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  1. #1
    RIP, Norm... Kuwagaton's Avatar
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    Default What do you make of Golden -> Silver Age shift?

    As frequently as the distinctions for good or bad come up in modern years, I think this tends to go under the rug. The literal mother of all retcons played out across a few years unacknowledged in most senses but when said and done we ended up with a completely different character. Or did we? "Kal-L" and "Kal-el" can seem about as different as the stories they occupy, but pre-crisis is just called pre crisis as though they're not. To what extent do you like, dislike, or even notice the changes?

    Where do we even see it?

    It's probably the only division still up for debate in some ways. I personally would say that like Waid and some others the inclusion of Superboy is the biggest thing to look at. Waid sided with the Futuremen story from Superman #128 which does line up with the late 50s consensus of the change and how deep into the classic Silver Age conventions the stories were. I mean Titano was in the prior issue. The important thing was apparently the omission of Superboy.

    But Action Comics #158 is another retelling that incorporates Superboy, from 1951. That sounds early, but that was about the same time as Lois meeting Annie Oakley in Superman #70 if the records hold up. Arguably as important IMO was Lois getting the short bob and her relationship changing with Clark and Superman to make her a little sillier. That was right before Superman's first team up with Batman in #76 and meeting his "big brother" in #80, which I think is pretty typical of some of the more fantastic stuff from Ellsworth and Weisinger. Then to catch up what was becoming the DCU, World's Finest #71 is noted not only for being the beginning of the WF team but a clearly Earth One interpretation of Batman along with Superman.

  2. #2
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    I think it was a more gradual development. With the one big change being when Jerry and Joe left and their names were taken off the comics in 1947. There was a bit of a redesign of Superman and there was the new origin in SUPERMAN 53 (July-August 1948) and the first Return to Krypton story in SUPERMAN 61 (November-December 1949), which also established Kryptonite in the comics. But the character steadily evolved between 1938 and 1951.

    Look at MAN OF STEEL in 1986 and compare that with ACTION COMICS 760 (December 1999), there were a lot of changes that happened between those years, even though it was all supposed to be the same Superman.

    With Golden Age and Silver Age, it's really a case of people deciding there was a Golden Age and there was a Silver Age and then looking for things in the comics that easily separate into those two categories. If you decided there was a Steel Age and a Silicon Age, you could look for things to put into those two categories, also. But the writers and artists don't decide to make an Age and then impose changes on the characters to ensure that happens. It's just a natural process of invention and interpretation to satisfy the tastes of the market.
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  3. #3
    RIP, Norm... Kuwagaton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Kelly View Post
    With Golden Age and Silver Age, it's really a case of people deciding there was a Golden Age and there was a Silver Age and then looking for things in the comics that easily separate into those two categories.
    Yeah, that's my question. What people decide is what interests me.

    Those Finger stories are what got me thinking, really. That Superman spends his first few years clashing with cops, and from nowhere we get a story of a Pa who never really mattered now telling him to become Superman and work alongside the police. I guess in a hypothetical situation to explain the question, you could say that someone prefers one take to the other and I'm curious about what has to be the difference.

  4. #4
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    Im not the historian some here are, by any stretch. But I think the entire pre-Crisis era gets lumped together despite the huge changes in Clark and his mythos for a few reasons;

    Continuity and characterization weren't as cemented back then. Creators had the broad stroke basics, wrote simple one-off stories around it, and that was it. Its hard to draw hard and fast lines when the nature of the narrative is so fluid.

    The War. Superman started off as one thing, but like most Americans, once the War hit our shores he put his problems with authority aside to deal with the greater threat. That's a shift I doubt many people would condemn, but it completely changed Superman's trajectory and lead directly into what he would evolve into. Which leads me too.....

    Evolution. Like Jim said, the character evolves and changes, even when he's chained to a relatively static status quo. Superman in 1994 was different from Superman in 1987, and both were different from Superman in 2010, even though they were technically all the same guy with the same experiences. Pre-Crisis, I think, is largely seen the same way. There are more inconsistencies and once you get into earth-1 and earth-2 and all that it becomes a headache, but there's no hard and fast line you can point at to say "this is one Superman here, this is another there."
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  5. #5
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    The in-between period from 1948 to 1957 is when they expanded the mythology and tried out new ideas for Superman. But it was essentially a testing ground to see what worked and what didn't. So when they started to nail down the mythology in 1958 (and up until roughly 1968), they weren't obligated to keep any of the previous stories in continuity.

    A lot of stories that appeared in that in-between phase got rewritten afterward as new stories that became part of continuity. So when we think of the classic "Silver Age" Superman, it's that 1958 - 1968 run of stories that we usually mean--even though the ideas had already appeared in some form prior.

    You could probably say the same for current Superman. A lot of what has been done in previous continuities isn't relevant to this Superman, but they've kept the best of that and made it a part of current continuity.
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  6. #6
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    The whole idea of a Golden Age and Silver Age version of Superman really don't apply to the character as it was being published. The character simply evolved over time and was basically consistently retconned on an as-needed basis. Elements were added, subtracted, and contradicted all the time, but it does seem like beginning in the late 1950s Mort Weisinger tried to make things consistent for the remainder of his editorial run.

    However, years ago DC retroactively decided that Action Comics 241 from 1958, which creates the best known Fortress of Solitude in the story "The Super-Key to Fort Superman," is the start of Superman's Silver Age. This happened when DC started to reprint Silver Age Superman in the Superman: The Man of Tomorrow Archives.

    For now, this is the best marker we have.

    We also have to note that there is no way to align Silver Age Superman stories with the Earth-1 version of Superman and likewise with Golden Age and Earth-2. Superboy was introduced in 1945, but was not an Earth-2 character. However, even though Superboy is only part of the Earth-1 Superman history, that doesn't mean that those 1940s Superboy stories actually happened to the Earth-1 Superman. Again, Superboy's backstory kept evolving and much of the old stuff before Weisinger really started to care about world building and a consistent history simply now never happened.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kuwagaton View Post
    As frequently as the distinctions for good or bad come up in modern years, I think this tends to go under the rug. The literal mother of all retcons played out across a few years unacknowledged in most senses but when said and done we ended up with a completely different character. Or did we? "Kal-L" and "Kal-el" can seem about as different as the stories they occupy, but pre-crisis is just called pre crisis as though they're not. To what extent do you like, dislike, or even notice the changes?

    Where do we even see it?

    It's probably the only division still up for debate in some ways. I personally would say that like Waid and some others the inclusion of Superboy is the biggest thing to look at. Waid sided with the Futuremen story from Superman #128 which does line up with the late 50s consensus of the change and how deep into the classic Silver Age conventions the stories were. I mean Titano was in the prior issue. The important thing was apparently the omission of Superboy.

    But Action Comics #158 is another retelling that incorporates Superboy, from 1951. That sounds early, but that was about the same time as Lois meeting Annie Oakley in Superman #70 if the records hold up. Arguably as important IMO was Lois getting the short bob and her relationship changing with Clark and Superman to make her a little sillier. That was right before Superman's first team up with Batman in #76 and meeting his "big brother" in #80, which I think is pretty typical of some of the more fantastic stuff from Ellsworth and Weisinger. Then to catch up what was becoming the DCU, World's Finest #71 is noted not only for being the beginning of the WF team but a clearly Earth One interpretation of Batman along with Superman.
    I think the reason why the Golden Age and Silver Age tend to be lumped together as 'Pre Crisis' is simply because, for most of that enormous period of time, there was broadly one vision of Superman, with tweaks and cosmetic changes here and there. Between 1938 and 1986 there were no real 'reboots' as we know them.

    The most significant change occured in the early 1940's when Superman slowly transitioned from being the vigilante 'Champion of the Oppressed' into the superhero that we now know today. And one can argue that was more a case of the character developing in his early years before being cemented into his familiar status quo and trappings, where he would remain for decades thereafter.

    There were of course numerous retcons and continuity shifts - Superboy being the biggest one. But continuity simply wasn't much of a concern back then so no one was really thinking about "rebooting Superman" when they made those changes.

    The notion of the Golden Age Superman and Silver Age Superman being separate characters, or even distinct versions of the character, only really became a thing when DC created the whole Earth 1/Earth 2 concept. Since the other Golden Age heroes were on Earth 2, it was decided that the 'Golden Age Superman' would be on Earth 2 as well. And they retroactively applied to this Golden Age Superman all the elements from the earliest days of the character to distinguish him from the more familiar Silver Age Superman - even though for most of the Golden Age, Superman did not have those elements. I'm talking about stuff like Earth 2 Superman working for the Daily Star, the chest symbol etc.

    But if you really look at these two Supermen, the differences are more technical than anything else. The fundamental take on the characters is the same. One worked at the Daily Star, the other at the Daily Planet. One was Superboy, the other wasn't. But if you lined them up together, they were mostly the same character apart from those details. The biggest real difference was the Earth 2 Superman being older and married to Lois Lane. And that was not something really dependent on him being a distinct 'Golden Age' version.

    But when it comes to other versions of Superman, there was a clear attempt to draw a line in the sand and to do a distinct new take on the character - to consciously reinvent him for a new era. We saw that with Byrne. We saw that with the New 52. And we saw that with Rebirth, even though that is more a reversion to earlier takes.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Comic-Reader Lad View Post

    However, years ago DC retroactively decided that Action Comics 241 from 1958, which creates the best known Fortress of Solitude in the story "The Super-Key to Fort Superman," is the start of Superman's Silver Age. This happened when DC started to reprint Silver Age Superman in the Superman: The Man of Tomorrow Archives.
    I always wondered about that. If the idea that Brainiac being just another antagonist in his premier makes it less significant than the debut of the fortress.

    We also have to note that there is no way to align Silver Age Superman stories with the Earth-1 version of Superman and likewise with Golden Age and Earth-2. Superboy was introduced in 1945, but was not an Earth-2 character. However, even though Superboy is only part of the Earth-1 Superman history, that doesn't mean that those 1940s Superboy stories actually happened to the Earth-1 Superman. Again, Superboy's backstory kept evolving and much of the old stuff before Weisinger really started to care about world building and a consistent history simply now never happened.
    The idea is not about aligning Earth 1 and 2 as far as continuity, it's just that continuity is one of the strongest tools to make a distinction between two different products.

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    The Crisis was supposed to establish one and onlly one universe and everything that happened was supposed to be in continuity for that universe. Before Crsis, there were infinite Earths. Even if DC didn't always say so, some fans kept count of all those Earths that didn't fit. I once, long ago, got some info about Elongated Man appearances from Mikishawm (John Wells) and his list of apperances accounted for all the other Earths that would cover the oddball continuity--and each Earth had a number that went into the hundreds.

    Here's a similar Mikishawm list that Carol Strickland has posted for Power Girl--http://www.carolastrickland.com/comi...mikishawm.html

    So you could assume that if a story didn't fit within the continuity, it had happened on an alternate Earth. And you didn't have to sweat the details for every single story. There were only certain stories that had primacy in the ongoing continuity for Earth-One, Earth-Two or whatever.

    Of course, after Crisis, we fans continued to assume there were infinite Earths, because post-Crisis DC contradicted its continuity so often. Yet the creative talents were always trying to insist that every new Superman story counted and should not be ignored. You had to buy every comic, because every comic was supposed to be important to the continuity. There couldn't be a frivolous story that defied continuity--if there was it was clearly identified as a goof and not really real in the single DCU. If continuity changed, there had to be a big event that established that continuity had changed.

    I think we can assume that has all broken down and we're back again in a state of things where there are infinite Earths and anything that doesn't fit simply belongs to another Earth. Not everything counts.
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  10. #10
    Incredible Member Vordan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Kelly View Post
    The Crisis was supposed to establish one and onlly one universe and everything that happened was supposed to be in continuity for that universe. Before Crsis, there were infinite Earths. Even if DC didn't always say so, some fans kept count of all those Earths that didn't fit. I once, long ago, got some info about Elongated Man appearances from Mikishawm (John Wells) and his list of apperances accounted for all the other Earths that would cover the oddball continuity--and each Earth had a number that went into the hundreds.

    Here's a similar Mikishawm list that Carol Strickland has posted for Power Girl--http://www.carolastrickland.com/comi...mikishawm.html

    So you could assume that if a story didn't fit within the continuity, it had happened on an alternate Earth. And you didn't have to sweat the details for every single story. There were only certain stories that had primacy in the ongoing continuity for Earth-One, Earth-Two or whatever.

    Of course, after Crisis, we fans continued to assume there were infinite Earths, because post-Crisis DC contradicted its continuity so often. Yet the creative talents were always trying to insist that every new Superman story counted and should not be ignored. You had to buy every comic, because every comic was supposed to be important to the continuity. There couldn't be a frivolous story that defied continuity--if there was it was clearly identified as a goof and not really real in the single DCU. If continuity changed, there had to be a big event that established that continuity had changed.

    I think we can assume that has all broken down and we're back again in a state of things where there are infinite Earths and anything that doesn't fit simply belongs to another Earth. Not everything counts.
    Its my understanding the “local” Multiverse is still just 52 Earths, which is why the Dark Multiverse is a thing. That’s a way to write around the limit.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vordan View Post
    Its my understanding the “local” Multiverse is still just 52 Earths, which is why the Dark Multiverse is a thing. That’s a way to write around the limit.
    Officially, DC might have a defined continuity, but it seems like they're currently pretty lax about what's in continuity and what's out. So that's why I see it as being more like pre-Crisis, where despite things supposedly happening only on Earth-One or Earth-Two, not every story fit into continuity--which is why fans said that they belonged on Earth-B or Earth-E and so on, even if DC never made that claim official.
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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kuwagaton View Post
    I always wondered about that. If the idea that Brainiac being just another antagonist in his premier makes it less significant than the debut of the fortress.
    It's up to the individual which event is more significant, I think.

    However, using Action 241 as the start of Superman's Silver Age was probably decided upon by realizing that all the 1960s stuff was DEFINITELY Silver Age, so the start of the Silver Age could be determined by simply looking at all the story elements that really defined the 1960s Superman lore and tracing them back to when they first appeared.

    Fortress: Action 241, June 1958
    Brainiac: Action 242, July 1958
    Kandor: Action 242, July 1958
    Red Kryptonite: Adventure Comics 252, Sept 1958 (every other color followed except Green, obviously)
    Titano: Superman 127, Feb 1959
    Lucy Lane: Jimmy Olsen 36, April 1959
    Supergirl: Action 252, May 1959
    Lori Lemaris: Superman 129, May 1959
    Bizarro-Superman: Action 254, July 1959
    Beppo: Superboy 76, Oct 1959
    Sam Lane: Lois Lane 13, Nov 1959
    Streaky: Action 261, Feb 1960
    Lena Luthor: Lois Lane 23, Feb 1961
    Phantom Zone & General Zod: Adventure 283, April 1961
    Jax-Ur: Adventure 289, Oct 1961
    Superman Revenge Squad: Action 286, March 1962


    However, you might go back a few months to the debut of the Legion of Super-Heroes from Adventure Comics 247, April 1958, but I guess DC didn't wanna. Maybe because the Legion was primarily a Superboy thing like Krypto who debuted in Adventure 210 from March 1955 and SuperMAN's world didn't start expanding until 1958. Likewise, Jimmy Olsen's series, which began in 1954 is also considered a Silver Age series, but this is a retroactive thing like making Martian Manhunter (Nov 1955) a Silver Age character even though he debuted before Barry Allen (Oct 1956).

    Even stranger, Captain Comet is an Earth-1 character even though all of his original adventures took place during the "Atom" Age of comics from 1951-1954, which many fans, like me, consider to really be part of the Golden Age.

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    It's at least partly a kind of symmetry--both for Mort Weisinger at the time and for DC later when they did the Archives (and I'd like to think that they were looking at what Osgood Peabody and I were saying about a possible Man of Tomorrow Archives series on the DC Archives forum way back then).

    ACTION COMICS No. 1 was cover-dated June 1938 and ACTION COMICS No. 241 was cover-dated June 1958. Weisinger was celebrating the 20th anniversary of Superman's first appearance, by featuring a milestone event.

    Mind you, I think that 242 was more spectacular, with both Brainiac and Kandor--but the Fortress of Solitude needed to be established for Superman to have put the bottle city in his Fortress.
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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Kelly View Post
    Officially, DC might have a defined continuity, but it seems like they're currently pretty lax about what's in continuity and what's out. So that's why I see it as being more like pre-Crisis, where despite things supposedly happening only on Earth-One or Earth-Two, not every story fit into continuity--which is why fans said that they belonged on Earth-B or Earth-E and so on, even if DC never made that claim official.
    The difference though is that pre-Crisis, at least before the Bronze Age, there was no real 'continuity' as such to bother with, simply because serialized storytelling wasn't much of a thing. You could pick up a Superman comic in the 40's or in the 60's and there might be some superficial differences but its not like Superman has more backstory in the latter - he's basically stll at the same point in his life with the same status quo. So if stuff in one story contradicts some detail from a previous story, it doesn't really matter because each story is more or less standalone, barring the occasional sequel.

    In current continuity though, Superman has about 15 years worth of history in-universe, made up of bits and pieces drawn from various past continuities. And for the sake of present stories, it does matter to some extent what 'counts' and what doesn't. Plus, the notion of a 'shared universe' is now stronger than it ever was pre-Crisis, so you don't just have to worry about consistency with previous Superman stories, but also with stories from all across the DC Universe.

  15. #15
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    If you pick up a comic from the first departure of Siegel and the second, I think you'll notice more than a superficial difference. In the character depiction maybe little since the plots weren't written to put focus to exploring his personality, but it's still a pretty different product. One thing that got me thinking was a few of us comparing golden age Lois to silver age Lois. If you take two people who have read one era and not the other, they could come up with exclusive definitions to how the characters of Superman's world work in addition to describing the formula of the plots differently. Consider this: Maggin thought the surface differences that CoIE brought about made the character unrecognizable as Superman. The beginning of 86 and the end of 86 don't really compare to decades to many people.

    For another comparison, well, I'm not much of a bat reader but by the time Robin had been effectively written into the series to the bronze age, the stories gave you comparitvely more similarities imo. Marvel's 1964 line was just the same as 1984 with the exception of where the X-Men sat. You could pick up one character and even if you read about "Peter Porter" previously, the developments hadn't made the product difficult to recognize.

    I like the phrase Atomic Age for that interim that was mentioned, it's just that it as an era only really applies to Superman. The newspaper reprints have adopted the term. And there between Schwartz and Siegel I think you have a much more consistent product from the late 30s to mid 60s.

    Quote Originally Posted by Comic-Reader Lad View Post

    However, you might go back a few months to the debut of the Legion of Super-Heroes from Adventure Comics 247, April 1958, but I guess DC didn't wanna. Maybe because the Legion was primarily a Superboy thing like Krypto who debuted in Adventure 210 from March 1955 and SuperMAN's world didn't start expanding until 1958.
    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Kelly View Post

    ACTION COMICS No. 1 was cover-dated June 1938 and ACTION COMICS No. 241 was cover-dated June 1958. Weisinger was celebrating the 20th anniversary of Superman's first appearance, by featuring a milestone event.

    Mind you, I think that 242 was more spectacular, with both Brainiac and Kandor--but the Fortress of Solitude needed to be established for Superman to have put the bottle city in his Fortress.
    Very good points.

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