13 REASONS to Love DC COMICS in the BRONZE AGE

Digests! Dollar Comics! CRISIS!

UPDATED 3/12/22: Every once in a while it’s nice to pause and just think about how much we love comics. Well, our pal Anthony Durso did a wonderful job on just that point in 2018 with a quartet of columns about Marvel and DC in the Bronze and Silver Ages. So dig this groovy piece — and check out the links at the bottom for more joyous celebration. — Dan

Our pal Anthony Durso of Retropolis Tees and The Toyroom has been regaling us with reasons to love the Big Two in the Silver and Bronze Ages. In the final part of his 4-Part series, he lavishes praise on DC in the Bronze Age. Right on. — Dan

By ANTHONY DURSO

DC Comics has gone through a good number of reboots since the end of the Bronze Age. And each reboot always makes me more nostalgic for the era I grew up in.

It was… perfect.

13. Whitman Comics. In the late ’70s, Wednesday nights were spent hanging out at Burger King and Carl’s Drugs with Dad (grumble). My brother and I would usually be able to get some candy or a magazine out of him.

I usually gravitated toward the spinner rack in the toy aisle, as it had 3-packs of Marvel and DC Comics. Although the DC weren’t DC (as far as I was concerned). Instead they carried the dreaded Whitman label. You wouldn’t be caught dead actually reading one of those knock-offs but they were often essential to building up your collection so you’d have to suck it up on occasion. That was then. NOW I LOVE THEM. Same comics as newsstands but with an off-brand flavor.

12. Swamp Thing and Deadman. By the time I began reading comics on a regular basis, Swamp Thing and Deadman were no longer making monthly appearances as headliners. Although they both might pop up occasionally in Brave and the Bold and DC Comics Presents, you had to get the infrequent Swamp Thing fix (albeit reprints) from DC Special Series while Deadman had a brief revival in Adventure Comics. Nevertheless, these two characters quickly became Bronze Age favorites that I literally couldn’t get enough of!

11. DC Digests. The Biggest Little Buy in Comics continued my lesson in the History of the DC Universe where the 80/100-Page Giants left off. Plus, they fit nicely in the inside pocket of a jeans jacket! Perfect to smuggle into school and read in study hall!

10. The Daily Planet. One of the last pages in an issue, besides perhaps a Hostess ad, The Daily Planet was often the FIRST page I turned to when I picked up an issue. After all, if I wasn’t going to purchase that comic, at least I could read the Hembeck strip and maybe the Answer Man before the newsstand owner shouted that “This isn’t a library!”

9. Conway’s Corner. Whether as writer or editor, Gerry Conway was responsible for one of the more offbeat collections of titles that DC produced during the Bronze Age. Dubbed in DC house ads and editorial as Conway’s Corner, these books really didn’t have anything in common other than the fact that they were awesome and I wanted to own them all whenever I’d see them on the newsstands. Which wasn’t quite often. In fact, I’m assuming that poor sales is why I frequently found these books coverless, at a corner store that would get bundles of them from the newsstand distributors after market. But at 10¢ each they were a steal!

8. The New Teen Titans. Move over Marvel’s mutants — there’s a new group of teen heroes in town! The X-Men were already seeming like old hat to me by the time The New Teen Titans appeared, courtesy of Marv Wolfman and George Perez. I was late to the party, beginning with Issue #7, but NTT quickly shot up to the top of my must-read list every month.

7. Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez. Praise be his name. Heir apparent to Neal Adams, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez drew the most Dynamic Covers on the newsstands for DC. Although his usual stomping grounds were the covers of Superman, Action Comics or DC Comics Presents, JLGL’s work also appeared throughout the DC Universe. In fact, he did the art for the 1982 DC Comics Style Guide that’s STILL being used on merchandise to this day! (Click here.)

And who doesn’t love a hero who’s not afraid to smile?

6. Satellite Era JLA. Alex Ross’s favorite version of the Justice League of America is the Satellite Era JLA, minus Firestorm. I concur. Except add Firestorm. He’s a perfect end to the Bronze Age JLA. (It could have been Black Lightning but he turned down membership.) Even Justice League of America #200 says so!

5. The Legion of Super-Heroes. Forget Princess Leia and the gold bikini, for me Saturn Girl (first comic-book crush, sorry Red Sonja) in her hot pink swimsuit made a fifth-grader an instant fan of the Legion! Not to mention Jeckie, Shady and Violet. And although the Legion has always been in constant flux, this era, spearheaded by the great redesigns by Dave Cockrum and Mike Grell, will always remain my favorite. Long Live the Legion!

4. The Brave and the Bold. Remember when Batman only starred in four titles a month? That’s it. Four. Batman, Detective Comics, World’s Finest (with his BEST FRIEND, Superman!) and The Brave and the Bold. B&B was the team-up title that he shared with a different monthly co-star in stories usually written and drawn, respectively, by Bob Haney and Jim Aparo that weren’t beholden to standard continuity. Earth-B, anyone? Zany!

3. Bronze Age Batman. And speaking of Batman, somewhere along the way, the Darknight Detective became more Dark Knight and less Detective. But before he became an overly armored grim and gritty sourpuss with a Batmobile to match, the Caped Crusader drove around town (often in the DAYLIGHT if Bob Haney was in charge) in a sleek sports car solving crimes just like you’d expect the World’s Greatest Detective to be doing when he wasn’t busy being a millionaire playboy. (Back then, Bruce Wayne was more than a mask for the Bat). And all without making sure you knew he was “the Goddamn Batman.” Some things are better left unsaid.

2. Dollar Comics. Under new publisher Jenette Kahn, DC experimented with new formats… my favorite one being the Dollar Comics line. Superman Family, Batman Family, Adventure Comics, World’s Finest and DC Special Series were the ones that caught my eye, although in hindsight I wish I had paid attention to House of Mystery, G.I. Combat and The Unexpected as well. Eventually, the Dollar Comics line faded away, although the format was used sporadically for anniversary issues or annuals. But for a brief time, they were the biggest bang for your buck! (Click here for a brief history of Dollar Comics.)

1. Crisis On infinite Earths. Even though Crisis on Infinite Earths effectively ENDED the Bronze Age of DC Comics (and the Silver Age and Golden Age before it), it’s still one of my favorite parts OF the Bronze Age. After all, it was the last chance to really see the iconic versions of the characters I grew up with in the ’70s and ’80s and they were all stellar in their performance.

I re-read it often to reconnect with my old friends when I feel disconnected from the modern versions. Sure, it had its flaws and in hindsight it’s ALL bittersweet. But it did what it set out to do… Worlds lived and worlds died, and NOTHING was ever the same again. (Click here for Marv Wolfman’s take on Crisis.)

MORE

13 REASONS to Love MARVEL in the SILVER AGE. Click here.

13 REASONS to Love DC in the SILVER AGE. Click here.

13 REASONS to Love MARVEL in the BRONZE AGE. Click here.

Author: Dan Greenfield

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18 Comments

  1. And before the Dollar Comics, 100 Page Super Spectaculars — they were time machines, and better than the old annuals in providing new material and exposure to lower-tier characters.

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  2. What a great list! 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 10 really resonate w/ me! (The Whitman logo really only bugged me when on DCCP…)

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  3. Wait. You forgot Mod Era Wonder Woman. Kryptonite-eating Superman. One-issue stories, compact and action-packed.

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    • And all the villains that would be ignored today in favor of more “serious” ones. Terra Man? Spook? The Crumbler? Ten Eyed Man? Fun stuff!

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      • Those “The Spook” covers and stories were some of my favorites. The meeting with “The Shadow” were also some of my favorite Bronze Age stories. I miss that version of BATMAN. Curse you Frank Miller!

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  4. I’m a Bronze Age DC! Woot!

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  5. I have that Superboy and the Legion tabloid, I got a Jim Shooter signature on it, love it to death and back. Also had several Whitman copies. God, I loved Adventure Comics in ’78, Death of Earth-2 Batman.

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  6. That Batman Family Dollar Comic with the star motif has always been one of my favorite covers. One of the few “floating head” designs that works.

    Also, JLA 200 got me re-hooked on DC after a lapse of a year or two. What a great cover, and some great art inside!

    I wish they still had DC Digests today, but my poor eyes couldn’t take the strain. I remember reading the Warlord volume until it fell apart.

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  7. Bronze Age BATMAN would be #1 on my list.
    Those SPOOK stories are a favorite as are stories with C-List villains like:
    Signalman, Calendar Man, Cat-Man, and Prof Milo.

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  8. I really wish the DC Infinite website would put out more comics from 1969 – 1983. Those were the books I grew up on and I would love to read them again. I recently sold my entire comic book collection…but I just discovered I still OWN my digest books AND the Direct Currents direct mailers! I wonder what they’re worth nowadays!

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  9. DC’s Bronze Age was my Golden Age.

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  10. Why bring an age to an end by destroying it? I view stories such as “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow” as the ending point of the Bronze Age. When Crisis on Infinite Earths came along and ended the Golden, Silver, and Bronze Ages, it also destroyed so much that had been great about DC. To me, COIE was telling the story of the beginning of the Modern Age by dismantling all that had come before. So instead of being part of the Bronze Age, I’d place it as the first part of the Modern Age, or at the least in a transitional period between the two.

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  11. I had tons of 70s DC, lots of JLA, Batman and Detective, I still have the Freedom Fighters, Steel, Firestorm, Blackhawk,some Detective and Batman Family Dollar issues, and a run of Adventure Comics 459-478, 491-503 and most of the All Star comics run.

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  12. What a great list. I’ve been very down on the current state of DC Comics and this really brightened my mood and reminded what I loved about comics. I love everything on the list and would add DC Limited Collectors Edition aka DC Tabloids to the list but that would make it fourteen wouldn’t it? I remember dreading the Whitman logo in my collection so much that I transplanted the DC bullet and price box from my lesser DCs like the random issue of House of Mystery or Ghosts to them. Who knew they’d be worth more on average than their DC branded counterparts?

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  13. Thanks for this wonderful reminiscence! I grew up reading these comics and I maintain that the great storytelling rained me to be a writer as well as any college class I ever took! I agree with you about the Legion back then (Bless you, Mike Grell!) and Saturn Girl! (Also, Cosmic Boy but that’s another story!)

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  14. I have to agree that Crisis belongs in another age though it did treat all of the “second banana” Silver Age and Bronze Age characters with respect, even while often killing them off. I would substitute it with the Limited Collectors Editions or Neal Adams covers. There also was a lot of merchandise, like the Mego figures, that weren’t directly produced by DC, but were a big part of that age.

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    • Instead of Crisis, I like the suggestion above (from a few years ago) of including 100-Page Super-Spectaculars. Like the Digests and the Dollar Comics, this was a great experimentation in format and diversity of content — exposing readers to a variety of features that they might otherwise not stumble across. The Super-Spectaculars also gave younger readers insight into the DC (Golden and Silver Age) past.

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