Comic Books - The Bronze Age
Remember the Golden Age of comic books and those early comic books now only found in the collectors rack? Next came the Silver Age and this was followed by the Bronze Age, which was the period between early 1970s and the mid 1980s. Now the tone of the comics was changing to a darker, more adult-oriented theme.
The dark side of comic books was first emphasized by the death of Peter Parker's girlfriend of many years, Gwen Stacy. The villain Green Goblin took a life for the very first time, and this was a sign that realism was making its way into comics. This incident somehow marked the end of an era and the start of an entirely different one. Realism was taking a new and very bold step out of the earlier age of comic books. This served as a wake-up call to comic book creators, and comic books suddenly took on the mantle of tackling social issues.
The emergence of minority heroes of comic books addressed many social problems. With a co-star like Luke Cage it was clear that industries were keen on bringing in African Americans. Before Luke Cage, comic book regulars were the likes of the Black Panther and Falcon. Since their stories had no portrayals that were stereo-typical, the resistance from these comics was not much while Luke Cage was being condemned as being just another ethnic type-cast character.
The X-men were a significant addition in the growth of social growth through comic books and they lent credence to the minorities. X–men were prejudiced against by humans as they were portrayed as mutants. This step of an evolution in humans was perhaps difficult for the Marvel comic world to swallow. Rebellion occurs when a particular thing is not understood or is feared. The X-men was an analogy to the minority with the underlying theory that if civilization could not handle the X-men as being mutants then would there be acceptance of the minority communities? It indicated a whole shift in the perception of humans as humans.
So as far as possible the Bronze Age tried to maintain some sense of realism within its pages. It was evident that the X-men were not acceptable at the individual level. There was fear of the unknown and power, and that fear many times lead to rage and violence against the mutants, even as children. Violence is the outcome of ignorance and this was what was probably happening among the readers too.
As an analogy, the plight of the minorities being compared to the X-men was a brilliant one. While the prejudices may have been different the results were the same. What the Bronze Age did was to define what America was thinking during that time, quietly leading many of that generation into a new way of thinking.
Speculation is out there about the so-called end of the Bronze Age. There was a suggestion that ‘Crisis on Infinite Earths' may have been the start of the end but that was never proven. There was another opinion that the Bronze Age sort of merged in to the modern era of comic books. Whatever the case may be it is clear that the Bronze Age played an important role in the social changes that were taking place.
Where will the next generation of comic books lead us? That is yet to be seen. But we can all agree we are ready for a new adventure!