A History of Comics: The Silver and Bronze Ages
Every September 25, fans, collectors, readers and creatives come together to celebrate National Comic Book Day. While comics have been around since the late 19th century, the comics we know today have gone through several different iterations and continue to evolve over time. In honor of the auspicious day celebrating comics and its creators, I will dig into comic book history: the Silver and Bronze Ages of comics, which included a passage to camp and a return to horror, an awareness of social issues, and the introduction of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.
The silver age of comics
In my article on the Platinum and Golden Ages of Comics, we ended with the creation of the US Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency and basically censoring comic book content to influence young people towards juvenile delinquency. . It was the start of the Silver Age of Comics (1956) and although that age started off on the wrong foot, it ended up being a significant period, which lasted until around 1970.
So, the Silver Age of Comics started with people claiming that comics were a bad influence on readers. Psychiatrist Fredric Wertham wrote in his bestselling book The seduction of the innocent that comics of all kinds corrupt American youth. Just for fun, some of those claims included Superman representing fascist ideals, Batman and Robin promoting a homosexual lifestyle, and Wonder Woman being a lesbian with a bondage fixation. The comic book industry decided to create the Comics Code Authority in order to self-regulate. They established several new ground rules, which contained gems such as “In any case, good will triumph over evil…”; “If the crime is portrayed, it will be like a sordid and unpleasant activity”; “Women must be drawn realistically without exaggeration of any physical quality”; and “… vampires and vampirism, ghouls, cannibalism and werewolf are prohibited.”
For this reason, comic book publishers have mainly focused on superheroes, revitalizing the genre by bringing back old superheroes and creating new ones (this is when superheroes groups). heroes have become popular, for example The Justice League and Fantastic Four). Previously, DC had had Superman (and his young incarnation, Superboy), Batman and his sidekick Robin and Wonderwoman. During the Silver Age of Comics, we discovered Green Lantern, Aquaman, The Atom, and Hawkman. In a similar vein, Marvel has also offered a host of new characters, including Spider-Man, X-Men, and Hulk.
Most historians agree that the release of Flash in Showcase # 4 was the first comic book to launch the Silver Age. Some have also argued that science fiction and aliens replaced magic and gods, the latter of which was very popular during the golden age of comics.
Flash in Showcase # 4/ Image via Wikimedia, DC Comics
The Silver Age was also the time when some of the greatest comic book authors and artists entered the scene, namely Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Gardner Fox, to name a few. Due to maintaining the authority of the comic book code, stories created during this time tended to have dumber plots and higher camp levels. As DC and Marvel established themselves as the biggest names in the comic book industry, the Silver Age saw other publishers make their names as well.
Harvey Comics, which sold horror comics before the Comics Code Authority, changed its target audience and started focusing on girls ages 6 to 12. They featured characters who “defied stereotypes and sent a message of acceptance of those who are different,” as seen with Richie Rich, Casper the Friendly Ghost and Little Dot. Editors Gilberton, Dell Comics, and BD Clé D’or Still maintaining a reputation for healthy content, so they continued to publish horror-themed comics on the pretext that it wouldn’t influence kids to do bad things. Gilberton Illustrated classics literary classics adapted to the line like Frankenstein in comic book format; Dell Comics has offered comics from licensed TV series titles such as fuzzy area and released superhero versions of Frankenstein, Dracula and Werewolf; and Gold Key Comics had comics featuring Warner Bros. cartoons. like Bugs Bunny and comic book properties like Bailey beetle.
We were introduced to ridiculous characters like Bat-Ape and Bat-Mite; Additionally, several forms of kryptonite have been introduced (Gold, Blue, Jewel, Red-Green, Magno, Red-Gold Kryptonite, and Kryptonite Plus). In Superboy # 76, there was a story called “The Krypton Super Monkey” in Super Boy # 76 and in Jerry Lewis # 97, Batman and Robin team up with comedian Jerry Lewis to fight the Joker. More “campy” styles were also written, such as the American Comics Group character Herbie becoming Fat Fury or the popular Archie BD teens become superheroes (Archie as Captain Pureheart and Jughead as Captain Hero).
The Silver Age of Comics also saw the beginnings of “underground” comics in response to the counterculture movement of the 1960s. These comics could be found in counterculture bookstores and department stores. tobacco and were generally printed in black and white with a glossy colored cover.
The Bronze Age of Comics
The Bronze Age of Comics is believed to have started in the early 1970s, and many say it officially began with the death of Peter Parker’s girlfriend, Gwen Stacy, in a story called “The Night. Gwen Stacy Died “in 1973. This event showed that the comics were ready to venture into darker territory and that superheroes were not” untouchable “as seen before in the ages of gold and silver. The Bronze Age is believed to have ended in 1984 and it was notable for bringing back darker themes against a background of racism, pollution and social injustice. The Comics Code Authority has also relaxed some of its restrictions, so comic book creators have started experimenting with adding more horror and supernatural elements to their stories.
“The Night of Gwen Stacy’s Death” / Image via Wikimedia Commons
Many writers and artists who rose to prominence during the Silver Age were either promoted or replaced by a younger generation of creators who discovered the industry through fan conventions and publications. They were also more aware of social issues, so we saw an increase in comics dealing with these more difficult topics (e.g. Green Arrow Confronting His Sidekick, Speedy’s, Heroin Addiction, and Iron Man Coming To Me With His Alcoholism. ). In 1971, Marvel Comic editor Stan Lee was approached to publish a comic book dealing with drug addiction.
There was also a push for less Caucasian male roles, so we saw characters like Storm, Black Lightning, and Blade. Female versions of originally male characters also appeared (She-Hulk, Spider-Woman) and the X-Men, who were a metaphor for minorities, skyrocketed in popularity. Luke Cage, Mantis, Misty Knight, Shang-Chi, and Iron Fist were created by Marvel to capitalize on the kung fu craze of the 1970s, although this is problematic in its own way.
Additionally, there has been an increase in non-superhero comics, with more inspiration from westerns, fantasy, and pulp fiction hitting the market. Thanks to the revision of the Comics Code Authority in 1971, the horror genre returned again and many comic book publishers took advantage of it, releasing many supernatural-themed series such as Ghost rider and Swamp thing. Sci-fi post-apocalyptic stories have also been a hit, as evidenced by Marvel’s nine-year run with the Star wars series. While not necessarily considered “non-superheroes,” DC and Marvel have released series starring villains.
Image via Marvel Comics
The artistic style of the Bronze Age saw a different artistic style. Gone are the stylized illustrations of the Silver Age and the simple cartoons of the Golden Age, the Bronze Age was entirely devoted to “sophisticated realism”. Artists who became well known in this style included Frank Miller, Berni Wrightson, and George Pérez. There was also a branch line in DC that was dedicated to horror titles that sought artistic talent from Asia and Latin America.
The comics also stopped appearing on newsstands and began stocking up in specialty comic book stores in hopes of reaching more specialized audiences. Fans became acquainted with their favorite writers and artists as more and more of them began to keep copywrites for the work they created rather than hand it over to the companies they worked for. With comic book stores, small publishers could reach audiences more easily, and some comic book artists began to self-publish.
Finally, the anthologies disappeared, which had the effect of normalizing the length of the comics to a narrow range so that multiple stand-alone stories could appear in a single issue. Previously, anthologies were used to create new characters, house characters who had lost their own titles, or to feature multiple characters without making unique numbers for each.
How will the comic book industry continue to change? Keep an eye out for my article on the dark and modern ages of comics, coming soon!
National Comic Strip Day is celebrated on Saturday, September 25. How do you celebrate it?
Did I miss anything in my post on Comic Book History: The Silver and Bronze Ages? Do you have your own story to add? Let me know in the comments below!
Image presented by Gage Skidmore via Flickr
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