Silver, Bronze, Iron, Modern Ages: Start & End Dates

OK, there's been a lot of debate over these start and stop points for years, but I'm wondering if there's any real consensus on these point nowadays.

Silver Age-  Most DC fans will point to the first appearance of the Silver Age Flash in (what, Showcase #4?)  Most Marvel fans point to the first issue of Fantastic Four in Fall, 1961.

For an end date, I hear most fans talk about Marvel issues, of either the death of Gwen Stacy in ASM #121 or the departure of Kirby from Marvel with FF #102 or Thor #180.  I don't know if there's a similar DC point or not.

Or maybe it's the first issue of Marvel Two-On-One (sorry, I couldn't resist!)

As for the Modern Age, does it begin with the adjectiveless X-men multiple covers and five trip-tick scenes?  Or is there another point?


What do you say?

 

(OK, I am SO SORRY that I brought this up again... at 15 pages and growing, this was obviously a touchy subject that should have been left alone.  "Let Sleeping Dogs Lie...")

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I’ve written a number of columns on this topic over the years, plus a number of columns devoted to the letters I got in response to the columns and on and on (this was back in the days when my column was weekly in CBG).

CBG ultimately did a huge “Battle of the Ages” article in 2005, in which it asked all of its columnists in a roundtable (via email) to denote dates for each Age and their reasoning. That resulted in even more letters, etc.

Some people love to hash this out. Some people dislike it so much that, when it would come up on the old CBG board, as it regularly did, fans would enter a well-labeled thread to state their boredom with the topic and ask why people were talking about it.

The thing to keep in mind is that it really doesn’t matter. At all. The issues before and after the date chosen look the same. No comic’s price is changed by being before or after these issues, except for the beginning of the Golden Age or Silver Age, which everyone agrees on (and if they don’t, they’re not really worth engaging on the topic beyond that, IMO).

The only time it comes up is when we talk about the Greatest Silver Age whatever. If we don’t agree on the comics included in that set, it’s hard to discuss who should be on the list. That's why I usually note that the list includes comics up to September 1970. (It also comes up when dealers put up big “Silver Age Sale!” signs for comics no older than 1980 at cons, causing me to divert over to their booths and walk away in disgust, but that’s my problem.)

Still, I think it works pretty well as a way to consider comics history and look at the big picture of comics publishing and trends over the years. But I’ve said about all I have to say on the topic, and I doubt anything could come up that would change my mind after this time.

In fact, I find that most people feel that way. They believe what they believe, based on their personal experience, and discussing it doesn’t change that.

That said, I do think I’ve convinced a few people on the start of the Bronze Age, if only because it was so ill-defined to start with.  

Here are my dates:

Golden Age: Action Comics #1 (Jun 38) to All-Star Western #58 (Apr 51) 

Silver Age: Showcase #4 (Oct 56) to Fantastic Four #102 (Sep-70) 

Bronze Age: Giant-Size X-Men #1 (Jul 75) to Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #1 (Nov 89) 

Next Age: Daredevil #1 (Nov 98) to whenever. Whatever.

The CBG article was dozens of pages long. Amazingly, a summary of that mammoth article is still on line here: http://www.cbgxtra.com/new-from-cbg/cbg-1608-xtra-the-battle-of-the.... Note that’s a *summary* and it’s still gigantic, especially due to the huge number of responses. It's a topic that gets a lot of interest, or at least it used to..

A few more threads devoted to it are these:

http://www.cbgxtra.com/new-from-cbg/battle-of-the-ages-ii-finding-e... 

http://www.cbgxtra.com/columnists/craig-shutt-ask-mr-silver-age/bro...

http://www.cbgxtra.com/oh-so-speak-your-mind/my-golden-age-bookends

There are more than that, I think, but those should be so much more than you want to read that it should suffice.

-- MSA

OK, if it's been beaten to death already....

It's been well discussed, for sure but that doesn't mean you can't read those to whatever extent you want and comment on them. But if you're just looking for others' opinions, there are plenty there that we probably don't need to repeat.

There's nearly universal consensus on the starts of the Golden and Silver Ages, but it's only 99.5% agreement on even those two. And after those two, I'm not even sure any specific issues or dates get a majority of votes, much less close to a consensus.

Fortunately, as I noted, it doesn't really matter, except when we make Age lists, and then we can state our limitations.

-- MSA

...Kirk , I like the subject myself , participated in MSA's past discussions , and will say something myself when I have the time !!!!!!!!!

  I tend to feel that:

(1) Furthermore , the well-known " Ages " can have sub-periods broken out of them .

(2) Some less-accepted Ages , I'll grant - Okay , the Atomic and Weird Ages ( I used to suggest " AM-RR Age " for the latter , but anyway . - might be " less full " Ages , but I see them as Ages anyway .

  I do like the " Indicators of old/new Ages " game , too !!!!!!!!!

There are themes throughout comics history which are interesting and reflect fads at different times, but they don't qualify as Ages. Those are usually obvious by their names, which apply to some small subset of cover images or types of comics.

The article in the first link indicates the different issues that are pegged to different points in each Age, as they do tend to have a bell curve, which is why it's tough to pinpoint ends in particular. Some people like the point where it starts downhill, and others like the point at which it loses all its momentum and comes to a stop.

Dave Blanchard has worked out a specific point for each title of the Silver Age to leave the Age, indicating it can be seen from the interiors of the comic. I see what he's looking at, but I don't agree on his conclusion.

The other point to make is that Earth-1 isn't the same as the Silver Age. Some people ask about the first "Silver Age" Superman story, which is hard to explain, but it's much easier to find the first Earth-1 Superman, who was the dominant character in DC's SA.

-- MSA

Back in 2010, Chris Fluit asked: Is There a Bronze Age of Comics?,  What Comes After the Bronze Age? and What Age Is It Now Anyway?

 

Some good discussion there.  Possibly there's more to add since Grant Morrison put his thoughts in Supergods out there, as to what the Ages look like to someone inside the belly of the beast who has given it all a lot of thought.

 

 

One thing that seems to divide the discussion is the actual definition of an age. The terms were originally First Heroic Age of Comics and Second Heroic Age of Comics, clearly indicating that ages are based on the popularity of super-hero comics. Those later got shortened to Golden Age and Silver Age, making it less obvious that the supers were what the ages referred to. Many people object to ages being limited to super-hero comics, thinking all types of genres should be deciding factors as well. I disagree.  Those period of popularity (crime, romance, horror, science fiction, etc.) could have occurred during one of the ages, but they don't define them.


Hoy

Hoy and I agree on this stuff. The problem with the Bronze Age is that most people agree it existed, but they don't agree on when it was, because they don't agree on how to define an "age."

A lot of people consider " Bronze Age" to be the same as "post-Silver Age." Conan is a Bronze Age title, because it's not SA, but it's cool so it should be part of an Age. In some of the descriptions I've seen, the Silver and Bronze Ages actually overlap based on the dates of comics that belong in each from around 1969-1970.

Even in Chris' column, Cap notes that things were changing in the late 1960s, which means the Bronze Age was coming. I'd say it showed the Silver Age was ending and a fallow period was arriving before the Bronze Age came along later in the decade.

For those who want to claim that Conan, GL/GA, TOD, etc., started the Bronze Age because they show new ideas arising, I'd ask why, if Conan started a new Age, the EC Comics didn't. My point: EC comics were part of the fallow superhero period between the Golden and Silver Ages, just as the rise of Conan and monsters did the same between the Silver and Bronze eras.

Conan as the start of the BA bothers me because it wasn't very influential. There weren't a bushel of sword-and-sorcery titles that were hugely successful in its wake, as with the GA and SA.

As I noted earlier, I think it's an interesting way to see some of the cycles in comics. With the dates I like, the Ages are similar in length and even in gaps between them. I'm not sure that's necessary, but it is an interesting trend. But by the late 1980s, I think the comics market had become such a different animal that it's tough to find any trends that stand out to latch onto as Ages.

-- MSA

OK, if it's been beaten to death already....

Well, there's always time for one more go 'round. 

Mr. Silver Age said:

That said, I do think I’ve convinced a few people on the start of the Bronze Age, if only because it was so ill-defined to start with.

-- MSA

I’ll cop to being one of those you convinced. You may not remember this, but you and I exchanged a number of e-mails on this very topic several years ago. [If CBG’s “Battle of the Ages” article was from 2005 it was before that, because by the time that issue was released I was convinced.] I took several things away from our discussion and the feature article that followed it.

Probably most important, as you allude to above, is that before anyone can discuss when this or that age began or ended, the terms must be defined.

Second, most of these discussions are of “The [XXX] Age of Superhero Comics.”

Third, Marvel and DC enter each age at different times, often years apart. Specifically…

GOLDEN AGE:

DC: Action Comics #1; Marvel: Marvel Comics #1

SILVER AGE:

DC: Showcase #4; Marvel: Fantastic Four #1

BRONZE AGE:

Marvel: Giant-Size X-Men #1; DC: New Teen Titans #1

[I, personally, am not so interested in pin-pointing exactly when an age ends. I am perfectly content to accept that it “tapers off.” For example, if the Fantastic Four left the Silver Age with #102, I hold that the last Silver Age issue of Captain America is #113. And so on.]

You defined you terms so well as to what constitutes an “Age” that all of my arguments were blown away. For the record, I don’t recall arguing for anything in particular; I was just arguing against Giant-Size X-Men #1. (1975 just seemed “too late” to me somehow.) It seems perfectly obvious to me in retrospect, but I know how much time you must have put into defining your terms and honing your arguments against lunkheads like me.

One thing that still bugs me, though, is that the “Golden Age of Superhero Comics” overlaps the “Golden Age of Comics (in General).” All genres of comics sold phenomenally in the Golden Age. (That’s why they call it that.) One might expect sales of superhero comics to shoot up during the “Silver Age (of Super-Hero Comics” but if you look at sales figures for all genres in the years leading up to and following (what is commonly agreed upon to be) the beginning of the Silver Age of comics, though, sales figures remained flat for all genres, including superheroes (according to my source, the Gerber Photo-Journal Guide to Comics).

I have my own idea about what constitutes the current Age of comics (and I know you don’t agree with me because I ran it by you when you first joined this board), but so far I’ve been too lazy to set about defining my own set of terms as to what constitutes an age of non-superhero comics, but one of these days, Mr. Silver Age… WATCH OUT! :)

Until that time, I’ll concede your point that it doesn’t really matter.

I think the silver age beginning and ending is up to individual opinion basically because there is no clear set rule. For me it starts with the first reappearence of the Flash and ends when the look of Marvel covers changed from a box in the left hand side to the banner version (1971/72), but it doesn't matter.

Different comics entered the silver age at different times - The Flash in 1956, Superman in 1958 ("The Super-Key to Fort Superman"), the Fantastic Four with it's debut in 1961 and the New Look Batman/Detective in 1964.

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