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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You didn't mention blue kryptonite, which kills Bizarros.

I didn't mention a whole bunch of types of kryptonite, because they weren't on the cover he was asking about. But thanks for not saying I *forgot* blue kryptonite, because I would never do that.

I would haunt the drug stores and spinner racks in my town, looking for new Marvel issues, terrified that I might almost miss a copy of the FF or something related to them. 

My experience was very similar, I just expanded it to DC and Marvel both, with top favorites from both as opposed to just one company. I tend to think I didn't see many Charlton or Gold Key comics because they weren't well distributed, but I could've been just looking past them because I never had enough money for all the good stuff, and those never were that high on my list.

Like you say, I used to hit the drugstores right after school on the key days, often to find the stack of magazines still wrapped in metal bands, those new comics tantalizingly close but untouchable. Occasionally, I tried to pull some comics out that I could see I wanted, leading to a few discussions with the druggist about the importance of not doing that versus the importance of getting the comics out before I got there.

Sometimes, I'd convince him to open the bundles and count them out while I was there, other times I'd arrive to find they'd been opened and counted but not put out, since that wasn't the important part (and after I'd been there, there'd be fewer to put out anyway)..

The thing that it's hard to grasp today is that the comics were "comics." They got so many, and they counted them out. It didn't matter which ones they got or how many of each, they got "comics" and put them out on the rack and pulled any overflow with the oldest cover dates. The notion of replacing last month's FF with this month's FF would've boggled their minds.

-- MSA

Mr. Silver Age said:

The problem with defining any Age by a theme or change in direction as a requirement for admission rather than as a time period is that those discrepancies meet up.

For instance, in JLA #1, you have the Silver Age Superman and Flash meeting a Batman who is not yet in the Silver Age. We'd also have to know if Aquaman, WW and GA were in the SA yet.

So if the Batman who takes part in that adventure isn't yet in the SA, but Flash and Superman are, is JLA #1 a Silver Age comic? Can the comic be a SA comic if some of the characters aren't in the SA yet?

That's why I consider it a time period, and why I prefer to talk about the Earth-1 Superman. The Super-Key to Fort Superman was the first Earth-1 Superman story, but he and Batman and Flash all "entered" the SA at the same time.

 

As Mr. S.A. pointed out, the Silver Age does not equate to the beginning of the Earth-One versions of Superman, Batman, et al.

 

For the five DC super-heroes who were continuously published from the Golden Age---Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and Green Arrow---it is a fortunate coïncidence that for most of them, there is a convenient story to demark their shift to Earth-One and that those shifts occur reasonably close to the Showcase # 4/1956 launching of the Silver Age.

 

Aquaman received a new origin, completely different from his Golden-Age one, in "How Aquaman Got His Powers", from Adventure Comics # 260 (May, 1959).  So clearly, this is a story of the Earth-One Sea King.  Some chroniclers set the first Earth-One Aquaman story as early as "Aquaman's Undersea Partner", from Adventure Comics # 229 (Oct., 1956), on the strength that it features the debut of Topo, his octopus pet.  I find that a little shaky---it's difficult, in my opinion, to definitively state that Topo wasn't one of the octopi we saw the Marine Marvel command during the Golden Age or the post G.A. interregnum---but it's a valid point.

 

The Green Arrow received a new origin---the more-known one about Oliver Queen being marooned on an island---in "The Green Arrow's First Case", from Adventure Comics # 256 (Jan., 1959).  Unlike the Golden-Age version, in which Oliver Queen and Roy Harper together created their costumed identities under totally different circumstances, the new one was divorced from Roy Harper, establishing that Green Arrow operated solo for some time.  His kid partner, Speedy, was finally given a new origin in "The World's Worst Archer", from Adventure Comics # 262 (Jul., 1959).

 

Although some claim the first Earth-One story of the Emerald Archer actually came before Adventure Comics # 256, the new origin confirms that we are on Earth-One territory.

 

In 1958, artists Ross Andru and Mike Esposito replaced long-time Wonder Woman artist Harry G. Peter (who had died) as the regular talent on the title.  In that first issue to feature Andru and Esposito's art---Wonder Woman # 98 (May, 1958)---writer Robert Kanigher took the opportunity to revise the Amazing Amazon's origin.  "The Million Dollar Penny" retells her origin, essentially paralleling her Golden-Age version, except that it is set in the then-modern era, with no mention of World War II.  Also, at this point, Queen Hippolyta's hair becomes blonde.

 

A follow-on tale, "Top Secret", from Wonder Woman # 99 (Jul., 1958), details how Wonder Woman became Lieutenant Diana Prince of U.S. Military Intelligence in a series of events that bear no resemblence to how she became Diana Prince back in 1942.  So, clearly, these two issues mark the shift to the Earth-One W.W.

 

Since it would be a few more years before DC would launch the parallel-Earth concept (in The Flash # 123 [Sep., 1961]), DC didn't introduce these new origins with the deliberate intention of establishing Earth-One versions of these heroes.  More likely, the actual reason for the revised origins was an attempt to update the characters for the current generation of readers---less-dramatic re-writes but in the same vein as what Julius Schwartz had done with the Flash and Green Lantern.

 

After the creation of the Earth-One/Two concept, fans went back and, after the fact, attempted to determine when these heroes' adventures shifted to Earth-One.  The usual criterion applied was to identify the first story to contain elements which were strictly Earth-One concepts.  Just which stories contained that first element varied among comic-book scholars, but that was the benchmark.

 

Yet, one will observe that the Silver Age began before any of these Earth-One-defining tales.  In other words, Aquaman and Green Arrow and Wonder Woman were clearly in the Silver Age and sort of eased into their Earth-One classifications.

 

Applying the same criterion---the first appearance of a strictly Earth-One concept---is what leads most folks to identify "The Super-Key to Fort Superman", from Action Comics # 241 (Jun., 1958), as the first Earth-One tale of the Man of Steel, as it marks the first appearance of his Fortress of Solitude.  Like Mr. S.A., that's how I tend to view it.  The fact of the matter is, unlike Aquaman and Green Arrow and Wonder Woman, there are some snags.

 

First, you have the problem that DC established the story "The Mightiest Team in the World" as the adventure in which the Earth-One Superman and Batman learnt each others' secret identities, and that tale appeared in Superman # 76 (May-Jun., 1952).  Even harder to dismiss is the fact that the adventures of the Man of Steel as a boy had been running as a series since More Fun Comics # 101 (Jan.-Feb., 1945) before moving to Adventure Comics in 1946.  Superman # 46 (May-Jun., 1947) featured "That Old Class of Superboy's", which included a healthy flashback to Superman's boyhood hero days.

 

This again demonstrates Craig's point that Earth-One wasn't the same thing as the Silver Age.  One could argue---since it was established that the Earth-Two Superman did not have a career as Superboy---that all of the stories I mentioned in the paragraph above involved the Superman of Earth-One, but they were squarely part of the Golden-Age era.

 

One of the biggest errors of DC's 1985 Who's Who series (and there were plenty of errors) was the insistence that the stories of the Earth-One Batman did not begin until "The Mystery of the Menacing Mask", from Detective Comics # 327 (May, 1964).  The intention was to demark the Batman wearing the bat-insignia with the yellow ellipse as the Earth-One version, and the simple bat-insignia as belonging strictly to the Earth-Two Masked Manhunter.

 

It was bone-headed thinking, though, even transcending laziness on the part of DC staffers.  FIrst, as Craig pointed out, the Justice League of America was strictly an Earth-One concept; yet, the oval-less Batman had been a member of the JLA since its first story in The Brave and the Bold # 28 (Feb.-Mar., 1960).  Patently, the Earth-One Caped Crusader had originally worn the plain bat-insignia.

 

Moreover, there were stories---"Batman's Baffling Turnabout", from Batman # 183 (Aug., 1966), and "The Case of the Abbreviated Batman", from Detective Comics # 360 (Feb., 1967)---which self-referenced the change in the Batman's chest emblem.  (In the former story, the change was a major plot-point.)

 

So even if, based on the changes in art and writing that Julius Schwartz bestowed on Batman in his "New Look", one wants to consider the Gotham Gangbuster's entry into the Silver Age as stemming from Detective Comics # 327, here again, the character was plainly on Earth-One long before this.

The beauty of thinking in terms of Earth-1 vs. Silver Age is that stories could go back and be set on Earth-2 after the first Earth-1 story was told, but once you're in the Silver Age, you're in.

For instance, in Superman #128, Supes reviews his history and neglects to mention he was ever Superboy. No doubt, that's because this is an Earth-2 story, where he never was Superboy. Yet the other stories in that same issue could've been Superman on Earth-1. But there's no chance that one story was of a "non-SA" Superman while the others in the issue were SA.

As you note, Commander, the most obvious distinction is that Superboy is an Earth-1 character, so all of his adventures, back into the 1940s, were Earth-1 stories, probably the first. They took place well before the SA began.

Another interesting note is that Overstreet designates some issues with September-October 1956 dates as "first SA issue" in his listings, regardless of anything that happened in that issue--and it doesn't affect the price of the issue.

Even with all those distinctions, I can't wrap my head around the notion that The Flash was in the SA for 7+ years before Batman got there. That seems to imply that, without the editorial switch, Batman might never have entered the SA, since it apparently wasn't a requisite that he ever get there. So again, we come back to what defines an "Age," and how Batman didn't have it for so long.

-- MSA

Oh yes, I had few confrontations with drugists and their employees in my day. In particular was Lonnie Stanton, a statuesque blonde who was a good friend of my older sister.  She was employeed part time at the main drug store and I guess I must have given her a heart attack or two until she figured out that I was digging into the bundle to look at just one copy of each comic.  

After a request that I NOT do that (must have lead to a discussion with their distributor for regularly shorting them one copy of Marvels) she got to recognise that if the bundle had been disturbed, I was there before her.  And if the count of the Marvel comics were off by just one copy, it was a sure sign that I had been there.  I think she just accepted it, but as a kid, I wouldn't/couldn't keep from looking when I KNEW that they were just sitting there.

I also recall seeing not only the oversized Spectacular Spider-Man magazine show up ("Where do we put this one, boss? It don't fit on the rack!") and the seminal Castle of Frankenstein #12 with the light blue cover with the interview of Stan Lee (Didn't it have a minuture version of Spider-Man #42 attached to it, or am I thinking of some other magazine?)  As I recall, that was the article that so inflamed other members of the bullpen (Jack Kirby, especially) that Stan was being credited with total creativity for the entire Marvel  Comics success. (This would come back to haunt him several years later.)


Mr. Silver Age said:

My experience was very similar, I just expanded it to DC and Marvel both, with top favorites from both as opposed to just one company. I tend to think I didn't see many Charlton or Gold Key comics because they weren't well distributed, but I could've been just looking past them because I never had enough money for all the good stuff, and those never were that high on my list.

Like you say, I used to hit the drugstores right after school on the key days, often to find the stack of magazines still wrapped in metal bands, those new comics tantalizingly close but untouchable. Occasionally, I tried to pull some comics out that I could see I wanted, leading to a few discussions with the druggist about the importance of not doing that versus the importance of getting the comics out before I got there.

Sometimes, I'd convince him to open the bundles and count them out while I was there, other times I'd arrive to find they'd been opened and counted but not put out, since that wasn't the important part (and after I'd been there, there'd be fewer to put out anyway)..

-- MSA

...Wasn't the origin of the Stan/Jack discord a story that appeared in NEW YORK MAGAZINE , at that time the Sunday magazine of the New York Herald Tribune newspaper , (which later , after the the Trib's demise , spun out into the stand-alone slick that exists to this day) , about 1965 ?

I suspect it was simmering long before the break.

...To further complicate " Which Superman is which ? " there was a story in the late 40s that had Superman discovering , for the first time , the story of his being fired off from Krrypton as an infant - This story , IIRC , had Supes in his internal monologue EXPLICITLY stating that he had never known that he was a " forigener " before - And , I am less certian of this , but I believe a suprisingly large number of Superman stories into the " in-between " period stuck with the same idea that the initial published dailies of the Superman newspaper strip also operatied from , the " Krypton as planet of small-s supermen " concept !!!!!!!!!

  BTW , I also have a theory that the " less-powerful , a good guy but not a TOTAL ' Big Blue ' goody-goodie " Superman from ACTION #1 to perhaps stopping just before the " Powerstone " story of late 1941/1942 - Pearl Harbor makes for a nice real world cut-off point , anyway . - might be considered another Superman still , whom I'll informally refer to as " Captain Cleveland "...but anyhow...

...I assume that means the " NYM " article , presumably most people here remember when Sunday newspapers tended to have in-a-seperate-section " Sunday magazines ( " Rotogravure " magazines earlier in the century , I believe . ) , partly coming from featuring color pictures , back when printing for newspapers meant that wasn't really done in/on " regular " newsprint newspapers...The more " upscale " newspapers , especially , might've had fairly elaborate articles in their Sunday magazines , and " the Trib " was on the upscale/" nice " suburbanite and businessman-appealing level among NYC newspapers then...

While it may have been an accurate image, that's a rather cold thing to say about the co-author of the Marvel Age of Comics.  Couldn't they have gotten a retraction or at least a correction in the next issue?

George Poague said:

"Wasn't the origin of the Stan/Jack discord a story that appeared in NEW YORK MAGAZINE , at that time the Sunday magazine of the New York Herald Tribune newspaper , (which later , after the the Trib's demise , spun out into the stand-alone slick that exists to this day) , about 1965 ?"

It was a Herald Trib article in 1966. It apparently depicted Jack as a doofus and Stan as the brains of the team. It was also unkind to Jack's appearance, describing him as "baggy-eyed" and looking like a foreman in the garment district.

...As far as personal manner goes/went , I have sometimes wondered if , as both first-generation born American Jews (IIRC) , if Stan wasn't a little more " uptown " in his manner and accent/lack of one , more " assimilated "...As well as , Jewishness aside , whether Jack , as someone whom, after all , spent many hours in his studio/office alone completing those assignments , was more withdrawn/socially awkward , certainly around strangers/" pressing the flesh "/doing P. R. things...

Regarding the different types of Kryptonite, there's a bit from Jess Nevins' Annotations to Top Ten #1 that I usually use as reference:

The billboard ad, “Red K Kola...His Secret Weakness,” is a reference to Superman’s main weakness, Kryptonite. (That is, Superman before his origins and abilities were revised in “Crisis on Infinite Earths,” but never mind that for now). Kryptonite, in case you don’t know, is an element from Superman’s home planet of “Krypton.” There were several different varieties of Kryptonite, and each had different effects. Gold Kryptonite would rob Superman (or any other Kryptonian) of all of their powers. Green Kryptonite caused Kryptonians great pain, weakened, and would eventually kill them if they were exposed to it for long enough. Red Kryptonite would cause a specific, usually bizarre, effect of limited duration to occur in each Kryptonian; Red Kryptonite was the variety responsible for giving Superman the ant-head, turning him into a gorilla, etc. It is Red Kryptonite, or “Red K,” which is being referred to here. (For the incurably curious, Anti-Kryptonite affects non-super-powered Kryptonians the way Green K affected super-powered Kryptonians. X-Kryptonite gives Earth cats Kryptonian superpowers for a short while. White Kryptonite kills plant matter. Blue Kryptonite affects Bizarros [odd and imperfect duplicates of Superman and other Earth figures] the way that Green K affects Kryptonians. Jewel Kryptonite allows residents of the other-dimensional Phantom Zone to cause explosions in this dimension.)

Mr. Age wrote:

I can't wrap my head around the notion that The Flash was in the SA for 7+ years before Batman got there. That seems to imply that, without the editorial switch, Batman might never have entered the SA, since it apparently wasn't a requisite that he ever get there. So again, we come back to what defines an "Age," and how Batman didn't have it for so long.

You're wrapping your head so tightly that you're not thinking straight, Mr. Age. The New Look was NOT when Batman entered the Silver Age; I'd say he joined the Silver Age around the time that Bat-Woman debuted, which was also around the time that the Barry-Flash debuted. The Second Heroic Age (aka the Silver Age), after all, was a term coined to denote that period of time when all the superheroes started coming out of the woodwork again after a long fallow period.

 

As you well know, there were plenty of other heroes, super- and otherwise, who debuted or were revived in the 1950s before the Flash, but the reason why we say the Silver Age started with SHOWCASE # 4 is because the Flash led to something... it wasn't just a short-lived, errrrr, flash in the pan, so to speak. The Flash led to Green Lantern, which led to the JLA, which led to Fantastic Four, et al. So it's got a pedigree that no other single comic book of the period can match. But the Silver Age is less a historical point in time than it is a literary period... thus you can have comic books in the late 1950s that don't look the least bit like what we think a Silver Age comic book should look, but they're still appearing in the Silver Age.

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