From Mav: Several years ago when I was doing my oral comps (PhD exams) I was asked a question about the evolution of comics. I don’t remember the exact question anymore. What I do remember is that one of my committee members stopped me and said “you always say that… the ages of comics. What are they?” I answered “uhhh… golden, silver, bronze and modern… roughly.” Then the professor asked me. “Ok, yes… but when are they?” so I thought about it for a second and said “roughly 1938-1955. 1955-1971. 1971-1986. Everything after that.” Then I was asked “you were able to just name those exactly in your head?” and I said “more or less.” And then finally he asked “and all comic scholars agree? Are they defined somewhere? How do you know that? Where did you learn it?” And that’s where I was sort of stuck. We don’t all agree… and how did I learn it… I don’t know… it’s just one of those things I absorbed when I was like ten!
And fast forward to now, I still don’t have a STRONG answer for it… I have a several very vague answers that has to do with when specific comic book milestones occurred (publication of Action #1) or connections to either specific real world events (Senate Subcommittee Hearings on Juvenile Delinquency) or general cultural movements (Hippies!). And while my vague notions might be roughly analogous to another comic scholar’s, they’re honestly not going to match up exactly. I’m not even convinced that “four” is the right number of ages… it’s just… the one I think is most used. It certainly seems weird that the previous three “ages” were 15-17 years or so… and we’re on year 37 of the Modern Age… maybe it should be subdivided into 17 year chunks as well. But if so, not only would the Modern Age be over, we’d now be well past the post-modern one as well.
So, when friend of the show John Darowski asked me a couple weeks ago if we had ever done an episode on the history of superheroic ages, I kind of jumped on it. It seems like a simple task, but I think it’s a lot more complicated. For one, I know John happens to distinguish between superhero ages and comic ages, and that alone is a complicated enough issue to get a conversation started.
So, we’re going to talk about it on an upcoming episode? What are the ages of comics and/or superheroes to you? Are the same thing? When do they start and end? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.