Bright colors! Zany stories! GORILLAS!
UPDATED 3/3/23: 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. We re-present these columns at least once a year and they never fail to entertain. Dig it. — Dan
By ANTHONY DURSO
I started reading comics during the mid-’70s/Bronze Age but I’ve always had a love for the Silver Age found in the pages of DC Comics. It wasn’t exactly the same thing that was going on over at Marvel Comics at the time, with their flawed heroes and villains and multipart stories. But there’s something about the formulaic goofiness of DC during that era that interested me whenever there’d be a reprint in a treasury or a digest or a 100-Page Super Spectacular.
Here’s my countdown of 13 REASONS TO LOVE DC in the SILVER AGE
13. Batman Conquers the Martians. When the Justice League of America was founded in 1960, who would have thought that Batman had more experience with alien races than Superman and Green Lantern combined? From 1960 to 1964, Batman and Robin had close encounters with alien life (or in some cases supposed alien life) 27 times! Holy extraterrestrial, Batman!
12. The Flash and Green Lantern. Although they weren’t on the frequency of a monthly meeting schedule like the World’s Finest team, the Scarlet Speedster and the Emerald Gladiator seemed to mesh better than Superman and Batman (and Robin). Or even the Flash/Elongated Man, Green Lantern/Green Arrow or the Atom/Hawkman for that matter.
11. The Grooviness That is the Teen Titans. Boy Wonderful! Wonder Chick! Gill-Head! Flasheroo! And, um…Speedy. Zany Bob Haney tried so hard to be hip and cool, spouting all of the lingo and fab phrases of the Swingin’ 60s, Daddy-o! Everything was ginchy and gear, including villains like the Flips, the Mad Mod and Ding Dong Daddy…at least until Mr. Jupiter came along and ruined the scene. Bummer.
10. The Wonder Family. Before she was Wonder Woman, Princess Diana was Wonder Girl and before that, Wonder Tot. Her mother, Queen Hippolyta, found a way to splice together home movies so they could have adventures together, thanks to writer Robert Kanigher. And as bizarre as that sounds, it got worse when Wonder Girl became a character in her own right and a sidekick to Wonder Woman after Zany Bob Haney got confused while creating the Teen Titans. No WONDER we’ve had multiple “Who is Donna Troy?” and “Who is Wonder Girl?” retcons since then.
9. Secret Identities Exposed. What good is wearing a mask (or glasses) and having a secret identity if someone isn’t going to try and reveal it every other month? And if you can have Steve Allen, Batman or President John F. Kennedy fill-in for you while Lois Lane tries to expose you by cutting your invulnerable hair? All the better. Some of the plots Superman and Batman used to cover up their true identities were Rube Goldbergesque in their intricacy.
8. Super-Villain Team-Ups. Before Marvel tried to make it a Bronze Age monthly with Dr. Doom and the Red Skull, DC occasionally did villainous tandems in the Silver Age. The Luthor/Brainiac team is the most memorable but there’s still mileage in Joker/Luthor or Captain Cold/Heatwave. Joker/Clayface? Not so much.
7. Legion Protocol. For teen-agers, the Legion of Super-Heroes seemed to have a LOT of rules and regulations about what its members could and couldn’t do. In fact, there’s an actual Legion Constitution outlining all of the dos and do-nots. But hey, rules are made to be broken (and changed on occasion). In fact, one Legionnaire even killed a guy and was reinstated. (He wouldn’t be the last). Plus, you get to hang out in an inverted rocket clubhouse with an abundance of mini-Legionnaire statuettes to use in ceremonies and gift to friends so…
6. Multi-Colored Batman. For years the people that mocked the “Rainbow Batman” era were probably the same ones that had the neon-green “Velocity Storm” Kenner® Batman action figure in their toy collection. But now there are actual Funko Pops!® of Rainbow Batman in six glorious bright colors so who’s laughing now? Collect ‘em all!
5. Talking Gorillas. Legend has it that if DC put a gorilla on the cover of a book, sales went through the roof. So why have they never published a book with the continuing adventures of Gorilla Grodd, Monsieur Mallah, Mod Gorilla Boss, King Krypton the Super Gorilla, Sam Simeon and MANY, MANY others? Money on the table, folks…that’s all I’m saying.
4. Weird Jimmy Olsen. Turtle Boy! Wolf Boy! Elastic Lad! If wacky adventure has a name, it must be James Bartholomew Olsen!
3. Flash Traps. Considering the Flash Fact that I was introduced to the concept of centrifugal force by Barry Allen, I’ve always been intrigued when he used scientific principles to escape from the latest death trap laid out by one of his Rogues. Puppet Flash, Fat Flash, Giant Head Flash, Mirror Flash, Strapped to a Giant Boomerang Flash? No matter the jam, the Flash always managed to come out on top in the nick of time.
2. JLA/JSA Team-Ups. Nothing said summer (or early fall) like the annual team-up between the Justice League of America and their Earth-Two counterparts, the Justice Society of America. For a non-sports kid, this was my equivalent of the mergers of the AFL/NFL or ABA/NBA. And if they brought along another team from another earth or maybe the future? The more the merrier.
1. Kryptonite Variants. Superman must have encountered some form of Kryptonite at least once a month. Between the pages of Superman, Action Comics, Superboy and World’s Finest, it was seemed like it was everywhere. Green, red, blue, gold, white, jewel, silver… the side effects were as unpredictable (at least in the case of Red K) as what color they’d invent next. Kryptonite in its many forms epitomizes to me what the DC Silver Age is all about: often formulaic one minute and yet unpredictably goofy the next. (And how is it there was never a Superman cereal with Kryptonite marshmallow bits?)
— 13 REASONS to Love DC in the BRONZE AGE. Click here.
— 13 REASONS to Love MARVEL in the SILVER AGE. Click here.
— 13 REASONS to Love MARVEL in the BRONZE AGE. Click here.
ANTHONY DURSO is the owner of The Toyroom repro and custom packaging company and Retropolis Tees.
July 11, 2018
Indeed these had to be simpler times. ^-^
July 11, 2018
While the artwork was more often than not peerless, the ridiculousness of many of the plots prompted me, as a boy, to skip those particular issues. It also gave an unintentional boost to fledgling titles at Marvel, where stupid plots were the extreme exception to the rule.
July 12, 2018
Awesome! Can’t wait to see the Top 13 Reasons to Love the Bronze Age – that’s when I started reading monthly comics – ’72-ish… 74-ish, really seriously around the Bicentennial and Star Wars…
July 14, 2018
13 spectacular reasons why DC Comics were Decidedly Cool and Marvel was just an also ran with bad printing and crumbly paper.
July 17, 2018
sadly we will never see Jimmy Olson mutated into something wacky in a movie because THEY KILLED HIM OFF RIGHT AWAY!!! WHYYYYYYYY!!!!
May 11, 2019
I can’t agree that Marvel was inferior to DC Comics…….DC may have had more iconic Superheroes in Batman and Superman, however once Marvel got into its stride it produced iconic heroes like Spiderman and Wolverine, albeit not as iconic as Batters and Supers who led the heroic Pantheon in my opinion………
September 6, 2020
I started reading comics in the early ‘70s. BATMAN was number 1. I was well aware of the various styles of the decades thanks to a little book ($10 retail) called “BATMAN From the 30s to the 70s”.
I just accepted it. Continuity wasn’t a concept I worried about. However, I knew something was off when a JSA member was teamed with Bats in the “Brave & the Bold”. But, I didn’t care. The cover grabbed you and the stories were fun. Younger audience perhaps but certainly not dumb down so much like modern “kid friendly” where the writing and art is geared to a 3 year old.
The Silver Age to me meant fun stories but better yet GREAT covers. Gil Kane comes to mind when you say “Green Lantern”. The checker top cover borders and of course the team ups were other staples of that era.
By time the Bronze Age hit, the stories inside those covers were starting to match the pull of those covers. The annual JSA JLA team-ups marked the passing years. I always looked forward to those. Of course, by the time of the every arc has to be some over reaching reboot story, the uniqueness died. Too many crisis and too many gimmick covers followed up with darkness everywhere, I was officially done. The first time in about 30 years I wasn’t buying anymore.
It’s that lost, I think that in retrospect, shows how great we had it in the Silver and the Bronze.
September 8, 2020
Man, silver age DC was the right kind of crazy.
March 12, 2022
I think Barry Allen Flash and Hal Jordan Green Lantern got along so well because they were both “children” of the Silver Age. Having had their personalities created within the same time frame, and by people working alongside one another, they were always going to mesh better.
Something that’s interesting to me is how DC creators have been trying to recreate the magic of these and other Silver Age rebooted characters for years. Every time they attempt to reboot the same-named super-heroes with different personalities behind the masks, they mostly fail. Then these newer creators look back and wonder why it worked then and not now. What so many today don’t realize is that the Golden Age versions of these super-heroes had been out of print for several years before the Silver Age versions began to appear. That gap went a long way in enabling the Silver Age creators to introduce new persons with similar super-hero identities.
March 6, 2023
What’s truly remarkable about that Luthor/Brainiac team-up is that it isn’t really them. Sixty year old spoiler alert: It’s an even wackier Silver Age plot: That’s a disguised Superman and Batman teaching Jimmy Olsen a lesson!