Sunday, June 7, 2015

Precious Metals

It occurred to me the other day while re-reading my last two posts...

"Crap, I love running Superhero RPGs, and I'd LOVE to run one in a DC Universe".

Damn. Grife! Sprock it all!

Excuse my language*, but Great Krypton folks, what am I to do?

Left - Superman in the Golden Age - 1942
Center - Superman in the Silver Age - 1962
Right - Superman in the Bronze Age - 1982

I've mentioned that my group is a bit, er, unfamiliar with the type of Superhero comic books I love most. Through a discussion with my players this past Memorial Day, I discovered that one in particular really doesn't comprehend the distinctions between Silver Age, Bronze Age, and how either of them differ Modern.

I tried very hard to understand where he was coming from, and attempted, perhaps unsuccessfully at the time, to explain the distinctions. I believe I focused on the variations between Silver and Golden, and by comparison, Modern.

I don't feel I did a respectable job of explaining the differences though. Possibly because I was internally, mentally, losing my s#^t, and had to focus all the power of my indomitable will to prevent myself from flipping out.

More over, I think it was because I'd never had to explain it from scratch before.

You see, to me, the eras of comic book history are clearly defined, if not by exact dates, then by tonal changes in the fan base, in society in general, in the comic book industry, and in aesthetics.

You don't wonder why the Bronze Age of Man was called the Bronze Age of Man in Human history. The name comes from the growing use of copper, and tin ore smelting to create bronze. It followed the Neolithic, or 'Stone', Age, and was in turn followed by the Iron Age.

Most (although perhaps not all) individuals living in our modern day, advanced civilizations, with a high school level of education, should be generally aware of this chronology of 'ages'.

Now, I am not so foolish as to assume that the average person on the street is as knowledgeable about the history of comic books as they are the history of our species.

I do expect that anyone even remotely familiar with comic book fandom, and the Superhero genre, be generally aware of the various ages of comic books. I can comprehend not knowing exactly when each era starts and stops, what age a given character is identified with, or even why some like a given era over another. Not knowing what it means to say Silver Age, or Bronze Age however, is very hard for me to fathom.

 I will never comprehend what people see in the Iron Age, but I know what it is. As a matter of fact, knowing what it is, or was, allows to realize why I don't enjoy comics from that period of time.

I think my best bet is going to be doing a few posts that define these eras, at least as I see them. I can, hopefully, make it clearer as to the feel, and atmosphere I'm going for by pointing out the specifics of the periods I'm most interested in. By identifying the tropes of each age, the comics that are so precious to me, won't seem such a mystery to others.

It's worth a shot.

Barking Alien

*Grife, and Sprock are expletives used in the 31st Century of DC's Legion of Superheroes comic. I assume they are untranslatable from the common interstellar language of the United Planets of that era, known as Interlac.


  1. I didn't now about the eras (well, except that, an some point, everyone changed their uniforms to black or had a more violent "clone" dressed in black) until I read the GM chapter in Mutants & Masterminds 2nd Ed. It was pretty well explained and you only needed a passing familiarity with comics (like me). Maybe you can ask your player to read it.

    1. Interesting. I do recall that Mutants & Masterminds did a very good job of explaining the 'Ages'. I'll look into that recommendation. Thanks.

  2. There's a really good mini-history of comic books, including defining the elements of the Ages, in one of the Mutants & Masterminds books (it might be the latest GM's guide).

    1. What the...?! Two, back-to-back mentions of Mutants & Masterminds? That's got to be a sign. I'll find the book, and section, and see if I can lend it to my player (or make him a copy of that part).

  3. Looking forward to reading your articles on the ages of comics. For me, the Silver Age is where to play, where heroines are heroines and villains are themed.

    1. I couldn't agree more. Definitely my favorite era, although I'll admit I sometimes blur the lines between Silver, and Bronze a little.

  4. Silver Age Sentinels had a pretty nice breakdown of this as well, just to mix things up : )