Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Just What Is The Silver Age?

"A silver age is a name often given to a particular period within a history, typically as a lesser and later successor to a golden age, the metal silver generally being valuable, but less so than gold."

Nope that sounds bad. Making it not as good as the Golden Age. Hmmmmm.

"The Silver Age of Comic Books was a period of artistic advancement and commercial success in mainstream American comic books, predominantly those in the superhero genre. Following the Golden Age of Comic Books and an interregnum in the early to mid-1950s, the Silver Age is considered to cover the period from 1956 to circa 1970, and was succeeded by the Bronze and Modern Ages."

Well that just tells me when it was... le sigh. I need a better definition of what the Silver Age was... what it means.

Wikipedia you have failed me!

"The Silver Age of comic books began with the “second generation” of superheroes from 1959 to 1963 or so. Silver Age comics tended to feature more powerful heroes than their Golden Age predecessors (with the exception of a few godlike Golden Age characters). Silver Age comics also had a decidedly science fiction bent to them, with more aliens, fantastic technology, and scientific origins, especially involving atomic energy and related mutations. Many classic comic book characters first appeared in the Silver Age, or settled into their now-familiar forms and mythologies during this time."

That's from Mutants & Masterminds by-the-way.

Hmmm... it doesn't really help though does it?

Okay science and aliens are up. Got it. The classic characters either start or settle into themselves in this era. I am guessing that means what we know as the Flash, Wonder-Woman, Batman and Superman from DC or the entirety of Marvel Comics.

It would be fair to say that DC's Silver Age was much sillier than Marvel comics, though some also say that Marvel Comics are part of the "Atomic Age", though I am not going into that in this campaign.

So for me, the idea of the Silver Age becomes defining it for myself with an eye to what it was in the real world of comics. Those comics range from the 50s to about 1970. Interestingly enough that is an age that starts, in American history, as a sort of idealized innocence and ends with that innocence ripped away and reality really hitting home. The Korean War vs the Vietnam War. Eisenhower's America vs the Civil Rights movement. Elvis Presley vs the Beatles. Okay I better stop I can do this all day.

So given that my Silver Age needs to start with an idealized and somewhat naive view and end with a more realistic view, that gives way to the Bronze Age.

So at the end of the Golden Age we have the postwar heroes falling victim to the "Red Menace" fears and Dr. Dynamite getting shot. The other heroes have all but retired or vanished. Some have stuck it out, like Guardsman, who is very much into the whole 1950s America. White picket fence, nuclear family, etc... Racisim exists but no one talks about it in polite company and while there may be greasers, most middle-class white kids are essentially what Archie comics gave us. Oh and no one talks about the poor people.

In my timeline I have the SS Titan getting hi-jacked in 1958. A but late for the Silver Age to kick off, certainly later than the 1953 or 56 proposed in the above quotes. I had certainly decided that before I had created the idea of Guardsman as well. Still it is easy to say that with Guardsman running around doing various "American Things" in the early to mid 50s and Captain Comet showing up in 1958 the Silver Age get's kicked off with a flood of new heroes.

Though that makes me unhappy as well, for it means I lose out on the wonder and excitement of the whole early and mid 50s idealism and innocence. Interesting the onyl superheroes of note in those days in our world were Superman and I think Batman. Wonder Woman may have been in that time as well, I can't remember. Oh and there may have been a commie battling Captain America as well. Hmmm.

So I either adjust my timeline and move the beginning of the Silver Age back, or have Captain Comet show up earlier in the timeline, which is the same as moving the beginning back.

Now I am just thinking out loud.

I suspect I will need to do more research on this and so I will end this post by asking any and all of you to feel free to comment or share your thoughts on this topic.



  1. Wonder Woman was indeed around in the 50s, as was the "commie fighting" Captain America. There were attempts to bring back several Timely heroes, as I recall. And, of course, Marvel's Marvel Boy was around.

    Martian Manhunter first appeared in 1955, making him a forerunner of the Silver Age's official emergence with the Silver Age Flash (though MM is generally considered a "Silver Age" hero).

    Part of what your struggling with, I think, is the different meanings that people use when they say Silver Age. Originally, it applied merely to a time period in comics history, but now it is used more to discuss a certain "feel" or type of storytelling.

    By the way, when you get to consideration of the Bronze Age, you might want to take a look at the periodic Bronze Age Spotlight feature on Jim Shelley's flashback blog:

  2. Thanks for that reminder about the Bronze Age Spotlight :)

    Yeah the problem with the Silver Age is how to rationalize it in relationship to a Bronze Age campaign that makes sense.

    Since my Golden Age is more of one from the modern looking back, ala Roy Thomas, maybe that's what the Silver Age needs.

    The only problem is New Frontier is about the only source for that. It seems everyone else just makes light of it.