Kirby Krackle! Pym Particles! EXCELSIOR!
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
Silver Age Marvel means something different to me than Silver Age DC. Marvel was all about pushing the envelope and going against the norm. Marvel style meant more than just the way a writer and artist plotted a book. So, in true Marvel hyperbolic fashion…
FACE FRONT, TRUE BELIEVER!
IT HAD TO BE TOLD!
SECOND IN A FOUR-PART SERIES!
COLLECT ‘EM ALL!
13. Marvel Swagger (and Swag). From the get-go, Marvel proved they were Not Brand Echh. Carnival barker/Editor-in-Chief Stan “The Man” Lee and the rest of the Marvel Bullpen took all the tropes associated with traditional superhero comics and turned them inside out. Their bombastic style soon made its way off the printed page and on to merchandise. Through the Merry Marvel Marching Society and Marvelmania, new characters like Thor, Daredevil, Iron Man, Dr. Strange and… the Two-Gun Kid (?!) were plastered on t-shirts, plastic pillows, wind-up toys and DayGlo posters. They built a fan base that soon evolved into fanatics. Make Mine Marvel!
12. Mighty Marvel Monsters. Fin Fang Foom! Orrgo! Tim Boo Ba! Groot! Marvel, er Atlas, began the Silver Age publishing tales that were strange, astonishing and full of suspense, featuring bug-eyed monsters with weird names. When the time came to move into the superheroes genre like that of their Distinguished Competition, the new Marvel Comics didn’t drop the monsters. They just made the monsters the superheroes!
11. The Flying Bathtub. Marvel’s First Family, the Fantastic Four, (they of the self-proclaimed World’s Greatest Comic Magazine) took off on their adventures not in a Wagon Queen Family Truckster but in the Fantasticar. And when tempers flared, they’d just push a button and the vehicle would split 4-ways. To each his own!
10. Steranko. Jim Steranko’s runs on Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD and Captain America were short (22 and 3 issues, respectively) but sweet. Steranko breathed new life into these old WWII stalwarts with a dynamic energy not seen since, well, Jack “King” Kirby just moments before — combined with a pop-art sensibility to boot.
9. Uncanny! Something similar was also happening over on the X-Men. Along with writer Roy Thomas, artist Neal Adams turned the world of Marvel’s Merry Mutants upside down for 10 glorious issues… which unfortunately also proved to be the swan song for the X-Men until they were revived during the Bronze Age.
8. The Wondrous Worlds of Marvel. Krypton, Rann, Thanagar and Atlantis all seemed homogeneously humdrum. The same could not be said for Marvel’s strange and exotic lands. Asgard! Wakanda! Attilan! The Savage Land! The Dark Dimension of the Dread Dormammu! (Gulp!) World-building the Marvel Way!
7. The Marvel Women. The Marvel women weren’t secretaries and high-school sweethearts pining away for the glance of the hero (OK, some of them were early on… I’m looking at you Betty Brant and Karen Page). They were supervillains, spies, Norse goddesses and full-fledged teammates who would never be mistaken for sidekicks. Even the non-powered girls started to show some sass. Face it, Tiger!
6. Ditko Masks. Some people think of Ditko hands as a unique artistic trait. I think of the masks. Before Jim Phelps and the IMF, Scooby Doo’s villains and even his own work on the Question, Steve Ditko was doing lifelike rubber masks like no other.
5. Marvel Technology. There’s no denying that Marvel technology was in a class all its own. LMDs, unstable molecules, vibranium, the Ultimate Nullifier. And those fabulous Kirby machines? Monstrous hunks of metal with buttons, knobs, tubes, gears and dials that oozed snap, KRACKLE, and pop!
4. Pym Particles. Are super-heroes supposed to change costumed identities? If not, Henry Pym didn’t get the memo. From Ant-Man to Giant-Man to Goliath, the good (if, eventually, unstable) doctor was his own cottage industry. He even started to franchise when Hawkeye became the second hero to sport the Goliath name and suit. Not to mention Yellowjacket, Black Goliath and Scott Lang, who were just around the corner in the Bronze Age!
3. Spider-Man’s Rogues’ Gallery. Think of an A-List Spider-Man villain and chances are he was created in the Silver Age during the short-lived (38-issue) Stan Lee/Steve Ditko run. Amazing! Jazzy John Romita co-created a few more of the famous ones before the Silver Age ran out of steam and we were left with the likes of… Man Mountain Marko and the Kangaroo!
2. It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Marvelous World. You never knew who’d pop up in a Silver Age Marvel story. Sometimes it’d be a guest spot, sometimes just a walk-on cameo. It could be Doctor Strange, Sgt. Fury, Skrulls, Two-Gun Kid, even Millie the Model! And if you were ever lost or confused by a sudden appearance, don’t worry — there’d be a handy-dandy editor’s note to help you along.
1. Clash of the Titans! Who needs supervillains to battle when superheroes are more than happy to have a misunderstanding as soon as they meet and start duking it out. It’s now a time-honored tradition. Excelsior!
— 13 REASONS to Love DC in the SILVER AGE. Click here.
— 13 REASONS to Love MARVEL in the BRONZE AGE. Click here.
— 13 REASONS to Love DC in the BRONZE AGE. Click here.
ANTHONY DURSO is the owner of The Toyroom repro and custom packaging company and Retropolis Tees.
August 1, 2018
You can never forget the classics.
August 2, 2018
I’d love to see someone build that Kirby machine that Reed made; with all it’s angles, bent sheets of metal, gears, knobs, and doo-dad extensions that seem to serve no purpose but yet somehow make sense. Not everything has to make sense. That’s what’s so great about it. Make that FF movie, Marvel.
September 7, 2020
Jack Kirby, Neal Adams, Jim Steranko, and John Buscema was/is Marvel’s Mt Rushmore of artists. The plot and dialog were second to the art! Jolting Joe Sinnot inker, meant it was a wild ride.
September 15, 2020
I would love love LOVE to have a collection of those Marvel t-shirts!!
Great list, by the way.
March 12, 2022
Never cared for the fights between Marvel heroes. So much more appreciated the camaraderie and team work of DC’s heroes. But what I’ve really hated was the way the infighting among Marvel heroes found its way to DC as DC would seek to Marvel-ize and as some Marvel creators would come to work at DC. The idea of good guys fighting among themselves puts tarnish on the reputation of being heroes. To this day I prefer fictional heroes to be tarnish-free and squeaky clean. If I want real-life, I’ll read a newspaper.
March 4, 2023
Ah, such wonderful, sweet memories.