What’s so special about The Silver Age anyway?

There are many answers that can be given to the above question. I'm going to give you one answer. One answer that I am sure will be argued. One word. Consistency!

There are many answers that can be given to the above question. I’m going to give you one answer. One answer that I am sure will be argued. One word. Consistency!

The Fantastic Four had one artist for over a hundred issues. The Amazing Spider-Man had Ditko for 38 issues plus AF# 15. Then John Romita for roughly 50 issues. Daredevil had Gene Colan for roughly 80 issues. Thor had Jack Kirby for almost 100 issues. I could go on. I haven’t touched on John Buscema’s run on the Avengers or Don Heck’s for that matter.

Amazing Spider-Man issue 74 splash by John Romita and Jim Mooney

The most beloved series had consistency in artistic focus.

Now there have been some great Bronze age runs, Miller on Daredevil, Andru on ASM and of course Byrne and Austin on X-men as well as Byrne on FF so don’t get me wrong. There were also great Bronze age runs by the Silver Age greats continuing on into the decades following.

So what is my point you ask. Never since the Silver Age have there been that many consistent creators on that many titles at the same time. It was the House of Ideas, and you could rely on the overall consistency (there is that word again).

With so many titles featuring either the Avengers or the X-men nowadays, and an issue coming out oftimes every week, we see several writers and artists involved in a single story arc and the artwork either fails as a result of such a wide divergence of artistic styles or a bland portrayal where everyone has that Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop look and they all look alike. Lots of pretty pictures but not consistent in storytelling ability. Angry grimacing and large breasts, with costumes better suited to a brass pole, is not storytelling.

The Silver Age greats knew how to tell a story, which is why the “Marvel Method” worked so well to create the foundation of the Marvel Universe. I know it is a different world now but with the above mentioned Silver Age artists, they all were in the business for 10 or twenty years (some longer) before the Silver Age and all of the above mentioned continued their careers many into the new millennium. It stands to reason that you become very, very good at storytelling. I think that we will have to take a look at the decades long careers of these masters and compare the growth of the artist over time!

It seems that 10 issues on a single title is now considered a long run. Many of todays artists seem to disappear in a very short period of time. Never to be heard from again. Maybe it’s economics.

Thankfully there are some great things going on outside of the Big 2.

I, for one, miss that consistency.

Dennis De Pues
Dennis De Pues

Dennis is an admitted "Son of the Silver Age", having grown up with the influences of Silver Age greats: Kirby, Colan, Romita and Buscema.Three decades later, he is the creator of Crash!! and Galloway Park. More is definitely on the way.

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Mike Huddleston
10 years ago

I think you might also add the most consistent thing with Marvel in the Silver age was the fact that Stan Lee was scripting most (all?) of the stories for these great artists. I honestly don’t know how he did it month in month out, over so many titles.

10 years ago

I love the silver age as well. It’s like moms apple pie (or in my case, congee since I’m Asian) providing warm comfort. So, emotionally I agree with you… but in reality it’s not an “apples to apples” comparison.

1. Back then, Marvel and DC had a house style. Guys like Frank Miller, Walt Simonson and Mike Mignola was required to conform to that style which contributed to the consistency you are so fond of.

2. In general, art and storytelling was much simpler in the Silver Age. Any joe-blow can draw. But it takes a different kind of discipline to do storyboards. You basically have to be a machine and be able to crank out page after page. By comparison, current art is much more detailed. The demands are much higher and there’s more competition. My fav current artists are the boys who started the defunct Cliffhanger imprint. Each frame in their respective titles are a polished illustration… that’s a lot of work, but it was a labor of love. Unfortunately, love does not pay the bills so guys like Joe Mad are doing other stuff. Even a superstar like Adam Hughes can’t do it, so he’s basically holed up as a cover artist.

3. Different audience. Silver Age comics were for kids. Modern comics are for those same kids who grew up, namely us. Our tastes have changed and so too the art must follow. People gravitate toward individual style these days. Guys like Mike Mignola are much more successful now than he was back then under Marvels mandate. By contrast, guys who’ve maintained the house style, like Byrne are actually less successful. However, I do acknowledge that each of these guys have their own history with the medium.

4. Values! Being an immigrant family, my parents toiled in factories to make ends meet. My dad had the same assembly line job for over 30 years! Without any formal education and politics being what they were back then, they had no dreams or opportunities of individualism. Many of the Silver Age creators have similar stories. For them it was just work. Today, many creators are made out to be “stars” and the current media climate have instilled in them a “diva-like” attitude. New talent look at guys like McFarlane and think… “hey, why not me?” There are good points to this and bad… but, it is what it is.

I understand how you feel because I feel it too. Change is difficult to accept but in the end, I do believe that change is good. Change is progress. Change rejuvenates. Change provides opportunities and allows us to correct our past mistakes. Every now and then when I start feeling cynical about current stuff (like Miley Cyrus… are you kidding me?), I like to consciously remind myself that it’s all for the better. Comics as an industry may be dying… but the soil is fertile so who know what can grow from it. Tons of movies for thing…

Mike Huddleston
10 years ago

Although I am certain Frank Miller, Mike Mignola, and Walt Simonson would have loved to have worked in the Silver Age they were still a bit too young. Frank was 12, Mike was 9, when the Silver Age ended. Walt started working in comics in 1973. Your point on house-style is bang-on correct, it certainly would
cramp artist style and individualism.