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How come nobody cares about the Golden Age of Comics?

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Oct 31st 2012 at 6:33:38 AM

Not that I'm the most informed on the history of the industry, but I haven't heard any stories of Running the Asylum during the Silver Age. No authors who said "This happy crap sucks! I want things to be darker like when I was a kid!" And while there are quite a few stories that were written as a homage to the Silver Age, I haven't heard of any similar stories for the Golden Age.

Is it because comic readers who were kids back then are dead or no longer reading comic books, or is there some other reason the Golden Age gets left out in arguments of which era of comics was the best?

Oct 31st 2012 at 7:06:16 AM

Have you read any Golden Age comics? There are a few exceptions, but they're mostly horribly bad.

I will point you in the direction of one awesome American comic from the period, though: Judgement Day

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VampireBuddha Hungry dinosaur from Ireland Relationship Status: Complex: I'm real, they are imaginary
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Oct 31st 2012 at 7:13:05 AM

Nobody took comics seriously until the bronze age, and in the silver age people had to work within the comics code.

Oct 31st 2012 at 9:19:29 AM

The Golden Age characters weren't forgotten during the Silver Age. Many of them were brought back. Where do you think the Justice League/Justice Society crossovers came from? We still have some of those characters in comics to this day, or at least reinvented versions of them. I'm not a fan of Earth-2 at all, but James Robinson has said that it's an homage to the Golden Age style of storytelling.

Golden Age comics are often simplistic in terms of writing and art, but they're not entirely without merit. But there's no denying that the Silver Age characters superseded their older counterparts and continue to dominate the industry to this very day. I think that's why you don't see many homages to the Golden Age.

edited 31st Oct '12 9:20:50 AM by andersonh1

Oct 31st 2012 at 9:30:35 AM

The thing that I learned from reading Golden Age comics was that they were the last era in which superheroes actually made sense. World War II was the last war in which non-camo uniforms were relevant (even then, though, most uniforms were earth and khaki tones). This is important to note because it was the last time in which a garish and gawdy uniform or a non-sarcastic patriotic hero could be plausible.

It was also the last era in which total war was unambiguously glorified in the West. After the atomic bomb, most military policy has evolved around preventing total war rather than being in a rush to continue it. This was the last time in which there was a clear, unambiguous "bad guy".

Since then, superheroes have been struggling to reinvent themselves to prevent from seeming out-of-place. The costumes (though saved by the Grandfather Clause) started to become silly during the late-50s and reached full Camp status in the sixties. Red Scare and the War On Terrorism aside, there hasn't been an unambiguous evil in the U.S. for quite some time, so "heroes" are seen as something which is unrealistic outside of mundane acts of heroism from men and women in uniform.

In short, it was a different era. The reason Captain America The First Avenger works so well is because it used everything I just said above to demonstrate just how needed those tropes were back in that era.

Oct 31st 2012 at 9:51:46 AM

[up][up] I wasn't talking about the characters, I was talking about the overall era.

edited 31st Oct '12 9:51:57 AM by Austin

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Oct 31st 2012 at 10:06:44 AM

If I had my way, American comics would be all about the Golden Age and Bronze Ages. Good things did come out of the "Silver Age" but they were largely the minority to the overwhelming badness.

Now, the Golden Age may not have been the best times for superheroes, but that was only because Superheroes were not the main thing every notable comic publisher was putting out, more over, superheroes were naturally being fazed near the end of the Golden Age as other kinds of stories became higher in demand, you know, the way they are in every other form of media! The Silver Age was an act of self castration that should be laughed at ridiculed, the dark age was a pathetic artificial attempt to generate demand for horribly written and horribly drawn books.

The only two ages where American comics were even close to the track they should have been on were the Golden and Bronze ages.

edited 31st Oct '12 10:07:46 AM by Cider

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Oct 31st 2012 at 10:17:23 AM

Would EC Comics count as Golden Age? They kinda died out after the Code was implemented, but are still frequently referred to as inspiration (Stephen King really loves them, for example) and homaged.

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Jhimmibhob from Where the tea is sweet, and the cornbread ain't Relationship Status: My own grandpa
Oct 31st 2012 at 10:51:14 AM

The Golden Age is hands-down my favorite, and I loathe the Silver Age with the purplest of passions. But to understand the latter's reluctant to hearken back, you have to understand the era as a whole.

The postwar '40s and '50s were a time when the "future" was king. Many of the country's most irreplaceable buildings got torn down during that era, and replaced with faux-futurist junk. The ironclad, conformist wisdom of the day was a sort of complacent shallowness, a belief that modern science and designated experts would eventually sterilize the human condition, ridding it of premodern "darkness" and ambiguities. In virtually every creative field, it was among the most anti-nostalgic of times, and the makers of comic books were no exception. That miserable hack Julius Schwartz was a prototypical man of his era.

"She was the kind of dame they write similes about." —Pterodactyl Jones
Oct 31st 2012 at 12:25:24 PM

I LOVE the Golden Age, and am very fan of the (self coined) Stone Age.

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Oct 31st 2012 at 1:10:34 PM

I noticed that a lot of very early Golden Age superheroes were essentially societal wish-fulfillment characters, who were mostly put up against powerful evil people who called to mind the sort of person everyone in real life hates but no one has the power to touch. Superman's first adventure had him save an innocent from the electric chair, and Batman's pitted him against a Corrupt Corporate Executive who was bumping people off to advance in the company. Essentially, they did what we all wish we could do to the people we all wish we could throttle. Supervillains didn't come into vogue until a bit later.

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Oct 31st 2012 at 1:12:36 PM

I wasn't talking about the characters, I was talking about the overall era.

In that case, I wonder how much of that stems from how rare most material from that time was, at least until recent years when more reprints and collected volumes became available? It's hard to have a lot of interest in an era that you haven't read. I wonder how many comic book writers today have ever read much in the way of golden age comics? I genuinely don't know, but I suspect a small fraction of them.

Or maybe it's always been available to someone who had the time and money to track it down. Again, how many comic book writers of the last few years cared to do that?

edited 31st Oct '12 1:13:37 PM by andersonh1

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Oct 31st 2012 at 2:07:21 PM

One thing to keep in mind is that most of the Silver Age creators were in fact also Golden Age creators or people who'd grown up with Golden Age comics. This is why Barry Allen met Jay Garrick a few years into his career—the same writer had done the previous Flash, so he pleased older readers by bringing him back. And soon, the Justice Society came out of retirement too as a treat for Golden Age fans.

Likewise, over at Marvel, Stan Lee grabbed two of the characters older readers remembered from their youth, the Sub-Mariner and Captain America...and the Human Torch of the Fantastic Four was a remake of their third big seller, which is why he got a solo series.

Those Golden Age titles that went above and beyond the limitations of their time, like The Spirit and EC Comics, were kept evergreen in memory by fandom (mostly via the postal service back in those days.

If the Golden Age of comics isn't as big a thing in fandom as it used to be, it's because most of the fans who experienced it first hand, and the last few creators, are dying off themselves.

Oct 31st 2012 at 9:35:53 PM

Mostly, I'd say if the influence of the Golden Age is less felt today, it is in fact because most of the people who remember it are dead. Most of the guiding lights of the Silver Age were holdovers from the the Golden Age. With a few exceptions, you really didn't see new blood making much of an impact in mainstream comics until the very late 60's and early 70's. The Bronze Age was founded by folks who grew up reading Silver Age comics. And honestly, it wasn't until those fans grew up and started making their own comics that comics got much respect from the people who made them (with some notable exceptions) because prior to that, most of the artists and writers weren't fans, they were just artists and writers working for a paycheck.

TobiasDrake Exposition Dragon from Colorado, USA Relationship Status: She's holding a very large knife
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Nov 1st 2012 at 8:06:45 AM

I think it may also have something to do with comics becoming more and more mainstream. When I was a kid, you could get your ass kicked by the other kids for getting caught having a Batman v. Superman discussion in school. Today, my grandma has a favorite superhero.

As the cartoons, video games, and especially the films bring the Marvel and DC universes more fully into public awareness, a lot of new readers are coming in who have never and probably will never read anything from the Golden or Silver Age.

This colors any discussion about which era was "the best" when half the people involved in the discussion haven't read half the eras being discussed, and can only argue from what they've seen. Case in point: my personal favorite era is actually the one we're in right now. But I've never read anything before the Dark Age.

edited 1st Nov '12 8:07:15 AM by TobiasDrake

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GameGuruGG Vampire Hunter from Castlevania Relationship Status: Shipping fictional characters
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Nov 1st 2012 at 4:10:44 PM

Yeah, there are many homages to the Golden Age of Superheroes, but most people who were around for that are old or dead, so you see more Silver, Bronze, and Dark Age influences now because of that... Especially the Silver and Dark Ages since it's easier to get trades of them. In addition, these three ages were when comics were at their peak.

edited 1st Nov '12 4:11:29 PM by GameGuruGG

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Nov 1st 2012 at 6:37:06 PM

I love Golden Age. If not for the story, I read them to see how characters like Batman and Superman went from murdering rebellious people who defied authority to a non-murderos rebellious figure who still defies authority and the Man of Steel, respectively.

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Nov 1st 2012 at 8:20:50 PM

As bad as the Values Dissonance with a lot of Silver Age stuff is, it's arguably a lot worse with Golden Age works, which is why you tend to see a lot of homage works to the period that are Deconstructions rather than outright love letters.

Nov 1st 2012 at 9:24:25 PM

A lot of Golden Age super hero stuff is interesting because they hadn't codified things yet; it's interesting to see all the permutations. The Golden Age is also quite interesting for all the stuff that WASN'T super hero comics.

And actually, the Golden Age Superman can be divided into 3 distinct eras: there's Superman from 1938-1941 which was done by Siegel and Shuster; this is the Superman who took on Washington lobbyists and didn;t have much problem with breaking a villain's neck if he felt they deserved it. There's Superman from 1941-1948, in which Superman was primarily still written by Siegel but drawn by various artists ghosting for Joe Shuster, most notably John Sikela and Wayne Boring. This Superman was still an outlaw, at least until the war broke out, but was noticeable less radical in his approach to crime-fighting, but still enjoyed mixing it up. Then in 1948 Siegel and Shuster were forced out and DC took full control, with Wayne Boring (now with a much less cartoony style) serving as the primary artist (Curt Swan started contributing around '49, but wouldn't become the signature artist until 1960 or so). This Superman was much mellowed from his earlier incarnations and was virtually indistinguishable from the Superman of the 50's and 60's.

Nov 3rd 2012 at 2:58:55 AM

I like the original runs of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. Supes is really trying to change society for the better and fights corruption more than super-villains. Batman is more raw and still makes a lot of sense. WW is mostly a spy smasher which is a surprisingly coherent role for her.

Jay and Alan's books have problems. They lack real challenges. Gangsters come out of nowhere as excuses for action. The plots begin to get very cliche. Silver Age helped their legacies a lot because it gave them cool sci-fi badguys.

Morrison's Action Comics has a little bit of Golden Age revival, which I like a lot. Valiant Comics was supposed to have Golden Age influences and seemed interesting in general.

Nov 12th 2012 at 4:35:19 AM

I know Big Bang Comics is a Golden Age throwback company. Their stories are interesting in writing Golden Age-type plots in a more modern way.

Really, one of the biggest problems of the Golden Age is that they hadn't realized the adage "show, don't tell". Panels would always have a description of the action in a text box, even though you were often seeing it in that same panel. But even worse was when it should have been shown (such as, the Flash's debut has his first fight happens entirely between two panels). Yes, there was racism and sexism, but that was a product of the times—our media will always be an extrapolation of the morals our society has, and at the time, it was perfectly fine to think of the only heroes as white straight Christian men.

Jhimmibhob from Where the tea is sweet, and the cornbread ain't Relationship Status: My own grandpa
Nov 13th 2012 at 7:52:16 PM

Instead of the "new Earth-2," I desperately wish that DC had tried properly launching a Golden Age universe. Putting on my "newly appointed DC dictator hat," I envision a series of related Golden Age titles. all set circa 1940. Sci-fi is absolutely banned: the only non-mundane forces are magical, or at most Cthulhoid. The superhero aesthetic shares equal space with horror and pulp action. Scummy racketeers, Nazi saboteurs, Oriental cults, and monstrosities from beyond the veil menace humankind: our heroes battle and defeat them all in impeccably Deco style.

A man can dream.

"She was the kind of dame they write similes about." —Pterodactyl Jones
Nov 13th 2012 at 8:57:51 PM

[up] But sci-fi was an integral part of the Golden Age.

Nov 13th 2012 at 11:38:32 PM

[up][up]Yeah, Sci-Fi was NEVER a part of Golden Age stories... (Superman and Captain America spring to mind)

edited 13th Nov '12 11:39:19 PM by TheConductor

Jhimmibhob from Where the tea is sweet, and the cornbread ain't Relationship Status: My own grandpa
Nov 14th 2012 at 6:51:08 AM

[up]That's more an aesthetic choice on my part than a statement about the actual Golden Age. The Golden Age certainly had science-fiction elements, but it was mid-century sci-fi enthusiasm that effectively killed the older pulp elements and brought us the Silver Age (shudder).

It seems to me that a Golden Age faux-revival could do worse than to emphasize the magical and horrific, and to make a policy of eschewing Zeerust at every level. As with the Marvel Ultimate universe and its idea of reimagining nearly everything through the filter of the Super Soldier program, it'd be a self-imposed limitation that nonetheless encourages greater creativity and coherency.

edited 14th Nov '12 6:51:51 AM by Jhimmibhob

"She was the kind of dame they write similes about." —Pterodactyl Jones

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