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Author Topic: Were the old days really that good?  (Read 9717 times)
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Maximara
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« on: October 24, 2005, 06:53:35 AM »

Looking over the Superman is a Dick  page with its 'shock' covers (which usially had some expliation in the story for why Superman was behaving the way he was depicted on the cover) I have to ask is the Iron Age really worse than the gimics these issue covers had? What is worse is these are not all Lois Lane/Jimmy Olsen issues which seemed to attrack this kind of stuff like flies.

Compare the cover for Superman #298 to the actual story and you will see what I mean. Do we have fond memories of the Golden and Silver/Bronze ages because for the most part only the best issues/stories of those eras have been reprinted? If we similarly 'cherry picked' the Iron Age would it look a lot better than it does?
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ShinDangaioh
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« Reply #1 on: October 24, 2005, 01:01:00 PM »

The Golden/Silver/Bronze age comics did their best to stay in one issue.  Important storylines got 2 or 3 issues.  A very, very rare storyline got four.

Stuff is now padded out to six issues to be put in a trade or in some cases twelve issues to be put in 2 trades on a regular basis.(ie Batman: Hush, Superman: For Tomorrow)
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MatterEaterLad
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« Reply #2 on: October 24, 2005, 01:14:27 PM »

Are you talking about the gimmicks mostly, or the quality of the stories in general?
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GeorgeKirk
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« Reply #3 on: October 24, 2005, 01:46:23 PM »

The Golden, Silver, and Bronze Ages never depicted Superman like this. That's why they're superior to the Iron Age.
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nightwing
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« Reply #4 on: October 24, 2005, 01:59:29 PM »

I think it's human nature to remember the pleasant stuff and forget the not-so-nice.  And I will certainly grant that *every* age had its share of rotten stories, the Silver Age -- and especially the Bronze Age -- being no exceptions.  ("Master Mesmerizer of Metropolis," anyone?)  As someone who scours back-issue bins for SA goodies, I can tell you many's the time I've been excited by a classic old cover, only to get home and find within a story with poor plotting, botched characterizations and yes, even some concepts I found wrong-headed to the point of being distasteful.

However, I think what we tend to gripe about on this board is not so much individual stories as an overall shift in the mythos from positive themes to negative, from a morally centered Superman to a morally confused one, from a basic optimism about the power of good to a bleak fatalism that says evil will ultimately win out, it's just a matter of time.

Have there been occasional good stories in the Iron Age?  A few.  But in my opinion they're overwhelmed by the bad ones, and undermined by a negative philosophy that pervades the entire modern mythos.

Personally, I think the modern method of storytelling, which I will call the Marvel Serial method, makes it much harder for good stories to be told.  For most of DC's early history, stories stood on their own merits from month to month; each new issue of a book had a tale with a beginning, a middle and an end.  The story might pick up threads from an older tale, but for the most part you did not have to buy every issue of a book to enjoy even one.  As a result, it was possible to have a bad story in March, a pretty good one in April, May and June, a fantastic one in July, and back to pretty good for the next three months, and so on.  In this scheme, even if by the numbers your stories are more often merely adequate than all-out great, you still come away with a feeling of overall quality.  You know that every month you'll get at least a "good" story and every now and then you'll get one that blows your socks off.  Yes, you might also get one that's awful, but odds are next month things will be better and at worst you've only wasted a quarter (or 60 cents, or whatever).

Compare that to today's comics; you don't have stories anymore, you have storyLINES.  Continuing sagas that stretch out for months at a time, often across multiple titles.  Now, if the concept behind a storyline is good and interesting, that might work out for you.  But as with any era, of course most ideas are not all that great.  Just like the Silver and Bronze Age, some ideas are just okay and some are plain bad.  The difference is now it takes months or even years to play out those so-so and bad stories that used to wrap up in one issue.  So in the end, your average comes way down; 6 straight months of D's on a report card would be hard to bounce back from with a couple of B's.

Another problem with the "Serial" method is that it seems beyond most comics writers to tell a story over months, anyway.  Once you read the TPB's you spot all sorts of threads that were never tied up, ideas that went nowhere, elements that appear out of nowhere.  And it only gets worse when the story stretches across other titles; Writer B can hardly be faulted for giving less than 100% to a story that was dumped on him by Writer A in another book, and with so many freelancers spread out over the country (and world), it's a wonder they ever connect long enough to keep any kind of consistency at all.  I submit that besides offering less to the reader, the "serial" method is also no friend to writers...even though in the short run it seems to make their jobs easier by asking them to come up with far, far fewer fresh ideas than their predecessors had to.

Yet another problem...a big one... is that modern creators are expected to (a) "shake things up" constantly and (b) accept whatever happened in the last "shake up" and work from there.  Superman, and other characters, are constantly taken in new directions that more often than not are destructive to the mythos or just plain stupid (Superman Red/Blue, the Spidey clone story, etc).  Now in the old days, you could do something really stupid (like saying Superman's glasses make Clark Kent look like Wally Cox) and if it didn't work, you simply forgot about it the next month.  Now everything that happens has to become "canon" and be dealt with.  Where before there was a sort of Darwinian principle at work -- throw in every idea you've got and the strong ones will survive -- now the philosophy is, if it's in a Superman book, whether good or bad, it's canon and you have to work with it.  And for me, its not so much the unworthiness of any one story, but rather the preponderence, the totality, the gigantic piggy pile of bad, bad ideas that have smothered out any spark Superman had left.

So getting back to your question: Were the old days really that good?  Well, they were good.  Not perfect, not idyllic and certainly not without their share of junk.  But were they better?

You bet your sweet bippy.

Or is that Beppo?
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Uncle Mxy
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« Reply #5 on: October 24, 2005, 03:12:43 PM »

Quote from: "nightwing"
Another problem with the "Serial" method is that it seems beyond most comics writers to tell a story over months, anyway.  Once you read the TPB's you spot all sorts of threads that were never tied up, ideas that went nowhere, elements that appear out of nowhere.  And it only gets worse when the story stretches across other titles;

Note that the "writers" responsible for some of these messes turn out to be editors.  I think I miss the old editorial cluefulness more than anything else.
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Kuuga
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« Reply #6 on: October 24, 2005, 04:45:23 PM »

See, I really hate the assumption that if you say you enjoy the older approach or object to the Iron Age stuff then you're saying that it should all revert back to a verbatum representation of what was going on in the 50's and 60's. That the good ol days were always good.

The Silver Age is not without it's flaws and I dont think anyone would dispute that. But the Iron Age is much worse because all the color, life, fun and heroism of the thing has been thrown out with the bathwater. Also, just because an idea is old doesn't automatically mean it's bad or irrelevant. Theres also alot of ideas for which the idea itself get's blamed and not the execution.

The biggest problem with the Iron Age (and it's still going strong) Is the realism thing. Part of the problem is what the writers view as "real", which would seem to be limited to only the darkest and most cynical aspects of life.

So in reality it's not realism at all so much as simply swapping out an over the top lighter tone with an over the top darker one and assuming it's automatically art because they took the happy thing and made it sinister.

Theres certain degrees of "realism" that can work for a superhero story but it's not an easy out to make something intelligent. I think in the context of a fantasy story the most important realities are the emotional ones, rather than the physical or political ones.

I think it should always be less about so-called realism and more about bringing the fantastic ideas and the world in which they exist to life. Wether it's a world that closely resembles the one outside our window or a brighter more colorful one. People need dreams and sometimes it's better and more inspiring to show the world as it could or should be rather than a literal representation of every negative aspect about our actual world and having people act like jerks to each other even when they are supposed to be heroes who work together.

Worse thing about the Iron Age is creators who are still rebeling against the Silver Age even now. I mean what is there to compare Watchmen and Dark Knight returns to? When people decided those to works should be the end all, be all of superheroes they raped everything those works were deconstructing. So when a writer in Wizard starts yammering on about how he's changing the "superhero paradigm" I roll my eyes.

What freakin paradigm? You destroyed it a looong time ago! Your deconstructing something that isn't even there anymore!

I mean, for love of God we GET IT! There are greys! Life is complicated! The Silver Age is over! Okay, fine. Can we have some fun again now please?
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MatterEaterLad
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« Reply #7 on: October 24, 2005, 04:48:58 PM »

I don't see any more "realism" in the Iron Age, just a darker more cynical fantasy view...I like an upbeat, positive, and somewhat goofy at times fantasy view...
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