RETRO SPOILER ALERT! – First Appearances Can Be Deceiving – SILVER AGE (2 of 4)

Continued from Part 1: The Golden Age!

THE SILVER AGE (1956 – 1970)

— “With great power comes great responsibility!” – Ben Parker (Spider-man comics)

This period from around 1956 to 1970 was a huge shift in the world of comic books. Prior to this comics were in decline, mainly because of the Comics Code Authority banning all the awesome shit that was actually selling, because they were afraid it was going to create a generation of delinquents, you know like rap music and video games! Thanks to douchebag of the century, Fredric Wertham, many comic books and pulp magazines were burned in massive bonfires around the country.

So the Silver Age is considered the point at which comics were rejuvenated after a lame stint of pure camp in the Atomic Age of the 50’s. It was the beginning of many a Marvel hero and was marked by a much more sci-fi focus than ever before. This was also notably the introduction of some of the industry’s best talent to date, both artists and writers, including Neal Adams, Denny O Neal, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, John Romita Sr., and of course Stan Lee. Comics of this era are seen as an extension of the Atomic Age, and are often heavily influenced by B-rated Science Fiction films of the time where flying saucers, and giant radioactive monsters ran amok across the silver screen. One of the earliest instances of this was with the devious BRAINIAC first invading Action Comics in issue 242 (1958). Much like the Children of the Atom (the X-Men), Comics began to evolve.

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Spoiler Alert – Issue One: 7 Awesome Changes to the DC Universe (part 1)

DC Comics has been around in some carnation or another basically since your great grandfather was your age. It all began with the introduction of the first super hero, SUPERMAN in Action Comics #1 and the rest is folklore for another blog. Suffice it to say that DC is home to some of the most iconic characters in modern American mythology, an entire pantheon of reimagined gods!

When you have an ongoing, never-ending series like say BATMAN, which has been going on since give or take 70+ YEARS since his first appearance in DETECTIVE COMICS #27 (the title DC took its name after) you’re going bound to get some weird storylines thrown in… especially during the sixties. Back in the day, a writer would be dishing out issue after issue for a paycheck (can’t blame them) and would occasionally have to pull a rabbit out of their ass (poor rabbit) to make it happen, and you’d get some piece of shit like ‘Batman and Robin in Space fighting mutant communist ant-people from the fourth dimension!’ (there are just certain things you can’t un-see, and therefore can’t easily retcon). Problem is that other writers would later have to make sense of this… and so cam the first of many a CRISIS, in which the status quo of the multiverse was balanced (see ComicZombie’s summary of this in “5 DC moves I Hated”).

Every time a ‘Crisis’ came along the universe would be tinkered with, backstories were edited, plot holes filled with cement while the audience was distracted by the pointless death of a beloved character (cough cough Barry Allen). The point is, they did it again, but this time they began with a clean slate, mostly, and there were understandably mixed feelings about some of this modernization, but sometimes change is good.

Sales have definitely proven that DC made the right move by re-launching their entire comic book line, renewing interest, and reinvigorating the comic book industry itself!

Originally I sat down contemplating 52 reasons to read DC’s “New 52” (named for the 52 new #1 titles), but came to the conclusion that if you were willing to read through that list there’s a good chance you didn’t need convincing to begin with. Much like the re-launch of the DC Universe I cut down that convoluted mess, narrowing it down to what really mattered. I also decided it was best to focus on the positive aspects, rather than the negative, disappointing, and infuriating changes / completely mishandled characters (Green Arrow).

We’re now heading into Issue 7 of each of the monthly titles, which means a lot of the initial story arcs are wrapping up, and so far they’re still going strong! If you’ve never read comics, now’s a great time to jump in, but for anyone who hasn’t been following the new DC comics I’m going to throw it out there that There Will Be SPOILERS!

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Top 5 DC Moves I Hated

DC Comics has pretty much always been about changing things up. They rebooted their entire line more than a few times, they have replaced beloved characters with ones nobody cared about, they have dragged their icons through the mud on numerous occassions. They’ve let titles like JLA, JSA, and Teen Titans spend so much time floundering that it should be considered criminal. But there are a few things they’ve done over the years that drove me crazy, and I was able to narrow it down to the 5 most glaring (to me). Keep in mind that these aren’t the 5 worst moves DC has ever made, but the ones that I disliked the most. So, in no particular order….

1.Final Crisis

250px-FinalcrisistpbDC has always had this thing that they do. First, they lose control of how streamlined their universe is. Then, they compound the problem by adding retcons, and new characters replacing old ones, and revamps. Then, realizing that this has left a bigger mess, they have a “Crisis” and come out of it with a new universe. After the first, “Crisis on Infinite Earths”, Supergirl and the Flash were dead (among others), and they relaunched their books (or at least their characters) with new origins, and the previous decades of stories no longer ‘counted’. Then, about ten years later, the same problem had happened. They had lost control of their universe, and the titles were suffering. Rather than doing the Marvel (aka ‘smart’) thing, namely getting top talent on your titles and telling them to go nuts, DC decided the real problem wasn’t the way the books were being made, but rather that they just all needed new blank slates (again). So there was “Zero Hour”, which led to the deaths of a lot of people, most notably the Atom, Hourman, and Dr. Midnite from the JSA. After Zero Hour everything was rebooted (AGAIN). Cut to 15 years later, and DC is doing pretty darn well. Their books are as good as they’ve ever been, they have A list creators working for them, and they’re exploring movie options for a number of them. But still, they decided they needed a clean start (albeit not a complete reboot, more like a… restructuring), so along came “Infinite Crisis”, which didn’t so much reboot everything as it let them fix some continuity problems that they had. It actually made the entire line stronger, but that wouldn’t last…

A few years later DC has squandered almost all of the good will they had built with fans from projects like Identity Crisis, Infinite Crisis, 52, etc. After “Countdown”, and the mind-boggling handling of the Flash, the Justice League, Superman, and the Teen Titans, DC decided it was time once again to have a crisis. Enter Grant Morrison and Final Crisis, a story about what happens to the Earth when gods from another planet start to manifest here. While that’s a cool story idea, the execution was, to say the least, flawed. Rather than a straightforward story, we got a metaphysical wankfest from Morrison, who had much more interest in writing about the strength of myths and stories rather than any kind of ACTUAL story. It was a huge mess, and really killed any momentum that was left from the Infinite Crisis days.

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Not only was the story a mess, but it was completely forgettable. It had no real lasting effect on any of the DC titles, not even Batman, who ‘died’ in Final Crisis. Well, that is if you read Final Crisis. If you were just reading Batman, it was clear that SOMETHING happened to him, but damned if anybody could figure it out. Not that it was some super-well written mystery, but it just didn’t make any damn sense. Finally, the fans started to speak with their money, and started dropping DC titles like they were made of dead babies and AIDS. This led to Warner Bros, DC’s parent company, to do some corporate restructuring, including bringing in Bob Harras as the new Editor-in-Chief. Bob was once the EIC at Marvel, and promptly ran them into bankruptcy. As soon as he was in charge at DC we saw him implement HIS idea for how DC should reboot (again. For the THIRD time in less than 10 years)…..
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