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Silver Age of Comic Books

From Academic Kids

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Amazing Fantasy #15 (1962), the first appearance of Spider-Man, one of the most significant new superheroes of the Silver Age

The Silver Age of Comic Books is an informal name for the period of artistic advancement and commercial success in mainstream American comic books, predominantly in the superhero genre, that lasted roughly from the mid 1950s to the early 1970s. It followed the Golden Age of Comic Books.

During the Silver Age, the character make-up of superheroes evolved. Writers injected science fiction concepts into the origins and adventures of superheroes. More importantly, superheroes became more human and troubled and, as a result of the Silver Age, character development and personal conflict are almost as important to a superhero’s mythos as super powers and epic adventures.

Contents

Events leading up to the Silver Age

Following World War II, superheroes faced a steady decline in popularity. Their development was complicated by the rise of gritty horror and crime-related comic books and a moral crusade, lead by Dr. Fredric Wertham, which deemed all of the above genres as subversive. In response, the comic book industry implemented the stringent Comics Code, which only allowed for the tamest stories.

Because of the decline in the popularity of superheroes and the regulations of the code, only bland versions of DC ComicsSuperman, Batman, and Wonder Woman were regularly published by the mid-1950s.

History

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Showcase #4 (September-October 1956, often thought the first appearance of the first Silver Age superhero, the Barry Allen Flash.
The beginning (as well as the end) of the Silver Age is cause for debate, but it is generally agreed that the period began with DC ComicsShowcase #4 in 1956, which introduced the modernized version of the Flash. Under the editorship of Julius Schwartz, the Flash was the first of many old characters revised into more modern, science fiction-influenced versions. Others included Green Lantern, the Atom and Hawkman. DC also introduced The Justice League of America, an all-star group consisting of its most popular characters.

The success of these series helped the company find a viable genre that could make for successful properties under the restrictions of the Comics Code Authority. This breathed new life into the comic book medium and sales began to recover.

The period also saw the rise of Marvel Comics under the guidance of writer/editor Stan Lee and artists/cowriters Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, who introduced more sophisticated characterization and dynamic plotting into superhero comics. The most popular and influential Marvel character of this period was Spider-Man. Other significant and long-lasting Marvel heroes introduced during the Silver Age include The Fantastic Four, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, Daredevil, The X-Men, and Marvel's own all-star group The Avengers

After an initial period of hesitance, DC began to adopt some of Marvel’s artistic approaches.

The resurgence of the superhero genre proved so influential that publishing houses not known for their superheroes, like Archie Comics, Charlton Comics and Dell Comics, attempted their own superheroes, but met with limited critical and popular success. Tower Comics was an exception with the acclaimed T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents series by Wally Wood, but it was short-lived.

In addition, new artists, many of whom had formal education in their art, employed their education to expand the mainstream medium into new art styles previously ignored. The major examples include Neal Adams who introduced naturalism with his realistic style and Jim Steranko who introduced surrealism in his stories.

The period hit its commercial peak in 1966-1968 with the popularity of the Batman TV series, which both heightened interest in comics and damaged their public image as a legitimate artistic medium.

The precise end of the Silver Age is in some debate. Candidate periods include:

  • The departure of Jack Kirby from Marvel Comics and beginning his Fourth World titles at DC Comics (1970).
  • The advent of darker superhero stories in the early 1970s. During this time, Batman returned to his roots as a dubious vigilante, Dennis O’Neil and Neal Adams started the gritty, urban-themed series Green Lantern/Green Arrow, and Spider-Man’s love interest Gwen Stacy was killed off.
  • The rise of a new wave of horror comics such as Ghost Rider and Tomb of Dracula in the early 1970s.
  • The debut of the "All-New All-Different" X-Men in Giant-Size X-Men #1 (1975), restarting a franchise that would dominate subsequent decades.

The period following the Silver Age has no widely accepted name. Popular candidates include the Bronze Age of Comic Books (by analogy with Bronze Age), the Modern Age of Comic Books, the Dark Age of Comic Books (due to the popularity of grim titles such as Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns and Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' Watchmen), and the Diamond Age of Comic Books (suggested by Scott McCloud, with the different facets signifying the current diversity in the medium).

The Underground comics scene got its major start in this period. However because the artistic content, goals and marketing of these comic books were so different from the mainstream companies, it is generally considered a separate movement in the medium.

Noted Silver Age talents

During this period in the mainstream companies, the writers were downplayed in favour of the editors. Artists, especially with the success of Marvel, began to play an increasingly important role in the writing process themselves.

Editors

Artists

Writers

See also

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