Fur­ther read­ing

Nicely bronzed The large for­mat and stun­ning bronze foil jacket might be col­lec­tor bait, but the real value lies on the pages in­side

ImagineFX: Sci-fi & Fantasy Art magazine - - Reviews -

The Bronze Age of DC Comics; The Art of Stephen Hick­man: Empyrean; An­i­mate That! The Prin­ci­ples in Depth.

Draw­ing a com­par­i­son to the ar­chae­o­log­i­cal pe­riod of dis­cov­ery that gave us met­al­work­ing, au­thor Paul Levitz sees the Bronze Age of DC Comics as a “time in comics full of dis­cov­ery of cre­ative tools that would come to full fruition” and pro­ceeds to qual­ify this no­tion with over 400 XXL pages of comic cov­ers, in­te­rior art and pro­files of note­wor­thy DC artists and writ­ers. You don’t need to be a hard­core DC fan to ap­pre­ci­ate the changes that comics un­der­went dur­ing this pe­riod, or how those in­flu­en­tial cre­ators at DC would come to shape the comics of to­day.

The pe­riod un­der ex­ca­va­tion is from 1970 to 1984. Dur­ing this time, comic cov­ers be­come more dar­ing in lan­guage and so­phis­ti­cated in com­po­si­tion, sig­nalling a shift in di­rec­tion steered by a new gen­er­a­tion of artists and writ­ers search­ing for a more el­e­vated plat­form from which to ad­dress so­cial is­sues and cre­ate more ma­ture sto­ry­lines. In the open­ing pages Paul in­ter­views one such “eru­dite hip­pie” (his words), writer and ed­i­tor Den­nis O’Neil. Den­nis re­calls how DC man­age­ment com­plained about the long-haired “de­liv­ery boys” loi­ter­ing the of­fices, un­aware that they were ac­tu­ally new writ­ers Steve Skeates and Den­nis him­self.

Al­most ev­ery other page of this book has large, if not full-bleed, ex­am­ples of cover and page art, scaled up 20 per cent from its orig­i­nal size. With the in­crease in size comes a height­ened sense of nostal­gia. There’s some­thing evoca­tive about those print­ing dots be­ing even more ap­par­ent – cou­pled with that new-print smell – that trans­ports you back to pour­ing over ev­ery panel of that Bat­man comic which got you hooked in the first place.

In the later half of the book we be­gin to see ev­i­dence of DC’s growth as a pub­lisher. Style guides are im­ple­mented; print­ing moves from large let­ter­presses to off­set, which vis­i­bly im­proves re­pro­duc­tion qual­ity; and cre­ative mer­chan­dis­ing and li­cens­ing be­gins to shape the busi­ness. Richard Don­ner’s 1978 Su­per­man film also re­ceives jus­ti­fi­able cov­er­age here, with archival pho­tog­ra­phy from on and off set. We find out that the Man of Steel movie swooped in just in time to save DC Comics from the crip­pling DC Im­plo­sion of 1978.

The book closes with the in­tro­duc­tion of two comic lu­mi­nar­ies that would change DC, and comics, for­ever: Alan Moore and Frank Mil­lar. As all good fi­nal pre­quel sto­ries, The Bronze Age of DC Comics ends here, set­ting us up nicely for more sto­ries to come.

A de­tail of the Green Ar­row cover from 1983, which sig­nalled the re­launch of the bearded su­per­hero with a bow.

Won­der Woman on the cover of Ms. mag­a­zine, an Amer­i­can lib­eral fem­i­nist ti­tle launched in 1972.

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