Conventionally, the Golden Age of Comic Books is thought to have begun in the 1930s, usually with the publication of Action Comics #1 in 1938, the first appearance of Superman. The first appearance of Batman in Detective Comics #27 follows in 1939. Then Green Lantern, then Wonder Woman, and so on.
But arguably, we’re living in a second Golden Age today, in the 20-teens; although it’s a different kind of age. The stories and characters coming out of the industry today are not as groundbreaking as those of the 30s and 40s. Comics are still, in a sense, derivative, reinterpretations (or maybe reinvigorations) of the creations of Siegel, Shuster, and Kane.
At the same time superheroes have never been more popular. My wife – a woman who does not read or particularly like comics – knows who Iron Man is. She could also, if pressed, probably name three or four members of the Avengers. I can walk into any Wal-Mart or Target in the country and buy Captain America pyjamas for my son. That’s kind of amazing. When I was 14, I had to drop $35 bucks at a local comic store to get the one ill-fitting Superman t-shirt they had in stock. More fans than ever before have been exposed to more superheroes than ever before. Characters like Loki, the Green Goblin, and Ra’s al Ghul are household names. The movie-going public has come to recognize what comic fans have known for decades: these stories, and these characters have depth and substance.
There are a lot of great comic books being published today, but are we seeing a new Golden Age of Comics, or just a Golden Age of Superheroes? Comic books and superheroes have always been closely connected, but they aren’t synonymous. Robert Downey Jr. has been instrumental in the Golden Age of Superheroes, but has he contributed in some way to the current state of comics? Is Christopher Nolan a modern-day Frank Miller? These are weird and unanswerable questions.
The reason I’m pondering them is because I’m reading comic books again, for the first time in a long time. I’m a lapsed fan who has returned to the fold. I grew up in the 80s and 90s. As a kid I loved Spider-Man and Superman and Spawn. I collected Grant Morrison’s JLA and Erik Larsen’s Savage Dragon in high school. When I hit university, I stopped. Partly because I didn’t have the money, but more because I didn’t have the time to devote to comics.
Nearly fifteen years later, I’ve started collecting again – visiting my local comic shop once a week, tracking down back issues in antique stores, and bidding on hard-to-find comics on eBay.
Ultimately, I think it was the Golden Age of Superheroes that brought me back to the comic shop. The stories being told on the big and small screens were good enough that they made me wonder what I was missing, and they made me long for the pastime of my youth. Maybe I’m unique, but I suspect I’m not.
This is a blog about comic books and superheroes. I hope you like it.