RETRO SPOILER ALERT! – First Appearances Can Be Deceiving – COPPER AGE? (4 of 4)

Continued from Part 3: The Bronze Age

THE COPPER AGE (1985 – ?)

— “I know pain. Sometimes, I share it… with someone like you!” – Batman (Batman: Year One)

Also referred to as the ‘Modern Age’ of Comics, and is seen as a continuation of the ‘Dark Age’ of Comics. I like to say we’re in the Post-Modern Age, since the current comics barely resemble the comics of the 90’s and it’s been long enough to establish a New Age. This ‘Modern’ Age is often classified with works like Alan Moore’s Watchmen, and Frank Miller’s the Dark Knight Returns.

During this time leading up to today comics evolved into graphic novels. Comic issues were intended as single episodes in a greater story, and usually collected into larger volumes to be sold at book store chains. Many acclaimed, award winning graphic novels came about around this time including: V For Vendetta, the Sandman, Hell-blazer (Constantine), 100 Bullets, ‘Maus’, Fables, American Splendor, Kick-Ass, the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Wanted, Red, the Losers, Road to Perdition, A History of Violence, Y: the Last Man, and Grimm Fairy Tales, among others, most of which have been turned into blockbuster films along with a majority of super hero comics.

The Copper Age also covers the mixed bag of comics that was the 90’s when the X-titles reigned supreme, and cross-overs galore flooded comic shops with overprinting and variant cover marketing gimmicks. Comics of this decade were marked by unnecessary (and meaningless, non-permanent) deaths, constantly confusing title cross-overs, ridiculously out of proportion body-types (either steroid muscles, or DDD size boobs), and pointless violence coupled with raging CAPS and EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!!!!!!! Now regardless of all the negatives, there were some pure gold tales that came out of this mess like: The Death of Superman, the Knightfall Saga, etc… This was also the rise of other comic company giants, like Image and Wild-storm, but that’s for another article.

During the 80’s and 90’s the status quo was significantly changed. DC took a page from Marvel when they revamped their entire line of heroes. Some were altered more drastically than others, like Superman. In John Byrne’s ‘THE MAN OF STEEL’ miniseries (1985), Superman’s origin was completely revamped from the start. Superman himself was significantly depowered compared to the god-like Silver Age version and he was made more relatable and down to Earth. His entire cast of supporting characters were also given updates. Most notably, LEX, the original criminal-mastermind was no longer a crazy-ass mad-scientist with desires for world domination, instead he was a ruthless business man who had already conquered the world and had practically built the city of Metropolis! Lex became insanely jealous when this new hero of tomorrow overtook his own spotlight, and vowed to destroy him.

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RETRO SPOILER ALERT! – First Appearances Can Be Deceiving – BRONZE AGE (3 of 4)

Continued from Part 2: The Silver Age

THE BRONZE AGE (1970 to 1985)

— “I am fire and life incarnate! Now and forever — I am PHOENIX!!!” – Jean Grey (Dark Phoenix)

This is considered to be the start of the ‘Dark Age’ of Comics, and with good reason, which continued into the late 90’s (the Copper Age). Some very dark twists to many popular characters backstories were first established during this time such as: (Retro Spoiler Alert!) the Green Goblin killing Spider-man’s girlfriend (Gwen Stacy, not MJ), the demise of Jason Todd (the second Robin) at the hands of the Joker, Elektra’s murder by Bullseye, etc… (BULLSEYE was introduced in Daredevil #131 – 1976, and ELEKTRA in #168 – 1981)

Often disputed between comic fans / historians, this Bronze Era is typically said to have occurred sometime between 1970 and 1985 give or take a couple years. This was a time when comic books became more socially conscious and began featuring real-world issues. Comic books were no longer just an escape from reality, but a mirror of it. This is when the legends behind the most acclaimed adult-themed comics started to creep onto the scene. Writers and artists like Alan Moore, Frank Miller, Neil Gaiman Chris Claremont, John Byrne, Jim Lee, George Perez, Joe Quesada, and countless others who are still relevant today, most of whom are still actively in the comic industry today!

The Bronze Age was when there was a resurgence in interest for super heroes in general. Following the cheesy campy spoof that was the Batman 60’s TV series was the first serious, live action, depiction of a comic book, on the silver screen with Superman: The Movie in the late 70’s, and in the 80’s there was the Wonder Woman show and the Incredible Hulk became a Smash Hit! (pun-intended)

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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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RETRO SPOILER ALERT! – First Appearances Can Be Deceiving – GOLDEN AGE (1 of 4)

“First Appearances can be deceiving…” (Spoiler Alert – #2)

Click here for Spoiler Alert – Issue One: 7 Awesome Changes to the DC Universe!

“In the beginning there was the word, and the word was <SHAZAM!>” – John 1:1, New Testament, Biblical quote (altered, obviously)

One of the things I absolutely love about comic books is the intricate history, not just the current ‘in-cannon’ history of the stories themselves, but the history behind the stories, the history of the characters, and their creators. What started in newsstands and drug stores eventually evolved into bestselling graphic novels, and smart phone downloads.

In this (retro) installment of ‘Spoiler Alert’, I (ERIK-SMASH!) will be discussing the initial appearances of many of the world’s most famous super heroes between both MARVEL and DC comics! Furthermore, I will be delving into the differences between their initial appearances and today.  One big difference between DC and Marvel over the years is that DC characters almost always started out in their own separate worlds and eventually crossed over into the same continuity, whereas Marvel characters have always been a part of the same world from day one. However almost all these characters started out in a series that was not titled after them.

Back in the day, it was not uncommon for single comic issues to have Multiple (complete) stories rolled into one, whereas today you’re lucky to get One story in a single issue, since most stories are stretched between several issues and later collected into a trade paperback, so most of today’s comics are the equivalent of a chapter. Anyone who already knows a bit about comics knows that Superman first originated from Action Comics 1 (1938) and Batman made his debut in Detective Comics 27 (1939), while Marvel’s Spider-man (created by New York comic gods STAN <the man> LEE and Steve Ditko) first swung into the pages of ‘Amazing Fantasy’, Issue #15, in 1962. But did you know that Wolverine first appeared in the Incredible HULK?! (Issue 180, 1974)

Real quick note about DC and Marvel. The two competitive companies are akin to Microsoft and Apple in that both are very similar in a lot of ways, both have been known to copy one another, there are a few differences in the way they get things done, but it all comes down to the fact that both of them pretty much do the same basic shit. A key difference right now would be that Marvel’s live action films are kicking ass left and right (Iron Man, Spider-man 2, X-Men: First Class, Daredevil, THOR, ‘The INCREDIBLE’ HULK, etc), in comparison to DC’s few and far between with a few notable exceptions (The DARK KNIGHT Trilogy), even though they have just as much potential, but take their animated films and DC is far superior in quality thus far with their new line of PG-13 movies directed to an older audience (Superman Doomsday, Wonder Woman, Batman: Under the Red-Hood, Green Lantern: Emerald Knights, Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, Justice League: Doom, etc), also, obviously, with a few notable exceptions (Hulk vs Wolverine).

Also, one cool thing about all these first appearances is that if you can get your hands on one of these issues, (I’m talking first printing) especially the older stuff, it’s going to be worth a lot more than your average comic. For instance, Action Comics #1 recently sold for a whopping $2.6 MILLION!!! It originally only sold for a measly 10 Cents (talk about inflation). But that’s a rare case seeing as it’s not only one of the rarest comics of all time, but it is the original super hero comic of all time! So yeah, if you’re ever perusing a vintage collection of comics in a random flea market keep your radar out for these diamonds in the trash.

Now that we’ve got those honorable mentions out of the way let’s buckle our seat-belts and set our Flux Capacitor for the 1930’s because when it comes to history I like to go chronologically. We’ll be skipping the Victorian and Platinum Ages that led into…

THE GOLDEN AGE (1938-1956)

—“Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound!”  – Superman narrator / radio announcer (from the 50’s TV series)

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

Continued from Part 6: One part demi-goddess, two part boobs, all kickass!

#1 – Aquaman is… badass?!

Last, but (surprisingly) no longer the least is none other than AQUAMAN, reimagined by the master of revamps, Geoff Johns (who also singlehandedly fixed everything previously wrong with the Green  Lantern saga and I highly recommend his entire GL series, which is actually still cannon btw). Aquaman has long been the ass-end to many a punch-line in pop-culture references. Whenever a comedian bashes super heroes, Aquaman is exhibit A, a fact that Johns actually exploits and embraces, but ultimately he succeeds in proving everyone is completely wrong. Aquaman is by no means a lame character, however he has been done an injustice on more than one occasion.

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Spoiler Alert – Issue One: 7 Awesome Changes to the DC Universe (part 6)

Continued from Part 5: Superman’s ‘Super-suit’

#2 – One part demi-goddess, two part boobs, all kickass.

Now here’s a classic heroine who rarely gets her due, often the center of controversy concerning her own wardrobe changes (to pants, or not to pants), this Amazon Princess has reverted back to a more classic look. Since her inception, WONDER WOMAN was a great concept, the first woman, superhero created by Dr. William Moulton Marston (who also invented the lie-detector). Wonder Woman was the first of many DC heroines including Supergirl, Black Canary, Batgirl, Batwoman, Catwoman, Poison Ivy, the Huntress, Power-girl, and Harley Quinn among countless others.

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Spoiler Alert – Issue One: 7 Awesome Changes to the DC Universe (part 5)

Continued from Part 4: ‘Holy Bat-Comics, Batman!’

#3 – Superman’s ‘super-suit’!

Perhaps the biggest change to DC’s new 52 initiative was the revamp of Superman himself.

Now, I feel the need to preface this by saying I really am a huge super-fan, like ever since the premier of Smallville’s pilot a good eleven years ago (when I was in high school that is). Mark Waid’s ‘Superman: Birthright’ several years ago simply enforced everything I subconsciously dug about this legendary icon, however at the same time I’ve always been of the opinion that his costume was, for lack of a nicer word, outdated.

To be fair, it is after all the original superhero outfit, and therefore practically blasphemy to tweak it, but I do think it was the right call to finally shake things up a bit (those red speedos had to go). As with most of the New 52 versions of the DC heroes, practically all of their designs now emphasize practicality, thanks to Jim Lee. For instance: the Green Lanterns wear energy construct uniforms, Flash’s costume is apparently some kind of nano-tech, Aqua-man wears Atlantean Scale-male, and Batman has a light-weight suit of Kevlar high-tech armor.

In the pages of the new ACTION COMICS, by the great Grant Morrison (of ‘All-Star Superman’ fame), a young Man of Steel is first starting out as a Metropolis vigilante in… blue jeans, work boots, a red indestructible cape (we later learned belonged to his biological grandfather), and a certain symbolic, Kryptonian ‘S’-shield crest across his chest, emblazoned on his…um… t-shirt? One of the purposes of this story arc is to show the evolution of a super man to a true super hero. For one he’s both inexperienced, and de-powered significantly. In the new continuity this story takes place 10 years prior to the current-era, main ‘Superman’ title (by George Perez) where he’s already established, and working for the Daily Planet, and 5 years before the Justice League story where he first runs into Batman and co.

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