So many great geek debates focus on the beginning or ending of various comic book ages. The shift from Silver Age to Bronze Age has never been crystal clear to me, but there are a few favorites that are constantly mentioned. Sometimes people point to a specific book. Conan #1 and Green Lantern/Green Arrow #76 are often cited as the first books of the Bronze Age. Other times, it may be a certain ‘event’ such as Jack Kirby’s move from Marvel to DC or Mort Weisinger’s retirement.
I’ve heard all of these a million times and they make me yawn. I like to be a contrarian (read: pain in the ass), so I’m planning on arguing on behalf of a few nominees this week for the defining line in the Silver Age/Bronze Age sand.
Today’s nominee is Metal Men #37. Yup, Metal Men #37. Don’t have that listed among your ‘keys’, do you? Think I’m crazy? Well, look at what we’ve got here.
1. Plotline involves non-imaginary ‘Death’ of title characters
2. Major redirection of long-running Silver Age title
3. Complete redesign of all central characters
4. Exploration of Discrimination and Anti-Human sentiment
Do any of those themes sound like they might become mainstays in comic books for the next two decades?
For those of you who haven’t read it, Metal Men was a fun title was quite representative of the Silver Age. It was a team book with a lots of infighting (like Fantastic Four and Doom Patrol), but also had a lot of the scientific elements that were key to books such as Atom and the Flash. Robert Kanigher and the Andru/Esposito team steered the Metal Men through their first few years of adventures. Eventually, things became a little formulaic and creator changes ensued.
With new creators came a major shift in tone and the former goofball heroes became the hunted as an enemy of mankind. This arc crescendoed with Metal Men #37, when the team was captured and sentenced to be executed (at a scrap yard, no less!). I don’t want to spoil too much at this point, but let’s just say that the title didn’t just get a facelift, but it underwent head to toe plastic surgery.
To me, Metal Men #37 represents a shift in the approach to comic book storytelling. The willingness to completely overhaul a title and introduce themes such as ethics and the role of non-humans in society are signs than an era has ended.
Next Up: The Final Tower