Bronze Age Beginnings

Bronze Age Beginnings

Trying to define exactly when Marvel’s Bronze Age began is fraught with danger; it would be hard to find any two Marvel fans of the Bronze Age that can agree on a specific date or issue, and besides, it would not have been a sudden line-wide shift from the Silver Age to the Bronze Age, but a gradual shift in tone and style. It is generally agreed that the shift occurred in the early 70s, but many of Marvel’s comics would still read with a Silver Age sensibility well into the early years of that Marvellous decade.

So, what makes a Marvel comic Bronze Age? Good question. It could be a change in direction, usually involving the departure of one or more of the creators involved in a particular title, or a change in logo, or a move to telling stories with a more mature perspective; more relevant, for want of a better term. The late 60s and early 70s saw an influx of new creators who had been fans during the previous decade, and who were now involved in producing those same comics they grew up with, but with a more modern slant.

With that in mind, I am going to attempt to delineate when long-running Marvel characters hit that crucial moment, and started their Bronze Age journey. By no means is this a finished work, and I am more than open to suggestions; so please feel free to post comments, and your own thoughts on when a particular feature/character made the jump from Silver to Bronze, here.

Fantastic Four

Possibly one of the easiest to look for a defining moment between Silver and Bronze Age, not least because the break-up of the Lee and Kirby team is often held up as one of the many small steps between the Silver and Bronze Age’s of comics, not just Marvel’s. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created (let’s not get into the specifics of who was more influential in their creation here) The Fantastic Four in 1961, kick-starting the Marvel Universe, and went on to write and draw an unprecedented run of 102 issues together. Jack Kirby left the series with issue #102 (cover date September 1970) bringing to a close what many consider to be the Silver Age of Marvel. I’m not entirely convinced. Although the artistic synergy between Lee and Kirby was now dissolved, Kirby hadn’t been bringing much new to the table for awhile and the book continued on without him on a steady, but unexceptional, course written by Stan Lee. My own defining Bronze Age Marvel moment was the use of a new logo on issue #119 (cover date February 1972), written by Roy Thomas, who was to take over scripting Fantastic Four permanently with issue #126 (cover date September 1972), with a new telling of the groups origin, and ostensibly a fresh start. I would claim #126 as being the start of the Fantastic Four’s Bronze Age, though I could be convinced otherwise.

The Avengers

As with the Fantastic Four, I used the change of logo (with issue #96 cover date February 1972) as my personal Bronze Age moment, but it could be argued that The Avengers went Bronze a few months earlier with issue #89 (June 1971) and the start of the Kree/Skrull War. Roy Thomas was joined by Neal Adams (whose style defines Bronze Age in its exaggerated realism) on art with issue #93, and the saga lasted nine issues, something never before attempted in mainstream super-hero comics. Stylistically, and creatively, this was a turning point for Marvel (and The Avengers), so I am going to suggest issue #89 as the moment The Avengers turned to Bronze.


If the Fantastic Four had one the easiest possible demarcations between the Silver and Bronze Ages, then X-Men is a no-brainer. The series started in 1963, written and drawn by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby; however, it never really sold as well as its contemporaries. Despite a valiant attempt by Roy Thomas and Neal Adams to rejuvenate the concept in 1969, the series finally succumbed to low sales with issue #66 (March 1970), and switched to publishing reprints until issue #93 (June 1975). The original members of the team appeared sporadically throughout the Marvel Universe, first in Amazing Adventures #11 (March 1972) – which took a small step towards the Bronzing of the concept by revamping The Beast into a Bronze Age staple (the monster/ horror feature). It was with the launch of the All New, All Different X-Men in Giant-Size X-Men #1 (1975), however, that the X-Men fully entered the Marvel Bronze Age. Written by Len Wein and drawn by Dave Cockrum, the concept was given an international flavour, with students recruited from Russia, Japan, Ireland, Canada, Germany and Africa; if the previous students were the nice polite ones from an exclusive fee paying school, then these were the foreign exchange students with a bad attitude.

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To be continued...
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