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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It sounds to me like LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT would be a great candidate to launch whatever Age *followed* the Bronze Age.

It wasn't an Age, though, since Ages are about excitement with superheroes, and  none of the 1,000 people who bought 7 million copies of Jim Lee's X-Men #1 were excited about the superhero adventure they were about to read. Just like the people who bought All-Star Western #58 weren't excited about the JSA and that's how we know the GA had ended.

So just like ACTION # 1 and SHOWCASE # 1 and GSX-M # 1 all set off their various eras with new superheroes, LOTDK set off the age of marketing and speculation

See what you did there? You changed the focus from "superheroes" to "marketing and speculation." That's my exact definition of when an Age ends: When superheroes stop being the focus of comics excitement.

And, BTW, in your zeal to set up your argument, did you really just peg the beginning of the SA to SHOWCASE #1? Did you really?

Also, just for pure logic sake, ending an age with a first issue seems sorta upside-down.

Not if that new #1 shows that the focus is no longer on superheroes. Had they renumbered All-Star when it changed and called it All-Star Western #1, it'd be easier to see. Likewise maybe if we wanted to point to Conan #1 as showing the SA was over.

The SA began with an issue numbered #4 (you can look it up) and then proceeded to ones numbered 22, 34, and then 28 and 105. That seems kinda weird too. The BA began with a #1 issue for a title that never appeared again. None of that bothers me.

So I'll stick with CRISIS # 12 as the end point to the Bronze Age,

All those many new and returning readers who arrived then to read new and exciting superhero stories will be sorry to learn they got there just as an Age of superhero excitement ended. But, as I said, my interest in making you see the light isn't that strong. Nobody agrees on anything about the BA, so two people agreeing on its ending would be a rarity indeed.

Plus, I'm not called Mr. Bronze Age (thank god). I believe the crown is sitting in the gutter if you'd like to pick it up.

-- MSA

Well, I call myself a "Fan of Bronze" though I have no desire for that crown either!

But to give my two cents, I can accept Crisis on Infinite Earths #12 as the end of DC's Bronze Age. Indeed, when Crisis debuted, I knew it was the end of the majority of "my" childhood heroes. I firmly believe that every title can have separate dates for their Silver. Bronze, Whatever Ages beginning and endings. 

Did The Avengers, for example, enter the Bronze Age with the Kree-Skrull War? Or #100? Or when Roy Thomas stopped writing it? Or when Steve Englehart started writing it? The coming of Mantis? The Avengers/Defenders War? The Celestial Madonna?

That's a period of about four years. So it's not an abrupt departure but a slow evolution.

I knew it was the end of the majority of "my" childhood heroes.  

I'm not sure that kind of personal feeling carries much weight in deciding Ages for all fans. Crisis rebooted things, but ultimately they weren't all that much different, IMO, it just got a lot of attention and brought in readers who wanted to check things out. Just like the Batman TV show did in the SA.

One guy I know argues that the SA began with Captain Comet and ended with Go-Go Checks, because he's older and that coincides with when HE was interested in comics. It feels right to him.

I firmly believe that every title can have separate dates for their Silver. Bronze, Whatever Ages beginning and endings.

Then I won't try to talk you out of it. But I just as firmly believe that Ages are time periods, not styles or plotlines within each title. I don't know that anyone has ever argued that Michaelangelo left the Renaissance at a different time than Raphael or Donatello.

Did The Avengers, for example, enter the Bronze Age with the Kree-Skrull War? Or #100? Or when Roy Thomas stopped writing it? Or when Steve Englehart started writing it? The coming of Mantis? The Avengers/Defenders War? The Celestial Madonna?

You kind of make my point. Every title has all kinds of changes or big epic storylines. Picking one to be the final Age story is just a matter of deciding when the Age ended and picking the nearest story.That's pretty arbitrary. Someone else (hi, Dave!) has done that for the SA, and I don't agree with him on that Age either.

If nothing else, you're suggesting that Roy Thomas leaving the Avengers created so much excitement for the title that it started its Bronze Age. That seems harsh. Was Roy Thomas really such a bad writer that him leaving created a lot of new excitement?

That's a period of about four years. So it's not an abrupt departure but a slow evolution.

Ages always start slowly and end slowly, which leads to the discussions. When you microsize the entries to individual titles, especially when they aren't starting up new as happened with the SA, it gets really tough. I prefer the bigger picture, of one comic that influenced many others across the industry as the starting points. 

The lights always go out little by little, so some people pick the first light going out as the sign of decline and others pick the last light as the sign that it's definitely ended. That makes it tougher to get agreement.

-- MSA

>> Ages are about excitement with superheroes, and  none of the 1,000 people who bought 7 million copies of Jim Lee's X-Men #1 were excited about the superhero adventure they were about to read. Just like the people who bought All-Star Western #58 weren't excited about the JSA and that's how we know the GA had ended.

I think we're experiencing semantical differences. Because it sure seems to me like ALL-STAR COMICS # 57 was the END of the Golden Age and ALL-STAR WESTERN # 58 was the beginning of the interregnum between the Golden and Silver Ages (sometimes referred to as the Atomic Age). The last issue of a seminal superhero comic book makes a natural end point for that age; the first issue of a western comic book that is built on the charred husks of a burnt-out superhero comic book makes a natural beginning point for the fallow period that follows.

I think you're also making a HUUUGGGGGEEEEE assumption when you suggest that nobody who bought X-MEN # 1 was excited about it. Maybe *you* weren't excited about it, but it was clearly something that got people into the comic book stores to buy a new comic book.

>> You changed the focus from "superheroes" to "marketing and speculation." That's my exact definition of when an Age ends: When superheroes stop being the focus of comics excitement.

So why do you use Kirby leaving Marvel in 1970 as the definition of when superheroes stopped being the focus of comics excitement? FANTASTIC FOUR didn't cease publication; Kirby just stopped drawing it. Shouldn't the end of the Silver Age, by your definition, be the final issue of a really important superhero comic book, which was followed the next month by something distinctly non-superheroic? Using your logic, HOUSE OF MYSTERY # 174 would be the perfect end point for the Silver Age. (And I wouldn't necessarily disagree with you.)

>> Did you really just peg the beginning of the SA to SHOWCASE #1?

Sorry, clearly just a typo. I meant SHOWCASE # 4.

>> The SA began with an issue numbered #4 (you can look it up) and then proceeded to ones numbered 22, 34, and then 28 and 105.

Wait... are you saying every issue of SHOWCASE in between the Flash's first appearance and Green Lantern's first appearance weren't part of the Silver Age? Huh?

Crisis certainly resonated with the feelings of fans of a certain age but it wasn't merely an emotional response. The events of the series like the deaths of Barry Allen and Kara Zor-El, the destruction of the Multiverse, the rewriting of DC's history, the total revamping of Superman and Wonder Woman afterwards so we knew nothing was going to be the same again. So that seemed very different to a lot of us.

Besides, didn't DC market the Man of Steel mini as a new beginning?

So before COIE #12 and after COIE #12 is not a time period? All the #1s and new origins aren't enough to start a New Age? But multiple covers are? I see your point with Legends of the Dark Knight but I never saw it as the starting point of Batman III as I did with Man of Steel #1 with Superman III.

As for Roy Thomas, his leaving The Avengers after such a lengthy run is an important event to signify a change in ages much like Jack Kirby leaving Fantastic Four or Mort Weisinger no longer editing the Super-titles. Those departures help delineate between the Silver and Bronze Ages!

>> I just as firmly believe that Ages are time periods, not styles or plotlines within each title. I don't know that anyone has ever argued that Michaelangelo left the Renaissance at a different time than Raphael or Donatello.

No, I disagree with all of that. I say that comic book ages are akin to literary ages, so while I can't comment on your comparison of the artists, I can point out that Robert Burns was considered to have been a poet of the Romantic Age not the 18th Century, even though he spent his entire life in the 18th Century and thus his writings overlapped some of the latter-day 18th Century poets. So yes, comic book ages can overlap (for instance, I would say that the Joe Orlando HOUSE OF MYSTERY comic books exist outside of the Silver Age and are a part of the Weird Age interregnum between the Silver and Bronze Ages. For one thing, the Orlando books aren't superhero comic books, whereas HOM prior to Orlando had been a superhero comic book. However, Mort Weisinger's JIMMY OLSEN comic books of the same late 1960s timeframe would still very much be Silver Age superhero comics.)

As a brief aside, I wish Legends of the Dark Knight #1 garnered more attention than that caused by its multiple color-overlay covers. It was the first comic I bought after a ten-year absence. I bought it (a single copy) new at the San Diego Comic-Con. At that point I hadn't entered a comic store since the direct market began. It was also the first non-Code comic I saw and it was generally an excellent series.

I think we're experiencing semantical differences. Because it sure seems to me like ALL-STAR COMICS # 57 was the END of the Golden Age and ALL-STAR WESTERN # 58 was the beginning of the interregnum between the Golden and Silver Ages (sometimes referred to as the Atomic Age).

It partly is semantic. I say the BA ended with ASC #57, because the NEXT issue was ASW #58. That is the indication the Age has ended. Jack Kirby’s last issues at Marvel indicate the end of the SA, because the NEXT issues didn’t have him in them. He’d gone off to create new concepts at DC, which mostly weren’t superheroes.

I say LOTDK #1 indicated the BA had ended the month before. But there was no dramatic change from the previous issue, because there wasn't one. It was a new title that changed how comics were sold to readers. That to me is a clear milestone.

I think you're also making a HUUUGGGGGEEEEE assumption when you suggest that nobody who bought X-MEN # 1 was excited about it. Maybe *you* weren't excited about it, but it was clearly something that got people into the comic book stores to buy a new comic book.

I’m not sure what you are misunderstanding. I think GS X-M #1 started the BA, because people got so excited about it that other comics followed its lead. I thought I’d been pretty clear on that.

So why do you use Kirby leaving Marvel in 1970 as the definition of when superheroes stopped being the focus of comics excitement? FANTASTIC FOUR didn't cease publication

I don’t think there was a bigger, more significant event in the 1960s. If you see Kirby as the artist of FF, then you drastically underestimate his influence. He helped create many of Marvel’s characters, laid out many comics for others, and had the style Stan pointed to when he hired a new artist.

>>Shouldn't the end of the Silver Age, by your definition, be the final issue of a really important superhero comic book, which was followed the next month by something distinctly non-superheroic?

Not necessarily. It would have to be a change that lessened excitement about superheroes across a lot of comics at more than one company. Kirby leaving Marvel altogether (not just FF) and going to DC to create non-superhero titles fits that bill. Coupled with Weisinger leaving Superman and breaking up the super-books to a variety of editors, I don’t see anything of anywhere near that significance at the Big Two in that short period.

>>Wait... are you saying every issue of SHOWCASE in between the Flash's first appearance and Green Lantern's first appearance weren't part of the Silver Age? Huh?

Obviously not. I’m saying that without Showcase #22, there wouldn’t have been a SA. It took a building of characters using the same concept as that first one to create an Age. They don’t have to be #1 issues, and some weren’t.

>>Crisis certainly resonated with the feelings of fans of a certain age but it wasn't merely an emotional response. The events of the series like the deaths of Barry Allen and Kara Zor-El, the destruction of the Multiverse, the rewriting of DC's history, the total revamping of Superman and Wonder Woman afterwards so we knew nothing was going to be the same again. So that seemed very different to a lot of us.

It was different, but it was even more exciting to many new fans coming in. I’m not especially interested in who the Flash was in this context. I’m interested in the fact that a large number of people walked into a comics shop and picked up superhero comics because they’d heard about the excitement going on. That there were lots of new #1s gave them a chance to jump on, and they jumped.

As I said, the same thing happened with the Batman TV show. It changed the Batman titles and others by introducing a sillier tone and encouraging people like Archie to introduce an entirely new line of superheroes. Those new #1s ADDED to the excitement of superheroes, even if I think they were terrible ideas and changed things I'd liked. It was different to me, but it made superheroes more popular to readers, so it didn't end the SA.

>>Besides, didn't DC market the Man of Steel mini as a new beginning?

A new beginning for Superman, sure, but not for an entirely new Age of comics. If new beginnings bring in new readers, new beginnings can be and probably are part of a new Age, according to my definition of “Age.”

An Age means more than “big changes,” it means new excitement about superheroes. From my perspective, a new Superman comic did not end the Bronze Age for Marvel and every other comics publisher.

>>So before COIE #12 and after COIE #12 is not a time period?

Inside the plotlines, DC characters are sometimes differentiated by pre- and post-Crisis versions. I don’t think Marvel dates too much that way. New #1s and new origins create new excitement for fans who think they can finally understand what’s going on.  

>>All the #1s and new origins aren't enough to start a New Age?

No. Not if an Age is already underway and it gives it a boost. FF #1, ASM #1, DD#1, X-Men #1, etc. didn’t start a new Age, they boosted the Age already underway.

>>But multiple covers are?

Yes, because nobody cared about what was under that cover. The direct market ensured superheroes would never go away, so them fading away to make a new Age start wasn’t going to happen. But why people were buying the comics changed. Nobody was buying millions of copies of X-Men and Spider-Man to read the stories. They didn’t care about the superhero, they were watching their Price Guides. Hence, less actual interest in superheroes, even if superheroes were still selling lots of comics.

>>As for Roy Thomas, his leaving The Avengers after such a lengthy run is an important event to signify a change in ages much like Jack Kirby leaving Fantastic Four or Mort Weisinger no longer editing the Super-titles. Those departures help delineate between the Silver and Bronze Ages!

With all due respect, Roy Thomas leaving the Avengers is not on the same level as Kirby leaving Marvel or Mort leaving comics altogether. I don't believe changes in one comic end an Age. If nothing else, how did Roy leaving the Avengers impact DC? Or other Marvel comics? An Age-ending event should have lots of ripples.

>> I say that comic book ages are akin to literary ages, so while I can't comment on your comparison of the artists, I can point out that Robert Burns was considered to have been a poet of the Romantic Age not the 18th Century, even though he spent his entire life in the 18th Century and thus his writings overlapped some of the latter-day 18th Century poets.

OK, so by your theory, was there a point at which Burns or any other Romantic Age writer LEFT the Age because the themes or style he was using were no longer compatible with the Age? You argue that’s what happened in the SA and each title left of its own accord when a new plot or creator took over. If that’s how it works, then some of those writers left the Romantic Age at some point. It would be pretty convenient if none of their individual works ever were deemed to be outside of the Romantic Age.

>>However, Mort Weisinger's JIMMY OLSEN comic books of the same late 1960s timeframe would still very much be Silver Age superhero comics.)

Are you arguing that no Archie Comics appeared in the SA except for Pureheart the Powerful and Captain Hero? Because only superhero comics came out in the SA? I’d say every comic that came out in the 1960s was part of the SA,. I can’t grasp how an Age of comics works if only some of the comics during those years are part of it.

-- MSA

>> >> I think you're also making a HUUUGGGGGEEEEE assumption when you suggest that nobody who bought X-MEN # 1 was excited about it. Maybe *you* weren't excited about it, but it was clearly something that got people into the comic book stores to buy a new comic book. 

>> I’m not sure what you are misunderstanding. I think GS X-M #1 started the BA, because people got so excited about it that other comics followed its lead. I thought I’d been pretty clear on that.

But we're not talking about GIANT-SIZE X-MEN # 1. We're talking about your contention that nobody who bought Jim Lee's X-MEN # 1 (the one that sold 7 million copies). I'm just trying to figure out why you believe nobody was excited about that book, and why you feel that every single copy of that comic was bought only for speculation purposes. I'm suggesting that there were probably lots and lots of people who actually read the comic book story behind the front cover.

KIRBY LEAVING MARVEL: >> It would have to be a change that lessened excitement about superheroes across a lot of comics at more than one company. Kirby leaving Marvel altogether (not just FF) and going to DC to create non-superhero titles fits that bill. Coupled with Weisinger leaving Superman and breaking up the super-books to a variety of editors, I don’t see anything of anywhere near that significance at the Big Two in that short period.

Okay, now this is where we agree and differ on the same topic. I also agree that Kirby leaving Marvel and Weisinger retiring were the end points of the Silver Age, but I believe that to be so based on the content of the comics, not the "excitement" factor you cite but don't really explain. I don't know that you can actually say that Marvel became *less* popular after Kirby left; if anything, their comics seemed to gain in market share, which wouldn't have happened if all the excitement had leaked away once Kirby left (and of course Stan retired from writing soon afterwards, and yet Marvel continued to gain in market share). Also, I feel that DC's entire lineup improved dramatically when Kirby came over and Mort retired. The DC comics of 1971, line-wide, were a whole lot more exciting than the comics of 1970.

>> Nobody cared about what was under that cover. The direct market ensured superheroes would never go away, so them fading away to make a new Age start wasn’t going to happen. But why people were buying the comics changed. Nobody was buying millions of copies of X-Men and Spider-Man to read the stories. They didn’t care about the superhero, they were watching their Price Guides. Hence, less actual interest in superheroes, even if superheroes were still selling lots of comics.

Again, I think you are too easily dismissing the interests of comic book buyers of the 1990s when you dismiss every single sale as being exclusively for speculative purposes. I would suggest that many of those comic books were indeed opened and read.

>> OK, so by your theory, was there a point at which Burns or any other Romantic Age writer LEFT the Age because the themes or style he was using were no longer compatible with the Age? You argue that’s what happened in the SA and each title left of its own accord when a new plot or creator took over. If that’s how it works, then some of those writers left the Romantic Age at some point. It would be pretty convenient if none of their individual works ever were deemed to be outside of the Romantic Age.

Well, the assignment of various writers to literary ages occurred long before I was born, so I can't really take the credit for that one. But yeah, that theory definitely works for comic books. Actually, no less an expert on comic books than Paul Levitz would argue more strenuously than me that a creator or creative team leaving a title during the 1960s would represent the point at which that tilte "left" the Silver Age (Fox & Sekowsky leaving the JLA, for instance).

>> Are you arguing that no Archie Comics appeared in the SA except for Pureheart the Powerful and Captain Hero? Because only superhero comics came out in the SA? I’d say every comic that came out in the 1960s was part of the SA,. I can’t grasp how an Age of comics works if only some of the comics during those years are part of it.

I'll answer your question with one of your one statements: >> An Age means more than “big changes,” it means new excitement about superheroes. When we're talking about the Silver Age in this context, we focus mostly on the superheroes. Obviously there were other genres being published in the 1960s, and many of them -- I'd say ALL of them -- were influenced by the superheroes in one way, shape or form (even if that influence was manifested in those other genres vanishing). We also tend to only focus on American four-color comic books that were sold on spinner racks, but by definition, all comic books that came out in the 1960s came out during the Silver Age. They just don't necessarily share any of the characteristics of the 1960s superhero comics.

I'm just trying to figure out why you believe nobody was excited about that book, and why you feel that every single copy of that comic was bought only for speculation purposes.

You're talking in absolutes, and it's not an all or nothing thing. Clearly some people wanted to read it. Let's agree that 7 million people didn't buy that comic book to read it. I think that was significant in how much the story inside mattered and it became a trend.

I believe that to be so based on the content of the comics, not the "excitement" factor you cite but don't really explain.

I think Marvel was diminished by Kirby leaving and DC was boosted. I think Kirby left a multitude of Marvel superhero books and went to DC and created many books that were only at best related to superhero books. Those are factors that make me think that event--the biggest one of the 1960s and early 1970s to my mind--ended the Age of superhero comics.

I don't know that you can actually say that Marvel became *less* popular after Kirby left;if anything, their comics seemed to gain in market share

Sadly, I'm saying it any way. I think Kirby leaving Marvel to create non-superhero comics at DC diminished Marvel and boosted DC's line of nonsuperhero comics. I'm not sure what you're looking at to gauge market share, but if you have numbers to prove that, I'd be interested.

Also, I feel that DC's entire lineup improved dramatically when Kirby came over and Mort retired. The DC comics of 1971, line-wide, were a whole lot more exciting than the comics of 1970.

But were those superheroes? And Mort's retirement dramatically improved the entire line? I'd be interested in some examples of which ones you're thinking of besides Superman. 

Again, I think you are too easily dismissing the interests of comic book buyers of the 1990s when you dismiss every single sale as being exclusively for speculative purposes. I would suggest that many of those comic books were indeed opened and read.

OK, wherever I said "every single one completely and absolutely," you can substitute "many."

Well, the assignment of various writers to literary ages occurred long before I was born, so I can't really take the credit for that one.

You don't need to take the credit, I just want you to know if The Romantic Age was considered a style of writing or themes or a period of time in which those authors wrote. You say it was the former, and I've never known Ages to work that way.

a creator or creative team leaving a title during the 1960s would represent the point at which that tilte "left" the Silver Age (Fox & Sekowsky leaving the JLA, for instance).

By that example, JLA left the Silver Age in July 1968 when Sekowsky left and again in October when Fox left. And the JLA comic I bought in November didn't feature a Silver Age Batman, but the Batman and Detective comics I also bought DID feature the Silver Age Batman. Likewise Superman, WW, GL, Flash, Aquaman, etc. That makes my head hurt. 

All comic books that came out in the 1960s came out during the Silver Age. They just don't necessarily share any of the characteristics of the 1960s superhero comics.

OK then, if those ARE SA comic books despite not having any superhero characteristics, how can you tell when they left the SA? I'd say any 1969 Archie comics were part of the SA, and any that came out in 1971 are not. 

But if JLA left the SA in 1968 and others left at other staggered times up through 1971, when did Archie comics stop coming out during the SA?

-- MSA

This is from John Wells’ American Comic Book Chronicles:  The 1960s (1965-1969) from TwoMorrows (page 52):

”[Samm] Schwartz may have been the title’s editor but [Wally] Wood callled the shots when it came to content.

“And there was plenty of content to produce.  Publishers Distribution Corporation, which also circulated Archie’ comics, insisted that Tower’s line consist wholly of 64-page 25-cent comics (Klein 8).  In varying degrees, most publishers had explored the format over the past several years, aware that the higher price- point was an incentive for retailers to make more money than on traditional 32-page comics.  No one had been so audacious as to completely abandon the 12-cent model though.”

The citation is to Robert Klein and Michael Uslan’s foreword to The T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents Archives (No. 1) from DC in 2002.  I don’t have the Archive since I have the originals (in really beat up copies, alas) but maybe some one who does can add additional details. 

“Would Tower’s titles have been more successful in the 32-page format” remains an interesting question; maybe in an alternate universe somewhere it happened.


Mr. Silver Age said:

I’ve read somewhere that in the 1960s distributors encouraged Tower (and maybe Lightning) to publish giant comics vs 12 cent-ers, because the margin per sale would be better.  Would Tower have survived longer with 32 page comics?

That’d be interesting. I’ve heard many times that the 25-cent price killed them—I just read the Alter Ego interview with Gil Kane where he said that—but I’d never heard the distributors talked them into it. I figured they did it mostly to stand out and create a thicker package. I can kind of see why distributors would want it, but not if the customers wouldn’t buy it.

-- MSA

I have all of the THUNDER archives. When I get home I'll look through the introductions.

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