Monday, December 1, 2014

And there did come a Silver Age

Ah the Comics Code Authority.  What did it really accomplish?  Among other things it gave birth to the Silver Age of Comics, or at least was in the back seat with the Golden Age for the conception.  
See the Golden Age was a varied age of comics when readers included, honestly, our brave troops fighting WWII in Europe and the Pacific.  The Golden Age stories were varied and a single issue might have a dozen different comics in it, some one-page gags, others classic 8 page stories.  There were superheroes, funny animals, detectives, soldiers, sailors, pilots, cops and robbers, explorers, you name it, they had it.
And then came the Science Fiction and Horror comics of the '50s.  The kids didn't so much care for superheroes anymore, they wanted monsters, aliens and cowboys.  But adults just couldn't have that and unwelcome Senate attention led to self-policing and the CCA and the Golden Age ended.  Not that anyone noticed because, frankly, nobody ever knows what historical period they are in until after they have left it.  
The Silver Age covers, among other things, the Swingin' Sixties, and it was during this Age that we saw Adam West don cape and cowl on television as the Caped Crusader*.  It was a fun time.  Which is what comics should be.  Fun, I mean.  Comics should be fun.  They are not fun.  That is a problem.

I like continuity as much as the next obsessive compulsive off his meds, but continuity can be a serious problem.  When you start having to reboot your whole company every 5 years because of your jacked up continuity, you've gone too far.  The Silver Age was not obsessed with continuity.  It was quite fun.  It was obsessed with not violating the Comics Code, however.  Much of the outright violence of the past was replaced by some of the most wonderfully goofy characters to ever attempt to rob the First National Bank of Gotham.  Theme villainy reached all new heights during the Silver Age and nobody had the word "blood" in their name.  Or so I think.  I've heard it said that the Golden Age was a more violent era, that characters like The Bat-Man had darker, grittier, more violent stories than they would later in the CCA influenced Silver Age.  Well it is true, to an extent, but let's put this into perspective.  The Golden Age was not an age of top quality acid free paper stock, tight line art and computer color separations.  It was 4 color printing on cheap paper by artists that were working under deadlines to put food on the table.  Have you ever seen old westerns where the guys get shot and go down clutching their guts?  It's like that.  Yeah, it's violence, but it's not graphic violence.  
"Blazing West" issue 1, 1948, classic Golden Age violence
Anyway, about the fun.  Comics are entertainment.  They are not an art form.  Sometimes art manages to show up in comic form, but comics themselves are not an art form.  They are a visual storytelling medium and they should be fun.  Which is why I am particularly pissed that DC's New 52 bullshit has seen fit to shunt Ambush Bug off into some backpage news reporting bollocks.  Things need to be fun, or at least entertaining.  At least my wife has Harley Quinn, which is a title that, to hear her describe it, is basically fun.  What I am missing is a title, or a few titles, that actively try to be fun and possibly funny.  I don't mean letting Plastic Man loose every so often and then misusing the character.  I mean like the good old days of Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew...and not a bullshit darker modern version either, I might add.
Let me break it down for you:
Golden Age-Batman solves a mystery, busts up some gangsters, somebody might die.
Silver Age-Batman and Robin head out to stop the latest threat to Gotham, the Pogo King, a villain that eludes police capture by escaping the scene of the crime on a pogo stick.  Bat-mite decides that Batman is having too easy of a time of it and makes some hot dog carts come alive to help the Pogo King.  That's fun, that is.
Bronze Age-Batman seriously considers how the rank and file criminals of Gotham are underprivileged and talks about how something should be done about it.
Modern/Dark Age-Batman curses.  A lot.  A psycho breaks his damn spine.  Breaks his spine.  All villains are now murdering psychopaths, even the Pogo King.
New 52-Who can say, really?  Pogo King is eluded to in an Easter Egg style cameo, probably on a box of cereal, in the apartment of the latest super villain killcrazy to show up in Gotham.  Yeah, that's respect for the old days there.  Fuckers.

And don't you dare mention Deadpool to me over at Marvel.  Marvel has never been fun.  Funny at times, yes, but not fun.  Marvel, the House of Ideas.  The house that Jack (Kirby) built, has always been the company that brought you more "realistic" heroes.  Realistic meaning that they had money problems and acne and I think one time Reed Richards got herpes from Sue Storm after she'd been love slave to Namor.  You know, real life shit.  If I wanted to read about real life I'd read the newspaper.  No, scratch that.  That would hardly be real life either.

* I am of the opinion that what you call Batman, other than Batman, says much about your personality.  For some he is The Batman, stressing the definite article, for others he is just Batman.  Some like to say Dark Knight, and those are moody bastards that take themselves way to seriously.  I'm a fan of Caped Crusader.  I think it has a more upbeat moral feel to it and avoids the dark, moody, morose attitude, which is unhealthy.  

1 comment:

  1. It seems that when we (some of us, anyway) were growing up in the '80's, comics were getting grittier (cough, Frank Miller). I enjoyed my comics at the time, but it has all gotten way too serious, and I was one of those OCD people who suffered cognitive dissonance when my continuity that was so important to me got screwed. In my middle age, I am liking the old Golden and Silver Age stuff that you can find online these days. Let me also add that beer naturally enhances most entertainments, be they comics, movies or grilling. Just thought I'd throw that in there, and thank the Piggly Wiggly for stocking my Boddington's ale now. Woohoo!