Monday, August 23, 2010

How did you discover the Golden Age?

When did you first become aware of Public Domain and/or Golden Age Comics?

Thinking on that question caused me to retrace my steps as it were to find out where I first encountered Public Domain and Golden Age superheroes. My first kneejerk answer was (wrongly) The Invaders. I think because I have such a love for that series but also because the stories were rooted in the World War II era, so they feel more Golden Age to me.

However, almost as soon as I thought of the Invaders, I realized that was wrong because I had read about the Freedom Fighters in the pages of Justice League of America 106 and 107.

And as soon as I thought of this issue, I remembered Justice League of America 100 where the JLA teamed up with the JSA and the Seven Soldiers of Victory. I bought this issue as a kid off a 7-11 Spinner Rack. This was most definitely the first comic I read which reintroduced Golden Age heroes.

And I somewhere on this timeline I also acquired a copy of Jules Feiffer's The Great Comic Book Heroes. I want to say this was in the fourth grade, so I would have been 9 years old. Still that book, while a great introduction to the Golden Age primarily focuses of heroes from either Timely or National (DC/Marvel) - with The Spirit, Captain Marvel and Plastic Man being the lone exceptions (going on memory here, so bear with me...)

So, to my young 9 year old brain, the Golden Age was this nebulous time when some heroes were created (no more than 12 going by Feiffer book) with newer heroes like Freedom Fighters and Metal Men getting created in my lifetime in the pages of Brave in the Bold or JLA. If I had read the text pages of the book, I would have realized this was wrong, but as a 9 year old, Feiffer's erudite commentary pieces failed to hook me. It would take Stan Lee's similar pieces in Origin of Marvel Comics to convince me that there might be something worthwhile in them.

What sooner corrected my perception of all this was another Justice League of America comic. This one containing all the heroes acquired when DC bought the Fawcett characters - Crisis in Eternity.

By the time this issue came out, I had read how DC was now able to publish the adventures of Captain Marvel because DC had bought the heroes from another, older company. (Not sure where I read this - in the pages of Shazam! perhaps?) This led me to realize that these other heroes appearing with the Marvel Family in this story were most likely from that same company.

So while I still had no idea how many other companies had existed outside of Timely and National, I now knew there *had* been others. When and How I discovered how many others will be the subject of another post. ;)

With that, I am happy to present today's free Comics - two issues of the character who, along with Ibis, really grabbed my attention from JLA 135: Spy Master!

[ Spy Master 5 ]

[ Spy Master 6 ]
- Enjoy!

9 comments:

Trey said...

My first Golden Age exposure was Best of DC digest #21 (cover date 2/1982) was included reprints of "The Untold Origin of the JSA" (from 1977), and a multi-part GA reprint featuring Per Degaton.

Knowing nothing about Earth II at that point, I wondered at the adult Robin costume in the first story, and who the heck Power Girl was, and why Superman had gray hair, but contrary to popular belief, and that confusing continuity didn't make me throw away the comic in disgust. It actually intrigued me.

BrittReid said...

JLA #74, with a kool Neal Adams cover showing Superman vs. Superman.
At the time, they didn't give the Earth-Two Superman gray temples or his 1940s shield insignia, so the fight was rather confusing.
Shortly after that, I got the 100-page Super Spectacular (with the incredible wrapraround cover showing the entire JLA & JSA together) that reprinted JLA #21-2, the FIRST Crisis tale!

RKB said...

I first learned about the Golden Age from comic book buyers guide. The issue I had carried two articles one on the different ages in comics (Golden, Silver, Bronze, Current), and another on Dc's earth 1, earth 2, with a kind of swipe file on JLA covers inspired by All-Star comics JSA covers.
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The first Golden Age story I ever read was in the bronze age Human Torch series #5 which featured a reprint of a 40s Human Torch and Toro story.
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Back in the early 90s seeing all those great Golden Age comics I wanted to read them, but looking at their prices in CBG I never figured I would. Years later a stumble onto the Golden Age comics download site, and I was hooked- Lev Gleason and Air Boy here I come! (reading the Alter-Ego mini from First made me even more curious about the characters that inspired them along the way)
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I always enjoyed what few Golden Age reprints I stumbled across in Marvel and DC books, reading the collected editions, and PD stories the Golden Age became my favorite age of comics.

MattComix said...

The Jules Fieffer book you showed in the post was one of my earliest gateways to the Golden Age so seeing it here is a real flashback for me.

My other Golden Age source was one that I found at my local library right alongside that title. It was Superman: From The 30's to the 70's. Jeff Rovin's Encyclopedia of Superheroes was another one that I kept constantly checked out.

JimShelley said...

@Trey - Ah! That would explain the Levitz/Staton Justice Society trades you have in your collection. They always struck me as odd ducks, but now they make more sense.

JimShelley said...

@Britt - Man, I remember that 100 Pager you are talking about. I bought that at a convention when I was 14 and it was like I struck gold!

JimShelley said...

@RKB - Man, I haven't thought about the old Bronze Age Human Torch reprint series in a long time, but that was quite the epiphany for me when I did discover it.

I remember reading the Torch and Thing story thinking - *what the hell?* There are MORE old Fantastic Four stories out there? What else is out there?

It made what already seemed like an incredibly big comic universe seem bigger by dent of lifting the veil on an unseen corner.

Wouldn't it be great to discover there was such an unseen corner of Spider-Man or Avengers from the same era?

JimShelley said...

@MattComix - I was not able to check out that Rovin Encyclopedia (which was just as well, as it was pretty big and would have been hard to carry home.) I did spend a lot of Summer afternoons reading up on comics in the book.

Your bringing up the 40's to the 70's books makes me think that would be a great topic for a article too.

L. Johnson said...

I think my first exposure to the Golden Age was either the Showcase THE ATOM with the JSA sitting around their meeting table....(1961 -??) or Roy Thomas/Jerry Bails Alter-Ego #3 or #4...early '60's. (Issue with GL)

When I saw that table full of costume heroes from the old Flash ...Green Lantern....Atom... to Hawkman... I thought: "Whoa.!" Heroes that existed in a time before I knew." And the other heroes: The Specter, Doctor Fate, Hourman, and Dr. Mid-Nite entranced me and my imagination.

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