If you’re new to collecting vintage comic books, you’re probably still trying to figure out the differences between the various “ages” of comic books. We’re going to assume that you’ve already read the article on the Golden Age of comic books—if you haven’t, go check it out now so that you’ll have the right background to understand this article.
In this article, we’ll go over the Silver Age of comic books and describe a few of the relevant publications of that period as well as the characters that the period gave birth to. When we talk about the Silver Age of comic books, we’re talking about the mid-1950s to the year 1970.
Why Was The Silver Age Special?
The Silver Age was special for a few reasons, but first and foremost, the Silver Age was special because it rekindled the superhero comic book genre after its collapse at the end of the Golden Age. The Silver Age of comic books also saw a massive diversification in the type of comic, with new genres like humor, mystery, juvenile, horror, and romance cropping up to round out the spectrum.
During the Silver Age, comic books were no longer solely targeted at young men—there were offerings for older men, young women, children, and even adults. Despite the increased diversity during the Silver Age, the superhero genre was still the dominant genre as well as the genre which expanded in scope the most during this era.
Silver Age Art Style
The Silver Age art style took heavy cues from the Pop Art movement led by Andy Warhol. This meant that color schemes remained gaudy and unrealistic, as they had during the Golden Age, but human figures gained impressionistic hints of nuance in their detailing beyond what prior comics had shown.
Notably, non-human figures in the Silver Age tended to be much more detailed than the humans.
Landscapes, while simple, began to make use of perspective and depth in ways that Golden Age comics hadn’t.
During the Silver Age, you can start to see character designs of well-known superheroes take on their final form. There’s enough detail to understand the equipment, the muscles, and what emotion the characters are intending to convey—all important advancements over the Golden Age style.
Silver Age Plots
Silver Age plots tended to be straightforward, much like their Golden Age predecessors. The main difference of Silver Age plot material was it now recognized nuance and more serious material. But it was still in the context of a clear struggle between good and evil.
Few attempts at flawed heroes or empathetic villains cropped up in the Silver Age, but the growing willingness of authors to confront difficult material like poverty and abuse set the stage for subsequent modern comics which would spend time pondering the shades of gray.
During the Silver Age, the canon of most universes and characters solidified definitively, and in some cases, fleshed out in extensive detail. Retconning wasn’t yet a concept, and so most of the Silver Age is remarkably consistent within itself relative to the Modern age. This is important to note because of the gradually increasing complexity of plots afforded by the Silver Age.
Silver Age Personalities
Superheroes in the Silver Age were just as benevolent and firmly principled as those of the Golden Age. Dialogue gained more importance during the Silver Age, though the action was still the primary draw of most superhero series.
Where the Silver Age departs from the Golden Age is in the development of characters. Golden Age superheroes were one dimensional in their communications, despite any backstory that may have been developed. During the Silver Age, characters explored different visions of themselves, with some—like Batman, in particular—straying far from what their creators had envisioned as the character’s identity.
Don’t get the idea that Silver Age characters were constantly-changing parodies of themselves, though. On the whole, Silver Age character development was explicitly fleshed out via dialogue. Subtlety and introspection were kept to a minimum.
Notable Silver Age Publications
Check out these notable publications. The most valuable and most notable Silver Age publications are largely published by Marvel, and include:
- Amazing Fantasy #15 – Spider Man’s first appearance
- X-Men #1 – the X-Men’s first appearance
- Incredible Hulk #1 – the Hulk’s first appearance
- Avengers #1 – the Avengers’ first ensemble appearance
- Showcase #4 – the Flash’s first appearance
Notice a trend? The Silver Age saw the introduction of many extremely popular characters. These characters would periodical make guest appearances or appearances in a team of other new and popular characters. Most of these characters and teams have stood the test of time. Although, Modern Age retcons have made many of the plot lines of the Silver Age origin stories obsolete.
Don’t let the retcons deter you, though. Read the origin stories, In order to get a handle on the Silver Age style. They provide great insight into the era.
Ending The Era
These publishing habits solidified the hold of the superhero genre. It prevented a collapse in the comic market. Publishers couldn’t afford to have the same gap between the Golden Age and Silver Age, in early 1950. The quality of art, plot, character development, and publication schedule improved drastically over the course of the Silver Age.
Early Silver Age comics are much closer to Golden Age comics than they are to later Silver Age comics. The time of the Silver Age was certainly a transformative one. It reflected the transition from the postwar-comic tradition to the postmodernist style. This style dominates the Modern Age of comics. Your collection won’t be complete until you have a coterie of Silver Age issues in your stable.