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How come nobody cares about the Golden Age of Comics?

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TobiasDrake Exposition Dragon from Colorado, USA Relationship Status: She's holding a very large knife
Exposition Dragon
Dec 4th 2012 at 11:58:58 AM

Super-scifi-based characters aren't so difficult to adapt, though.

Are non-parallel dimensions allowed? Parallel universes populated by parallel versions of us are a scifi concept, but the existence of worlds outside our own filled with demons and magic is pure fantasy. Instead of Earth-2, you have Middle-Earth.

Superman could be adapted as a refugee from another plane of existence whose race was being exterminated by an apocalyptic event such as the gates of Hell opening or somesuch, rather than an exploding planet.

edited 4th Dec '12 11:59:16 AM by TobiasDrake

The greatest trick prejudice ever pulled was to convince the world it did not exist.
Respect the Red Right Hand
Dec 4th 2012 at 12:43:50 PM

Honestly, the idea of banning superscience (more realistic) and allowing magic (less so) to be really kind of backwards if you want a realistic Golden Age setting. And you can't have the Golden Age without Cap and Supes. :/

Dec 4th 2012 at 1:12:01 PM

Realism has nothing to do with it, I think, Superhero comics are inherently unrealistic; but banning super-science entirely would be an interesting new superhero setting.

Admittedly, this has drifted away from discussing golden age comics...

Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.
GameGuruGG Vampire Hunter from Castlevania Relationship Status: Shipping fictional characters
Vampire Hunter
Dec 4th 2012 at 1:24:08 PM

So, in a Golden Age setting that avoid all Super-Science... Would Magitek be allowed? I mean, that would be magic that imitates technology.

Wizard Needs Food Badly
TobiasDrake Exposition Dragon from Colorado, USA Relationship Status: She's holding a very large knife
Exposition Dragon
Dec 4th 2012 at 1:25:44 PM

When people talk about "realism" in extraordinary fictional settings like comics, I think what they mean is "believability". Ultimately, what they're looking at isn't so much a dichotomy of "realistic" versus "unrealistic"; it's really more the overall balance of suspension of disbelief.


1 - An alien weapon the size of a chicken egg that, when activated, will release a pre-programmed genetic virus, immediately vaporizing all members of a fictional alien race in the area.

2 - An enchanted runestone the size of a chicken egg that, when the right incantations are cast on it, will banish all demonic lifeforms in the area to their plane of origin.

3 - A chicken egg with the ability to teleport any predatory animals in the area to a safe distance, empowered through faith and a wish made upon a star.

None of these concepts are realistic, but depending on the setting, the build-up, and the tone of the story, any one of them may be more believable than the others.

The greatest trick prejudice ever pulled was to convince the world it did not exist.
femaledavinci femaledavinci
Dec 5th 2012 at 7:18:24 PM

It depends on which ones last. I personally really like the EC Weird Science. Particularly Wally Woods stuff. And Will Eisner's The Spirit is my personal favorite of the golden age. Not his stuff before WWII but afterward. I would buy reprints of the stuff. Its that comics had always had been seen as immature in some circles but artists found that a lot of men were reading it so they took all the best or most of the best comic book artists and story tellers for EC for adults. If you picked up an EC comic you would should look at all the detail and compare it to the average superhero comic of the golden age. The comparison is astounding.

I like Shorts. Their comfortable and easy to wear.
Dec 5th 2012 at 9:20:41 PM

[up] Very true. The same can be said of Mad Magazine (which, of course, was the only remnant of EC left after the Comics Code). The talent that Gaines and Kurtzman were able to attract is just amazing.

edited 5th Dec '12 9:22:04 PM by Robbery

Dec 6th 2012 at 1:42:32 PM

Batman: in the hero pulp tradition, he's good to go except for some of his gadgets.

How are we defining "science fiction" here? Because realistically speaking, Batman would be even more screwed than Superman. You could always rewrite Superman as an angel sent from heaven as a baby or something.

Dec 6th 2012 at 9:49:28 PM

You could do Batman as a non-powered, non-magical Doc Savage type who takes on the supernatural. Perhaps he's acquired and makes use of magical implements, and knows a great deal about magic, while not being a practitioner himself.

Dec 7th 2012 at 6:19:26 AM

In that case, you could do the same thing with every superhero ever.

SKJAM Relationship Status: Baby don't hurt me!
Dec 7th 2012 at 8:34:36 AM

For my purposes, "science fiction" powers are any that are supposedly explained through science, as opposed to the supernatural, or by technology not available yet at the date of writing.

Charles Atlas Superpower and Badass Normal appear in regular non-SF literature, so don't count as SF.

edited 7th Dec '12 8:35:49 AM by SKJAM

Dec 7th 2012 at 11:21:04 AM

They appear in either, actually.

Jhimmibhob from Where the tea is sweet, and the cornbread ain't Relationship Status: My own grandpa
Dec 10th 2012 at 9:52:41 AM

Like the current "Earth-2" creators, I'd lean towards leaving Superman, Batman, & Wonder Woman out of my hypothetical universe. Though they were created during the Golden Age, they've become such central icons of the Silver and Modern Ages that they seem weirdly out of place in the former. And why expend creative energy and face time on the three G.A. figures that modern comics creators haven't overlooked and underserved?

"She was the kind of dame they write similes about." —Pterodactyl Jones
Dec 13th 2012 at 11:36:18 AM

Proposed talking points on creating Neo-Golden Age Comics:

-What do we like about Golden Ages Comics?

-What are the important things we think were lost in Post-Golden Age Comics?

Dec 13th 2012 at 9:25:02 PM

Good things about the Golden Age: As far as Super Heroes went, things were not yet codified. There was more room for experimentation and whimsey.

Since the Golden Age ended, since the advent of Marvel in fact, the emphasis has been on shared universes and continuity. This is not in and of itself a bad thing, as it can make for excellent stories; my complaint is that there are fewer and fewer attempts to create self-contained universes for individual characters. Every character has to fit into the larger universe.

Respect the Red Right Hand
Dec 13th 2012 at 9:26:38 PM

Also, - what are things we could stand to lose from Golden Age Comics?

RavenWilder Raven Wilder
Raven Wilder
Dec 13th 2012 at 10:31:43 PM

Top Five Good Things About The Golden Age:

1) That, while superheroes were the most popular genre in the medium, other genres were still doing robust business with the major publishers.

2) The way completely new characters and series could be introduced and become huge hits.

3) Superhero series that each had their own style and continuity, either avoiding crossovers or not letting crossover continuity play much of a role in their day-to-day storytelling.

4) Sales figures most modern comics publishers can only dream of.

5) Successful anthology comics that introduced readers to several new characters/series in a single issue.

Top Five Bad Things About The Golden Age:

1) Racism, sexism, and the overall unelightened attitude of the time period.

2) Poor treatment of the creative talent by management.

3) The way they relied on narration and exposition-filled dialogue to do most of the narrative legwork, with the art being only slightly more important than the illustrations in a picture book.

4) The heavy-handed way most moral lessons were delivered.

5) The scarcity of supervillains and the overabundance of generic gangster villains.

edited 14th Dec '12 11:28:19 AM by RavenWilder

"It takes an idiot to do cool things, that's why it's cool" - Haruhara Haruko
Jhimmibhob from Where the tea is sweet, and the cornbread ain't Relationship Status: My own grandpa
Dec 14th 2012 at 12:46:14 PM

One answer I'd give to both of Distortion's questions is the links that still connected comics heroes to the great pre-comics adventure stories. Most of the Golden Age protagonists were superheroes, but retained lots of DNA from pulp figures like the Shadow, the Phantom Detective, the Spider, Doc Savage, etc. Their universe couldn't have been farther from the hygienic Zeerust heroscape that guys like Mort Weisinger and Otto Binder established as the norm: the Golden Age seemed packed with Tongs, weird cults, and horror/occult elements as a matter of course. Even the costumes were appealingly rough-edged and improvised: spandexed guys were around, but weren't the automatic default.

Those are among my favorite elements of the Golden Age, and they're precisely the elements that the fathers of the Silver Age tried to scrub their universe completely clean of. A lot of the "Dark Age" of comics was an attempt to jettison Silver Age accretions that damned well needed jettisoning, though the creators often weren't talented enough to replace it with anything worthwhile. I'd rather have seen them replaced with those long-abandoned elements of pre-superhero adventure stories, whose time may have come round again.

"She was the kind of dame they write similes about." —Pterodactyl Jones
Aug 27th 2013 at 1:21:49 PM

Having recently become more interested in Golden Age comics, thanks to the DC Chronicles and Archive series, I have to wonder if we're not returning to at least one aspect of them via digital comics. That would be the limited length of most stories. It's little wonder the writers of the time relied on so many narrative shortcuts when they only had 6-12 pages to tell a story! For those with a short attention span, a story of that length would seem to be ideal.

I find it amusing that the Flash and Green Lantern spend so much time fighting little more than gangsters in their early adventures. I suppose super-villains had to evolve just to provide the characters with a challenge!

edited 27th Aug '13 1:22:21 PM by andersonh1

VampireBuddha Hungry dinosaur from Ireland Relationship Status: Complex: I'm real, they are imaginary
Hungry dinosaur
Aug 28th 2013 at 11:52:48 AM

[up]Supervillains becoming prominent is a phenomenon related to the sorting algorithm of villain threat. Back in the 30s and 40s, it was standard practice for superheroes to fight bank robbers and gangsters - a supervillain, who can actually match the hero and give him a fair fight, was only done occasionally, as a special event.

Those special events sold the best and were the most highly regarded, so the publishers gradually did more of them, until we get to the current situation, where even a random mugging turns out to be part of the scheme of a 3,000 year old wizard to unleash an alien invasion, or something.

One can observe the same thing with mega-crossovers. In ye olden dayes (ie the Silver Age), crossovers happened occasionally, but the huge epic crossovers were exceedingly rare, and were majorly important events. They also sold exceedingly well, so the publishers did them more and more, until you get to the modern situation where Marvel does at least one of those a year, and DC isn't much better.

As for the preponderance of narrative shortcuts, I think that's more to do with demographics than size limitations. (Seriously, if you think 6 - 12 pages is short, pick up an issue of 2000 AD some time. Five pages is the norm, six for Judge Dredd and stuff by Pat Mills). Back then, comics were aimed at children and unintelligent adults, so the stories were much simpler and more straightforward, and the writers and/or editors felt the need to have caption boxes and other expospeak to ensure the idiots would be able to follow the story.

Today, comic writers respect their readers' intelligence a lot more (and also tend to assume they've read the last decade worth of back issues...), so even what few children's comics are still published eschew those tropes in favour of more naturalistic storytelling.

Jan 22nd 2014 at 12:40:57 PM

Top Five Bad Things About The Golden Age: 1) Racism, sexism, and the overall unelightened attitude of the time period.

Thankfully there are some exceptions. Even if they are heavy-handed.

edited 22nd Jan '14 12:47:23 PM by andersonh1

kkhohoho Deranged X-Mas Figure from The Insanity Pole Relationship Status: Pining for the fjords
Deranged X-Mas Figure
Jan 22nd 2014 at 1:02:38 PM

And speaking of the Golden Age, I've been writing a story all about it, sort of, located [[,'' called appropriately enough 'The Golden Age.' Also has a tropes page. I've taken a bit of break in dealing with my new classes, but I might be able to put up another chapter this weekend.

Sonic and the Freedom Fighters — Blue Horizon:
Jan 30th 2014 at 10:33:03 PM

The first actual super-villain in comics is credited as being the Ultra-Humanite, who fought Superman in Action Comics. I believe he's also down for being the first recurring villain. It's interesting, because after he had his brain transplanted into actress Dolores Winters, his position was more or less taken up by Lex Luthor (who even ended up looking like him; Ultra was the original bald super scientist villain). In a sense, Luthor IS the original Ultra Humanite, even though DC kept using the character in other iterations (has he made it into the New 52?)

Jan 31st 2014 at 7:03:18 PM

I think they had used Fu Manchu as a recurring villain in comics before that, although he was a transplant from prose literature...

edited 31st Jan '14 7:03:35 PM by NapoleonDeCheese

Feb 1st 2014 at 11:30:12 AM

One thing I find so interesting is that the original crop of Marvel and DC heroes from the Golden Age were much more lax about the Thou Shalt Not Kill rule. It's surprising to see since by the time the Silver Age rolled in, it was pretty much a given than superheroes were never ever allowed to kill bad guys, regardless of what they've done.

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