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