A while back, I talked about some dark horse candidates for the final books and/or events of the Silver Age. This week (and perhaps into next), I'll be shoving aside the likes of Conan the Barbarian #1, Green Lantern/Green Arrow #76 and Jimmy Olsen #133 while I review some candidates for the true springboard into the Bronze Age.
As a genre, horror comics had an incredible resurgence during the Bronze Age. Much has been made about the loosening of certain rules at the Comics Code Authority as an impetus for this revival. I'll argue that it started before that. Perhaps inspired by the success of Warren's black and white magazines, and the increased competition in the superhero genre, DC decided to turn back the clock on some of its titles. People will often point to House of Mystery #174, the first issue after Joe Orlando took over from George Kashdan, as the first issue of DC's new approach to horror. Not me. I think that The Unexpected #105 (the "Tales of" was dropped), which hit the racks a couple of months before Orlando's monumental issue, was the first shot fired in the new age of horror, and ultimately ushered in the Bronze Age.
For years, Tales of the Unexpected was one of the great misnomer in comics, as it featured tired storylines and cookie cutter alien threats. Far from a true horror series, this was home to Space Ranger, Automan and even the Green Glob. While there was a certain charm to these strips, it was clear that this title was in need of a serious overhaul. Editor Murray Bolitnoff took over from Jack Schiff with issue #103, but it wasn't really until #105 that it was made clear to readers that this title was heading in a new direction. It was a breath of fresh air, moving away from the hokey stories from earlier in the decade. DC/National was never at forefront of horror comics during the heyday of the pre-Code era, but this issue announced that they would be leaders of the 2nd horrific age. Bob Brown's nicely designed and very intense cover was unlike anything readers had seen on a DC 'Mystery' title. Inside, the stories are not exactly at an 'EC' level, but they are certainly a bit meatier that your average Automan tale. Also included are a couple of 50s reprints - nothing to keep you up all night with the light on, but I never complain about Gil Kane and Ruben Moreira artwork.
The Bronze Age was a time of change, new genres and envelopes being pushed. The Unexpected #105 is arguably the first true bit of mainstream counter programming to the glut of superhero titles on the market. Horror and Mystery titles were ready to reclaim their genres.
For more random talk about comics and other things - please stop by my blog: Seduction of the Indifferent
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