever, but the Silver Age saw books like Not Brand Ecch come into play. It was a parody book that was actually funny!

Marvel tried to revive the trend in the 80's and 90's with a magazine called What The? (a riff on the What If? title)--and some of those issues were genuinely funny as well--but we haven't seen anything like it in years.

Of course, this was decades before the wonderful world of "I'll sue you for anything" that we have today, so stories like a Spider-Man/Batman fight could be done without everyone losing their minds and going for a legal battle.

6. "Fat" superheroes!

In the Silver Age, heroes must not have had the time to work out like they do today. For example, Silver Age Batman and Superman:

And here's how they look today:Yeah, the sculpted tough look is cool, but I can't help missing those simpler looks. I mean, even I look like the Silver Age Batman!

Coming Thursday: 6 Things I Miss About the Bronze Age of Comics!


Anonymous said...

I don't really agree with most of these items. I think censorship is never a good thing - what we need is authors who choose to incorporate these elements in their stories, not because they're forced. I know it's complicated to internalize these ideas when we're talking about cultural icons like Batman and Spiderman.

I do agree that we need less crossover and more realistic-looking superheroes - but as far as the number of issues go, I think it really depends on the quality of the story.

Bubbashelby said...

Great list - I love the "Fat" superheroes at the end there!

I think there is room for everything comics has become, but sadly it has come at the cost of the near loss of anything and everything else.

Things do seem to be shifting, with comics like Tiny Titans and cartoons like Batman: The Brave and the Bold, and it is refreshing.

Anonymous said...

You are dead on with your observations. The only one I would add is that I miss heroes being heroic role models.

Comedy, clean fun entertainment that could be shared with kids, and stories that you could jump into at any point (even mid-stream in a story arc like the Kree-Skrull war) all contributed to the growth of the industry.

This list, plus the 40 mile drive to the closest store that actually sells comic books is the reason I quit reading (new) comics.


Bill, the Wildcat said...

You're pretty much dead-on with your observations here. Comics really have gotten carried away with the cursing... entertainment, in general, has. Comics didn't really qualify as kid material even back in the eighties, but at least, it was close enough to where a kid could read most of it. These days... not so much. You have to wonder how many parents have a clue what their kids are reading.

That said, I am forced to agree with "Anonymous" here, too (btw, bold choice of name there, Anonymous). I think part of what we see in comics these days is a result of the Comics Code. It's just the pendulum swinging in the opposite direction. We'll probably see it swing back at some point, but hopefully not as far as it once did.

Oh, and TOTALLY right on the whole crossover thing. It's gotten ridiculous. It's part of why I had to stop collecting comics. Just got too expensive.

Rick said...

I agree with most of what you say here. I am on record as almost stoping completelly on buying new comics as the price is too high.
I also wish that cussing never entered comic books. Everything seemed all down hill at that point. I wasn't crazy about it when the bad guys did it but when the good guys did it too that was too much.

Brian said...

I think a few guidelines might be a good idea. It would just be to rein everything in from going too when pushing the envelope.

It's funny, but even some readers in the 60's thought things were getting pushed too far too. Here's a great blog posting from Comic Coverage on it at:

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