Wednesday, January 06, 2010

The Silverage, Better Than Ever, or Why Jim's Wrong

One of the things that I enjoy most about posting after Jim is correcting all of his mistakes! Take yesterday’s post “Why The Silver Age has Become Tarnished,” which is riddled with logical fallacies. Ok, maybe not riddled but I do think his post misses the mark when it comes to the Silverage.

Jim has two basic premises: (1) the Silverage is not as good as what we have today and (2) It is more of a trip down a nostalgic lane and a place for modern writers to mine gold as the Silverage creators had tons of throw away ideas which have great potential.

Let’s start with the first part of Jim’s argument that the Silverage isn’t as good as what we have today. In a sense, everyone agrees that the superhero stories today are better than the superhero stories written during the Silverage. As Jim stated, Silverage books were written for a different audience. It was written for us when we were between 8 and 12. Now that we’re older, it’s obvious the books and stories that we read as children no longer hold the same appeal.

I’ve always like the quote, "When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I felt as a child, I thought as a child. Now that I have become a man, I have put away childish things," and that applies to comic books perfectly. But, what happened was the children grew up and still wanted to read comic books. Therefore, comic books have become more sophisticated to match the older readerships tastes.

If Jim had added the caveat ‘for me’ to his statement “Comic books are a lot better now then they ever have been in the US” then I could have agreed with him. But, I would argue that comic books are worse for 8-12 year old boys these days then they were in the Silverge. And I think they are infinitely worse for 8-12 year old girls.

Most of the books today are marked T or T+. I certainly wouldn’t hand my son any of the Avengers books, or Thunderbolts, or many other titles. But I can hand my son any of the DC Archives or Marvel Masterworks, and I do, he tells me what I already know. Those are amazing superhero stories.

In terms of girl readers, there is no comparison in terms of the amount of material available for, and marketed to, girls today vs. what was aimed at them during the Silverage. The current Supergirl title isn’t aimed at girls at all. It’s written by men for the boys that read it. The same argument can be made about Powergirl, Catwoman, and almost all of the other female lead books.

I have a stack of Silverage and Bronze age Millie the Model books that my daughters have destroyed. All the paper dolls have been cut out and all the puzzles done. There is absolutely nothing comparable in today’s market that holds the same appeal for young girls. SIDE NOTE: All apologies to the Boom! Kids line because my girls like that… but I’m not going to point that out while I’m bashing Jim.

So, does that mean the Silveage material isn’t as good as today’s material? I say no. I would argue that Silverage superhero material has only gotten better over the years because there isn’t any other material for an 8 – 12 year old boy or girl to read.

Do Silverage stories hold up to re-reading and are they for nostalgia purposes only? It depends on who you ask. Does the reading experience hold up for me? The answer is yes and no. Archie, general humor, and horror titles tend to hold up pretty well because they aren't comparable to today's material. There's a certain timeless quality to humor and horror and I like to read them. But superheroes, for the most part, do not. Do the stories hold up for my children? That’s an emphatic yes.

I don’t think the Silverage has lost it’s luster at all. When I read it, it still brings back many a happy hour (or three) that I spent reading them. And, from Jim's statements to me about getting excited about the new ‘Dial H for Hero’ Showcase, I don’t think the Silverage has lost any luster for him either.


  1. Geez, funny as you were the one who said the silver age was not holding up as well.

    Is the silver age still as good for young kids, well with kids I would say yes and agree, but I would also say that comics (for the most part) are no longer targeted for that young of an age bracket.

    I think Marvel Adventures and Johnny DC stuff are attempts to do that, but they are not as good as much of the old silver age material.

  2. I'm pretty sure that by the time I started reading comics in earnest in 1977 or so the Silver Age was over. I've only read Silver Age stuff here and there over the years, so I'm no expert on the quality of that writing. That being said, regardless of who the target audience has become, the writing now is far better than when I started with Spdier-man, X-Men and the like. Obviously, quality could decline post Silver Age and recover later, but I think when I started reading was a transition time when the books were moving from the kid market to the teen and adult market.

    My conclusion? Even if you account for the difference in intended audience, the writing in Silver Age books wasn't very good. Viewed through the prism of kid's literature, it's no Babar or Madeline. Even if you consider that it was for older kids than that audience, it's still of a lesser quality of writing than those works aimed at younger kids. Really, the Silver Age was, like the Golden Age, meant to be disposable writing of questionable quality. That some great concepts came out of it is serendipitous, particularly with better writing being employed now to flesh out some of those concepts.

    And that's my 2 cents.