This week we decided to take a look at the top ten favorite things that the Bronze Age of comics in the 70’s brought us. Trust me, picking 10 is not an easy task. Whether it’s the realistic artistic style that Neal Adams brought to the page or the strong social stories that were brought to life, there were many wonderful things. We’ve narrowed them all down, however, so let us know what you think in the comments below!
10. Iron Man (1963)
David Michelinie, Bob Layton, and John Romita Jr took Iron Man to new heights as well as a huge personal low in 1978. The art was slick and Iron Man looked sharp and shiny. The massive low was that Tony took a turn for the worst; he became an alcoholic. It was subject a that was frowned upon at the time. Yet it embraced a new level for Stark and 70’s comics in whole. As a side note Jim Starlin created Thanos, Mentor, and Drax the Destroyer during his 70’s run on Iron Man as well.
9. Jack Kirby
How could Jack Kirby not make our list? If you know comics you know Kirby. In the early 70’s Kirby left Marvel for DC. Kirby had one of the most successful runs in comics history. So you would think he could do it again? Of course! The New Gods, The Demon, Kamandi, and Mister Miracle. Some of these characters haven’t really stood the test of time like The Hulk or Iron Man, but it’s important footnote that Kirby left in his legacy and a great time for DC.
8. Team-Up Books
The 70’s saw a rush of team-up books. The first big hit was the Brave and the Bold which had been in print since the 50’s. Brave and the Bold normally teamed Batman up with some unlikely heroes and sometimes even villains. Marvel Team Up was the next title. It teamed Spider-Man with many other heroes. Marvel Two-in One was the book featuring the Thing in his various team-ups. Finally DC Comics Presents was Superman hanging out with other heroes to stop crime. The team-up books were fun and mostly a guilty pleasure, but also kind of a pain. They would change writers and artists constantly. If you think about it, most of the heroes were fighting villains that they normally could handle on their own anyways, so two heroes actually made it harder on the villains. The team trend went up and down for several decades later.
7. Dave Sim’s Cerebus
In 1977 Dave Sim’s Cerebus came out as a self published comic by Aardvark-Vanaheim. Dave used Cerebus (who was an anamorphic Aardvark) to convey Dave’s controversial beliefs. The art was black /white and very detailed. The series ran for a solid 300 issues. I got to meet Dave at a con many years ago and I was very impressed by how much he cared about the art of comics and stories you could tell through an Aardvark.
Yes, I know, Batman had been around since 1937. You would think that he had been played out. In 1970 Dennis O’Neil created one of the Batman’s greatest villains of all, Ra’s al Ghul. Neal Adams brought him to life with realistic pencils that hadn’t been seen in comics before. Batman needed a new look and a face lift really bad and this did the trick. The 60’s Batman was fun and savvy but really a lot of BAM, POW and blah. Batman needed to be the Dark Knight he was meant to be which is what we finally started to get.
5. Justice League of America
Several new artists came out of the 70’s, but none really knew how to put 20 superheroes on one page like George Perez. Team books were struggling and George Perez was the answer. He helped bring the Justice League to a new maturity that was deeply needed. It also lead to our next positive. This version of the Justice League was my Justice League: Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash, Black Canary and a grumpy Green Arrow. Good stuff George.
4. The Avengers
George Perez also brought the Avengers to a certain awesomeness with his detailed artwork. He made Ultron look like the bad ass we can only hope to see when Avengers: Age of Ultron comes to theaters. Now his Wonder-Man costume designs were something to be desired. His Taskmaster character was where he hit his stride. Perez was a boon to the Avenger’s book since during the 70’s we got the Kree-Skrull War, the wedding of the Vision and Scarlet Witch, and the Korvac Saga which saw the entire Avenger’s team killed in battle and then resurrected by Korvac’s lover. The 70’s were good to the Earth’s Mightest Heroes.
3. Green Lantern/Green Arrow
Dennis O’Neil and Neal Adams really created some strong stuff with Green Lantern/Green Arrow. They tackled drugs, racism, and poverty. The artwork was realistic and for some magnificent images. Green Lantern was a space cop with a magic ring and Green Arrow was just a guy with a bow and arrows. You wouldn’t think such a team up would work, but somehow it worked better than anyone could have dreamed.
Like Batman, Spider-Man needed an edge that was missing. He had been around since 1963 and you would think they had done everything with the character they could at that time. So then in Amazing Spider-Man #122, Marvel comics decided to kill off Spidey’s girlfriend, Gwen Stacy. Killing characters in the comics was almost unheard of for the time, yet here went Gwen, with her father having been killed off not long before. It is said that this is when the Golden Age ended and Spider-Man was never the same again.
1. The Uncanny X-Men
In the 1970’s, Marvel cancelled the X-Men. No body cared about our poor mutants by the point. Then in 1975, Giant Sized X-Men #1 hit the stands. It starred new characters including Colossus, Storm, Nightcrawler, Thunderbird, and brought in some little runt originally introduced in Hulk #181, Wolverine. The X-Men were a huge hit again. Mutants were now a thing. Some guy by the name of John Byrne made iconic images in every page he penciled during his run. Chris Claremont begin one of the longest run on any comic to date. The X-Men ushered in the 80’s more so than any other series, which brings us to the next decade, coming next week!