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A thought on ages…

Brian Hibbs

Just got an email from John Jackson Miller (Editor at Krause’s COMIC BUYERS GUIDE), which I thought I should share with you as well as my response. This is a little further afield of the usual content of this blog, but I thought that, possibly, it could generate an interesting thread on the comments section.

Let’s see, shall we?

JJ Wrote:

>>>Hi, Bri!

Craig Shutt and I are discussing the Bronze Age and its potential terminus, and we got to talking about Legends of the Dark Knight #1. He said you’d made an argument that there are enough problems “from a technical perspective” with using LODK as the divider that you prefer Spider-Man #1 from the following year — but Craig couldn’t recall the specifics.

We’re doing another piece on this, so can you recap your case against LODK for me? My feeling has been that it marked the complete commoditization of the comic book and the beginning of the variant silliness, and that Spider-Man #1 is a difference only of degree. But I can be convinced, so if you can recall what you had to say, I’d appreciate it. I honestly don’t remember much noteworthy from the interval between the two…

Best regards,

John Jackson Miller

Editorial Director, Krause Publications Comics & Games Division

<<<<<<<<<

My argument, as I recall it, was that the commoditization of the comic book was “accidental” in the case of LDK – the story goes that DC saw the order numbers for it, and freaked the fuck out, thinking there was NO WAY the DM could possibly absorb that many copies. The outer covers were added to ensure sell-THROUGH.

With McSpidey #1, multiple covers were used to increase sell-IN – which I think is the key factor in commoditization

Further, McSpidey #1 was (I think?) the first time that a book was created for a CREATOR, rather than the character – the selling point wasn’t so much that it was a new Spidey book – it was that it was TODD MCFARLANE’s new Spidey book.

It also, I think, marked the point where craft marked a decline – I still get a giggle out of “His powers? Advantageous!” whenever I think of it – because creator and synergy and commercial goals became more important than the actual craft of what was being produced. That 800-pound gorilla thing marked much of the next decade.

So that’s why I think McSpidey #1 is a MUCH better delineator than LDK #1 – it’s not just degree, it’s a wholly different thing.

Intellectually, I suppose I’d *really* argue that “Bronze age” runs from SUPERBOY SPECTACULAR (that’s the title, right?) – the first “DM exclusive” title, where publishers realized there was a retainable, non-fickle audience, and so they could start to do things FOR them – through to CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS #x (Maybe #1, but more probably #8), because that’s when the “tone” began to change. McSpidey #1 probably denotes the beginning of the “Dark Age”, going clear through…. Well, that’s harder to say with less than 10 years behind the terminus… something “NuMarvel”, perhaps? I don’t have a clear fix on it.

We’re definitely in a new “age” now – one where fun has begun to return, and commoditization has been “internalized” or, perhaps institutionalized might be a better word – it might have started, possibly, with ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #1, though 10 years from now I think that’s not going to “feel right”.

I tend to think “ages” begin with CONSCIOUS DECISIONS – which is why I’d put SHOWCASE #4 above the DETECTIVE with the first J’onn J’onzz as the true start of “Silver” books – but I don’t think they END cleanly or clearly at all – there’s a gap between gold and silver, and silver and bronze.

-B

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