Monday, July 24, 2017

The Bronze Age Shift

So, we just spent a week looking at the Comic That Ended The Silver Age: JLA #77 "Snapper Carr -- Super-Traitor".

It leads to the question: what OTHER differences did the Bronze Age bring? Why is it considered a different age from the Silver Age, if there was no break in continuity?  Fair question.  The inability of modern readers to distinguish between the Silver and Bronze Ages because there was no break in continuity is one of my pet peeves.  The wiki article linked above gives you some of the grander meta-view of the shift; here are some specifics in the DCU.

Superman.  Superman went from being a mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper 




to a hapless anchorman for television broadcasting company. 




Some of his foes become noticeably nastier.  After years of being a fat guy in a brown suit or prison greys, Luthor gets a gym membership and a new suit.


And that's terrible!


Batman.  Robin left for college.  




Batman closed down Wayne Manor and moved into a swinging bachelor penthouse in the city. 


Who builds a MOAT around a PENTHOUSE?!


Batman foes were reintroduced as scarier and more disturbed. 


No more John Dough.


Warmed over Fu Manchu knockoff Ra's Al Ghul is introduced as ALREADY having figured out Batman's secret identity and not caring.  


I think Dick still uses that picture on Tinder.


Batman stories become generally spookier ...




and Batman becomes MUCH stupider.


Wonder Woman. Diana loses her supporting cast.  




Diana also loses her powers, 




learns martial arts from an old blind Chinese guy, 




opens a mod dress shop


That's because minis are IN, oh, god, Diana you're just HOPELESS.


fights lesbian slavers




borrows a machine gun.




Flash.  Barry Allen finally marries Iris West, 


I think we can ALL agree with that, Flash.


who figures out he's Flash because he talks in his sleep (as highly disturbed people do).  


That's a LIE. Everything Flash says is a lie.


She's murdered by Reverse-Flash 


This would make an AWESOME mural, by they way.

and Barry moves on FAST.


Barry's a player.


Green Lantern.  Slips on soap on in the shower banging his head, giving us our first black Green Lantern, John Stewart.  


You thought I made that up, didn't you?


Despite having a power ring that can take him across the galaxy, spends an inordinate amount of time with Ollie Queen on purposeless roadtrip of the US.  


Dumb and Dumber: The Bronze Age


Becomes a toy salesman and a truck driver and can't keep a job generally


Do NOT ask about the starfish.  I'm still trying to process the phrase "a thoughtful Hal Jordan".

Unable to sustain his own title, he's forced to buddy up with Green Arrow, of all people.


From your mouth to god's ears, Ollie.


Green Arrow/Black Canary. Black Canary immigrates from Earth-2, gains a super-power, and replaces Wonder Woman in the Justice League.  


Larry was such a good-for-nothing, loudmouth, sexist jackass that Dinah had to come to Earth-2 to find a suitable replacement.


Green Arrow loses all his money, suddenly hates rich people now that he isn't one, grows that stupid goatee, becomes a loudmouthed liberal,


Picking on Hal for being clueless is like kicking a puppy.
Except when I do it.


blows off his sidekick who has become a junkie.  


Ollie's a dick.


GA and BC start (what I will politely call) dating, even though he's the reason her husband died.

Martian Manhunter. Who?  Martian Manhunter was sent away on a space-bus (notice his absence already in the Snapper Carr Super-Traitor story). He completely missed the Bronze Age and the Satellite Era of the Justice League. 


"And don't let the door hit you on the way out...!"


Justice League. In addition to the above changes, the JLA become less a supergroup of all DC's icons than a mechanism for trying to make lesser characters more iconic. Hence the inclusion of 

Zatanna, 


"Someone has violated my mind!" Well... that would explain the new costume, alright.


Firestorm,


Whoa; that's ... limber.
I wouldn't let him in the satellite
but my bedroom is another story.


Hawkgirl (-woman, eventually)



No joke pic; Hawkgirl's awesome.


the incompetent whiny villain-created android Red Tornado, 


When the man who married Jean Loring thinks your trouble, you are.

and the goddammed ELONGATED MAN, a goofy self-aggrandizing wannabe gold-digger left over from some Flash stories.


GOD, I hate that guy.


Not the Justice League.  Superheroes lose market share to other genres like Western, Fantasy, and Horror, which is why the Bronze Age gives us ...

Swamp Thing, 


Back luck for Terry Thomas.


Jonah Hex, 


Bad luck for Santa.



Warlord,


Now THAT's the Demon's Head.


 and




 the Phantom Stranger.  

There's more, but you get the idea.  Frankly, the DCU changed more between the Silver Age and the Bronze than it has in ANY subsequent reboot.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

A few random thoughts:

1) I like what they were going for with de-powered Wonder Woman; the problem is they didn't have the writing skills to portray her "even more badass without her powers" and instead made her "generally broken". Joss Whedon or a dozen other modern writers could have done it so much better.

2) I could have sworn the drawer-ing of Wonder Woman's cast was where the Golden Age gave way to the Silver Age? I could so easily be wrong.

3) Poor Hal. I guess there's only so many years John Broome can write things like "pouncing like a tiger made out of springs and explosions, the Emerald Gladiator leaps into action!" But nobody knew how to make a fearless test pilot interesting, so writer after writer tried to give it the ol' Marvel go and heap failings upon Hal. I think Robert Venditti has a good handle on what's good and bad about Hal, in ways that the O'Neills, Weins, Wolfmans, and Engleharts didn't. (Hal is no deep thinker, but he recognizes oppressors and stands up to them no matter how big they are. You can't intimidate the guy, because as far as he is concerned, it just means he needs to hit back harder.) Anyway, this is the era when Hal really started to go off the rails.

4) Aquaman went unmentioned. Poor Aquaman. There's nobody the Bronze Age was harder on. I smell a follow-up post?

Anonymous said...

... oh, right, forgot to mention that that's not technically the story where John Stewart became a Green Lantern. That's the first appearance where he had to take over for Hal because he'd hit his head, though, so maybe a week after his very first appearance.

Joshua Roots said...

"Who builds a MOAT around a PENTHOUSE?!"

The correct answer to this is, "Because I'm Batman."

Also, White Pantsuit Wonder Woman wins all things for all times. Thank you, Bronze Age.

Scipio said...

2. Nope. All that goofy stuff was still happening to her in the Silver Age.
4. I didn't have the heart.

Brushwood Thicket Farmer said...

The early bronze age is when I first discovered comics. And yet, my favorite thing was often the 100-page and Limited Collectors Editions that reprinted the Silver and Golden age stuff. Those early disturbing changes were kind of fascinating, but the stories never seemed to go anywhere beyond it. I guess my pre-teen mind was clearly already expecting Geoff Johns or Grant Morrison-level stuff... As much as I love seeing you make fun of the old stories now, I took them deadly seriously back then.

Scipio said...

I, too, remember those 100-page giants with great fondness, for the same reason; they introduced me to the Golden and Silver Ages.

Brian Hague said...

A great post and an excellent response to the entire "The Silver Age ended with the snapping of Gwen Stacy's neck" argument. That next wave of long-haired, "don't trust anyone over 30" writers who swooped in after DC threw their older freelancers aside really did alter and re-define the characters for the next decade or decade and a half, although they largely did so in a manner that was respectful of what came before. It would take the Crisis and the "Mine is NOT the third Superman!!" tantrums of later egomaniacs to truly spit on and try to erase the past in order for their new versions to work.
Wonder Woman's defining eras are more difficult to pin down than most, although Batman's are similarly sketchy, eschewing the oval as he did for a good long while in the early days of the JLA. Wonder Woman's Golden Age largely ended when Kanigher first came in, with his outre wackiness and romance elements not quite synching up with what Marston and Peter had established. By the time Wonder Tot and Mister Genie were on the scene, we were solidly in the Silver Age. When did Hippolyta's hair change color? The entire "Wonder Family" era was as off-the-wall Silver Age as it could get, and then Kanigher got the fan-inspired idea to somehow return the book to its Golden Age roots just before the Sekowsky Mod era. As those stories don't actually "groove" with the Marston originals, maybe they're early Earth-2 tales since the late 60's, 70's era JSA doesn't jibe all that well with the actual Golden Age either.
Still, it's all fun. And imaginative. And that's what I'm in this for.

Andrew said...

Not much to say, except

1) Thanks for doing this, Scipio - always a delight to read your analysis!; and

2) I miss the Silver Age.

Question: when did the done-in-one story become superseded by the arc? I associate the former with the Silver Age and the latter with the 1980s. So was that transition in story format also a feature of the transition? If that's correct, so much the worse for the Bronze Age...

Anonymous said...

Great analysis, Scipio!

I tend to think of the Bronze Age as the time when fans ascended to writers and artists were either working pros (like Dick Dillan and Sal Buscema) or envelope-pushers (like Neal Adams or Berni Wrightson). People wanted the medium and the super-hero genre to be taken seriously and reach an older audience. I don't see the Bronze Age as being triggered by events so much as approach.

While you don't mention Kirby's DC work (as it wasn't a change to an existing series or revitalized genre, I assume?), I see it as one of the indicators that the Bronze Age had arrived. Along with Bronze Agre changes such as increased social relevance, new art styles, heavier continuity, and more attempts to expand into other genres, Kirby's New Gods material represent some of the first "cosmic" comics. Like Jim Starlin' and Steve Englehart's work, it featured a mix of sci-fi, mythology, and philosophy with super-hero tropes. The concept took off at Marvel, but DC did get its own "cosmic" corner for its universe.

- Mike Loughlin

Scipio said...

"While you don't mention Kirby's DC work (as it wasn't a change to an existing series or revitalized genre, I assume?), I see it as one of the indicators that the Bronze Age had arrived"

That is VERY true. But that's precisely why I didn't mention it.

It's the common cheat for marking the DC Bronze with an EXTERNAL indicator: Kirby arrives. Well, yes, he did. But all these INTERNAL changes happened without Kirby. The entire DCU changed not just the wacky little corners Jack Kirby was given to play with. And Kirby's changes weren't signs of the times; they were just Kirby being Kirby.

SallyP said...

Things DID get a whole lot... crankier, didn't they?

Brushwood Thicket Farmer said...

Answering Andrew - If we (again) don't count Kirby, the first big DC arc I saw was the Secret Society of Super Villains, of all things. But I don't recall a mainstream DC series indulging in grand arcs until the New Teen Titans.

Scipio said...

Story arcs were started in the Legion of Super-Heroes in the later Silver Age. I believe the Time Trapper was the first one.

cybrid said...

Kind of lagging behind here, but according to Wikipedia, a relatively recent retcon of the JLA's origin reveals that, during its early years, it was secretly bankrolled by none other than...Oliver Queen. Which I'm guessing chafes. Quite a bit.

However, it also revealed that Oliver Queen's front man in that endeavor was secretly working to betray Earth to aliens, and that employee was the uncle of none other than...Snapper Carr. Making him the (I presume) only one who could tell the JLA about what I'm guessing EVEN YOU would consider the stupidest thing that Green Arrow's ever done.

Hm.

cybrid said...

Also, it might help to think it of it not as a moat but as an indoor swimming pool that escaped.

Scipio said...

Cybrid, you are referring to "JLA: Year One". I enjoyed it for many reasons! But it was written 19 years ago....longer ago than the length of the average 'Age' in comics. And (as it had Black Canary replacing Wonder Woman as a JLA founder) it hasn't been in continuity for a LONG time.

cybrid said...

Oh, when it comes to DC I don't even think about continuity any more. I hung on for thirty years or so but New 52 finally broke me. It seems to me that DC's unofficial motto about continuity is: "We don't care. Why should you?" Why, indeed. :-|

But that's just me, of course. :-)

According to his Wikipedia history, Snapper Carr was EXACTLY what the higher-ups wanted: not just a "civilian" teenager but specifically an imitation of "the hip-talking, leather jacket-wearing, finger-snapping "Kookie" Kookson character on the popular television series 77 Sunset Strip." Ultimately, his only crime was to be exactly what The Suits wanted him to be. Poor ridiculous sap. At least he wasn't Marvin White, though, he had that much going for him.

At the risk of being backed into a corner on this, I'm fairly certain that a few golden age DC/National super-heroes had non-powered teenage sidekicks/hangers-on not counting Jimmy Olsen, as if anyone was going to. If DC had revived one of those in some incarnation to fill the role that instead went to Snapper Carr, well, who knows?

Was it Year One that featured the well-forgotten "Agents of G.E.O.R.G.E."? I remember reading that some RELATIVELY recent miniseries did that.

Another memorable kind-of retcon for the JLA's origin was Justice League of America #144. That was a trip, huh?

cybrid said...

From the previous entry: "Green Arrow pretty consistently couldn't stand Snapper"

And it seems that JLA: Year One revealed why. Cool.

Of course aside from Snapper, Green Arrow was the most "mortal" member of the JLA with no super-powers of any kind and just...not Batman, at all. So when Snapper saved the day it was even more jaw-dropping than when Green Arrow saved the day. Snapper made Green Arrow look bad by being the JLA member who was even more "normal" than Green Arrow. And, yes, I realize what I just said.

cybrid said...

This has even less to do with anything than my other comments that have nothing to do with anything but did you know that Green Arrow (and Speedy) once defeated none other than Alexander the Great? Did you, huh, didja, didja? It was in the Seven Soldiers of Victory story in Leading Comics #3 (1942) where mad scientist (I kid you not) Dr. Doome (with an E) pulled some of history's greatest warriors forward in time...

...To commit robberies for him. Man, the golden age was really something, wasn't it? Of course, you can say that about anything.

I suppose that with a plan like that Doome (with an E) was a much madder scientist than customary (that's why so many super-villain plans don't make all that much sense; we're dealing with INSANE people here).

Maybe it was the unnecessary silent E at the end of his name. That must have gotten really frustrating when dealing with bureaucracies of whatever kind. "It's "Doome" with an E, you pencil-pushing poltroon! An *EEEEEEEEEEEEEE*! Bah! Before I'm through, the whole WORLD will know my name! AND how to spell it!"

Yes, the Seven Soldiers of Victory, the super-team where GREEN ARROW was the big name. Roll THAT around in your head for a while, why dontcha? ;-)

This could be an instant tie-in (uh, kind of) for Green Arrow to fight the Planeteer (insert Captain Planet jokes...somewhere), the even madder scientist who thought that he was the reincarnation of Alexander the Great. AFAIK he hasn't yet been seen post-Crisis. Of course he seems far out of Green Arrow's class but heroes defeating villains that they "logically" shouldn't be able to defeat is a crucial theme isn't it? The Planeteer has a purple cape and according to a long-vanished blog, purple in a super-villain's costume is a sign of "lameness" (I'm not claiming it, I'm just repeating it). So he's simultaneously a "lame" villain and one of the greatest warriors of all time. And he'd have a built-in explanation for trying to lord it over Star City, of all places: He's Insane.

I know. I talk too much. I just get going sometimes. I am aware. Sorry about that.

cybrid said...

just this one more thing

Technically, the Silver-Bronze shift isn't a reboot at all. The characters weren't just BAM different all of the sudden ala post-Crisis. They visibly developed into their new personas, much as real-world people do.

For example, George Perez's post-Crisis Wonder Woman was a reboot (and any number of other things, not all of them fit for polite conversation), it started WW's life over from scratch with the pre-Crisis version irrelevant. The Bronze Age WW experienced actual events that changed her from traditional WW into no-powers WW but didn't change her origin/backstory at all. I mean AFAIK.

Clark Kent wasn't all of the sudden a TV newsman, we saw him get the job. We watched Robin Dick Grayson leave for college, we attended the wedding that changed Barry Allen into a married man, we witnessed Hal Jordan get and lose jobs. And like that there.