Sunday, January 6, 2013

Dieselpunk, Retro-Futurism and the Superhero! - Part II

So after getting some feedback from various sources on the Part 1 of this series (?) of article(s), I find myself on a snowy Sunday afternoon with a bit of headache and a desire to be creative.

So in the previous article I sighted a bit of the woes Zenith Comics has been going through, as well as the different inspirations I had Dieselpunk and Retro-Futurism.  I also promised to put up the unpublished script for issue #1 of what was to be (and may be again, I don't know) our flagship title, Heroic,  Well that is now up for your reading pleasure and all feedback is welcome.

So before I delve further into the alt-history aspects of what I am thinking to do, or at least fumbling around with like a garter in the dark, I want to talk about superheroes.

Now, while I had previously stated I loved the Golden Age of Superheroes, let me further amend that to I love the Golden Age of Superheroes as seen through a Bronze Age lens.  Believe it or not, those two ages have more in common than one would think at first glance.  Both are darker and more of a morality tale in their stories and their heroes are far more proactive and fight social ills as well as monsters, supervillains and what not.  The big difference though is that the Bronze Age superhero is a lot more human or foilable, less perfect.  Well unless they are Batman, but I won't go into that here.

A quick note on the Ages of Superheroes is that I do include in mine the Iron (or Dark) Age of Superheroes, which comes between the Bronze Age and the Modern Age.  Some have called it the "Extreme Age" due to the obsession with extreme comics (spearheaded by Image Comics) and characters with slightly misspelled names and a metric-shit-ton of pouches on their costumes.  Now it should also be noted that some call the Iron Age everything from about 1985 to present,. which I do not for it firstly is far too large an Age compared to the previous ones and secondly it does not acknowledge the very different types of comics between the 90s and even the early 2000s.

So to sum up, for me it is as follows;

The Golden Age - 1938 - 1950 (12 years)
The Silver Age - 1956 - 1970 (14 years)
The Bronze Age - 1970 - 1985 (15 years)
The Iron Age - 1985 - 1997 (12 years)
The Modern Age - 1997 - Present (15 years and counting)

Now I have chosen these dates for myself, you can see those as wrong, right or not even in the ballpark, but for me they define the ages rather clearly.  So let's not fight about it and just allow each of us to believe what we believe.  Cool.

So again my preference  based on above is Bronze Age, Modern Age and then the Golden Age, but as it was seen by writers in those aforementioned ages.  Writers like Roy Thomas, James Robinson, Geoff Johns and Darwyn Cook (his Before Watchmen: Minutemen series is outstanding in my opinion) but to name a few.

Why I like their views on the Golden Age more so than the Golden Age itself is that they treat it very seriously and respectfully, whereas the writers at the time (in the 30s and 40s) were exploring and developing the medium and far too many couldn't care less and were just there for a pay cheque and therefore treated the characters with almost a childish attitude.  Sure the morality was simple black and white, but so too were the personalities and depth of the heroes and their tales.  Not all, but most.

Seeing the same characters, or their ilk, being handled with a more serious hand was amazing stuff for me.  It made me excited and cheer.  At the same time I was reading the best run of the X-Men ever, the best run of the Teen Titans ever and then I got to read Crisis on Infinite Earths!  The latter leaving me feeling rather unhappy as my beloved Earth Two was gone and seemingly forgotten as fast as possible by DC comics.  Looking back from today it was a great read and a fun event, just still hate losing that JSA world I loved so much.

So after all this blather and whatnot, what is a superhero to me?

Well that is a question I will attempt to answer here.  Wish me luck. ;)

A superhero to me is the guy who does what is necessary to protect those who can't protect themselves, without hesitation or consideration for his own life.  In every-way possible Spider-Man is the best definition of a superhero I can ever see, specifically the Ultimate Spider-Man series.

Funny no?  I couldn't hate the Silver Age more if it stole my dog, my girl and my truck, but it's greatest creation is what I see as the best definition of a hero there is?  How is that possible?  Well primarily because in the 70s we saw some of the greatest trials of Spidey's career laid out before him.  The death of Gwen Stacy?  1973.  The origins of the dreaded Clone Saga?  1975.  Falling for Mary Jane Watson?  Right on the heels of Gwen's death.

So much like Superman, Spidey becomes a character designed in one Age, but flowering in another.

Also both are examples of heroes, that when in the hands of writers who really understand them, they flourish and show us what a hero really is.  When in the hands of hacks, well we get Clone Sagas and One More Days as storylines.  Wait did I just call JMS a hack?  Yup, in comics anyways.  Other than his Supreme Power run, I have yet to enjoy the lion's share of his comic work.

As for the Ultimate Spider-Man series mentioned above, it works for three primary reasons for me.  First it retold a lot of the classic Spidey stories, but with room to change and revise.  Some worked better, some about the same and some missed the mark. Secondly they changed just enough things up that I really enjoyed reading each issue and seeing what was going to come next.  Third and lastly, they had the balls to kill him as a hero and have that resonate through the Ultimate Universe in a way that I did not imagine they would do.  It was quickly not a gimmick and an actual moving and thoughtful story, thanks to the man who has written Ultimate Spidey since day one, Brian Michael Bendis, who otherwise I am not a fan of.

As a fast note, the new Ultimate Spider-Man, Miles Morales, I am LOVING!  It feels different enough yet close enough to what came before that it feels like a legitimate continuation of the original tale.

So I think that covers my views on superheroes, oh and that I love team books more than single heroes as a general rule.

Next part of this series I will probably deal with my issues with setting up an alt-history, World War II and all the baggage that brings and look at some other alt-histories/universes from superhero comics over the years.

As always feel free to comment and more so Follow this blog, when I see more names on the side it makes me feel all warm and loved.



  1. I was a major fan of the entire Ultimate Universe until recently. The whole President Cap thing just kind of put me off. But I loved all of their big Event storylines.

    Sadly for me I think I will always be an iron age/Ultimates type of writer/player


  2. Now imagine, take an Ultimate Universe... and bring a true hero into their midst. Not a cornball, not a boyscout, but a hero, who stands for something, won't kill and doesn't swear... What would happen to the universe if he has the power levels to withstand all the death attempts? ;)

  3. That is an interesting concept considering the state of most comics nowadays. Have you ever read any of Project Superpowers? It is pretty good and most of the character's portrayed there are like you would suggest.

    I have decided to expand my two existing Rally Cry pdf's on my blog and see if I can't 'lighten' them up a bit.


  4. I tried reading the Project Superpowers a few years back, but I couldn't really get into it. Maybe I'll give it another try!

    Also, can't subscribe to you blogs, why not?

  5. huh, I don't really know. I will have to check into it, thanks for the heads-up

  6. hrm thats right, I forgot I was having problems with Blogger so went back to wordpress. Course I had problems there too...stupid firefox browser..

    anyway here is my current blog.