Friday, June 11, 2010

Iron Age Week: Nostalgia

As the Iron Age progressed, you could tell that something was building. A slow but steady dissatisfaction with "grim n' gritty" was building, among creators if not fans. In the early '90s, writers and artists took more and more inspiration from the Golden and Silver Ages. Of the writers, the most notable would be Kurt Busiek, Mark Waid, and Alan Moore. As for artists, it's a little difficult to pin down, but there were several guys who clearly showcased a cartoony style much different than that popularized by the Image artists. These cartoony pencillers, like Ty Templeton, Mike Parobeck, and Mark Weiringo, owe a debt of sorts to Bruce Timm's Batman: The Animated Series, which itself harkened back to the Max Fleischer Superman cartoons of the 1940's.

So, why the nostalgia kick? Christopher McGlothlin, author of M&M's Golden Age sourcebook, notes that part of it was minor jealousy. As much as comics were entering a boom period during the Iron Age, sales never quite reached some of the numbers achieved by Golden Age comics (as much as Todd McFarlane might claim otherwise). More importantly, the grim and gritty trend went from innovative to redundant to monotonous. Poor imitations of landmark stories and characters diluted the impact. Creators looked back to a more innocent time.

Now, in my Golden Age week postings, I brought up to examples of this nostalgia- James Robinson's [i]Golden Age[/i] and Gary Carlson's Big  Bang Comics. Here are a few more that I've enjoyed....

Starman (DC Comics): Starman was one of many titles to spin out of DC's Zero Hour crossover, but it was the only one to find any kind of success. It was an odd mix of Golden Age characters and Iron Age sensibilities. I got into it late in its run, around '97 or '98, but I had read some of the earlier Shade tie-ins presented in one of the Showcase minis, and I was amazed how series writer had such a clear vision of what the story would be from start to finish.

Justice Society of America (DC Comics): Not to be confused with the much more popular JSA relaunch that happened in the late '90s, this was a short-lived series that was cancelled after ten issues between '92-'93. While it was on, though, it offered simple, fun stories with art by the late, great Mike Parobeck. It's also notable for containing Jesse Quick's first appearances, who is now an important part of the JSA as Liberty Belle.

1963 (Image Comics): This six issue series by Alan Moore is either an homage to or a parody of Marvel's Silver Age, depending on who you talk to. Each issue focuses on a pastiche of a Marvel title- there's Mystery Inc. (The Fantastic Four), The Fury (Spider-Man), Horus (Thor), etc. There's also a Dr. Strange character who's also a Beatnik, which is absolute GENIUS. The attention to detail in this series is AMAZING, featuring fake editor's notes, letters pages, and advertisements, the latter being especially hysterical.

These are just the tip of the iceberg, as there are more examples of creators looking back to previous characters or just concepts. This trend would become an institution in the current age of comics, as evidenced by guys like Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Alex Ross, and many others.

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