The Golden Age of Comic Books describes an era of American comic books from the late 1930s to the early 1950s.
The March meeting of the Marylebone Library Graphic Novel Club considered the various comic book eras including the Golden Age (1930 – 1955), Silver Age (1956 – 1970), Bronze Age (1970 – 1985) and the Modern Age (1986 – present) of comics and their influences.
In the Golden Age, modern comic books were first published and rapidly increased in popularity; the superhero archetype was created and many famous characters debuted, including Superman, Batman, Captain America, Wonder Woman, and Captain Marvel. Although Captain Marvel had the greatest sales of all the Golden age heroes with 1.4 million copies sold, Superman has been considered the archetype of the Superhero.
It’s unclear if this ‘reduced standard’ in the naming of the ages from Gold to Bronze represents a reduction in the quality of comics over the years, but it is clear that the style and content of comics has changed throughout each age due to external social influences at the time.
Established in the shadow of two world wars, the superhero represented clear ideas of morality, honor and justice that were uncompromising and unwavering in the face of overwhelming adversities. Social norms were represented to the young, male-dominated audience who consumed the medium and female characters were largely under-developed. As the Cold War became more apparent, the superhero became less popular in the face of new independent comic book companies creating various scenarios to analyse and criticise the society they lived in. Stories became more cynical, violent and “adult”, leaving behind both young readers and the idea that the hero would save us.
Many voices in our group agreed that the superhero archetype, specifically Superman, was clichéd, outdated and unrepresentative of the views or realities of the modern age. Others argued that superheros are a creation of fiction and fantasy to escape reality, who inspire us to imagine a better world of gods and giants where we are the best version of ourselves.
In each case, the hero has evolved from being faster than a speeding train and leaping tall buildings, to outrunning bullets, flying and more recently releasing the energy of the sun. Only time will tell if the most recent incarnations of our classic heroes will survive the next age of the comic book.
In the next meeting – this evening, 1 April – we’ll be discussing whether and why sex and/or violence is essential in comics. Over the course of our previous discussions, the recurring theme of violence and sex has appeared briefly within the context of specific works. The presence of scantily clad female characters, coupled with scenes of sometimes extreme violence is now almost a mandatory requirement for comic books; more so than any comedic characteristic to a story.
In this discussion we’ll be considering:
- Garth Ennis (Punisher, Preacher, Crossed)
- Ed Brubaker (Criminal, Fatale, Incognito)
- Robert Kirkman (The walking dead, Invincible)
- Howard Chaykin (Black Kiss)
- Mark Millar (Kickass, Wanted)
Come to Marylebone Library this evening at 6.30pm and join in.