The “Mike Sterling Age” has kind of a ring to it.

§ November 20th, 2020 § Filed under collecting, retailing § 14 Comments

Fellow oldie John Lancaster creaks

“I’ve always kind of liked the brief go-between of the Atomic Age (1948-1955). I know it isn’t widely used or recognized but a lot of the comics of that era just don’t ‘feel’ like Golden Age books, and they’re not quite Silver Age yet either.”

I almost brought up the “Atomic Age” label in that post, but in a very rare instance of me actually editing something out of my writing, I decided not to bring it up. But I suppose I should have, given its informal use for…geez, I can’t even remember the first time I saw it. It must have been in the ’80s sometime, and if I still had access to my former boss Ralph’s archives of old Overstreet guides I’d start a few decades back and spot-check my way forward, seeing if it turned up in the ads or the glossaries.

There have been attempts at trying to name these “grey” areas in comics history before…I seem to recall “pre-Golden Age” being used here and there, for example. I know Overstreet has “Victorian” and “Platinum” ages for anything older than, say, the 1920s I guess, but I don’t know if there’s enough trade in that material to make its usage commonplace, at least in our particular neck of the hobby. (I’ve had a grand total of one person in probably the entire 3+ decades I’ve been at this nonsense bring in a copy of a “Platinum” age comic, and she wasn’t willing to sell it for anywhere close to what the Guide suggested.)

(And an aside: consider that one instance of a Platinum Age comic to the literally HUNDREDS of times I wished Overstreet had any kind of comprehensive Undergrounds section.)

Anyway, back to “Atomic Age” – look, I know this is me taking that particular appellation at face value, but I always associated the term with the atomic-bomb covers that were prevalent during that period. I’d have a hard time calling a random issue of, say, Betty and Veronica an “Atomic Age” comic, as such, though I honestly wouldn’t put it past Archie Comics to have actually had a mushroom cloud on one of their comics during this period.

But I think at this point, splitting the hairs more finely than “Golden” and “Silver” for the comics of that time will likely not get more “officially” codified beyond the terms already in place. As cool as it sounds, and it does sound cool, I think “Atomic Age” will remain mostly informal. Unless Overstreet decides otherwise, of course.

John continues:

“It does feel like we’ve got to insert some kind of identifier for a chunk after ‘copper.’ We’re coming up on 30 years in the ‘Modern Age’ – almost the entirety of the Gold and Silver age combined. I certainly don’t know what that should be called, but whatever it is I’m sure I’ll hate it and refuse to use it until 20 years after it becomes popular.”

Well, Copper Age (a term John doesn’t much care for, and doesn’t exactly levitate my Lusitania either) I can at least see the reasoning behind, with the effective ending of what began in the Silver Age with the advent of Crisis on Infinite Earths in ’85, and taking us to the paradigm shift (if in ownership, not so much in content) of Image Comics. I’ve said…well, somewhere, maybe here or on Twitter, that “Image Age” may be a good name for the new emphasis on creator-owned books and competing superhero universes and of course the full-on flop sweat the industry gave off as they desperately tried to pull out of the ’90s crash. In fact, “Crash Age” may be a good name for that period…a period in many ways we sort of find ourselves in today.

And I’ve suggested “Rebirth Age” for the most recent period of comics and its focus on relaunching/rebooting everything at the drop of a hat or the change of a creative team in pursuit of a temporary bump upward in sales numbers. And we can even tie it to a Flash thing by having it begin with this Flash series, relaunched as a new ongoing before being quickly canned and reverting back to the previous numbering, sticking retailers with piles of stock ordered under the assumption it’d be around for a while feeding back issue sales. You may notice retailers not exactly ordering any new series with much confidence since then.

…Okay, kinda ran out my clock with all this typing. Will pick up again shortly.

14 Responses to “The “Mike Sterling Age” has kind of a ring to it.”

  • Snark Shark says:

    “I honestly wouldn’t put it past Archie Comics to have actually had a mushroom cloud on one of their comics during this period.”

    Archie puts an end to Reggie’s bullshit PERMANENTLEY.

    ““Crash Age” ”


  • Rich Handley says:

    What do you think the next big age name will be, Mike? For example, will the current era be known in the future as the Reboot Era? The Batpenis Era? The Comicsgate Era? The Era to End All Eras?

  • Brian Perler says:

    The name I frequently see for the 90s “boom” period is “Chromium Age” (for all the gimmick covers and whatnot, obviously).

  • Atomic Age brings to mind Captain Comet in STRANGE ADVENTURES, I always think of those books back in the early 50s (including THE UNEXPECTED) the way I consider the 50s radiation scares as the Giant Bug Era if film (THEM!, TARANTULA, THE GIANT LEECHES). So, the AA was just…there.

  • JohnJ says:

    The only books I have that plaster The Atomic Age across the covers are the three volumes of Superman: The Sunday Pages dating from 1953-1959. Excellent comic strips drawn by the master, Wayne Boring.
    One of the books DC solicited for once, but ended up cancelling, probably due to low orders, was a hard-cover collection of Captain Comet, which was going to start with his very first appearance. DC has so much classic material by great artists available from the 50s but can’t figure out how to present it. I’m still waiting for the complete Rex, the Wonder Dog.

  • Dave Carter says:

    And Sugar & Spike! We got one lonely Archive Edition way back in 2011 reprinting the first 10 issues, leaving another 88 issues sitting in the vault (though IIRC the later issues were at least half reprints…)

    Though I’m sure the old 1950s & 60s personality-based comics (e.g. Bob Hope or Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis) will never again see the light of day—the rights issues on those must be a huge mess of hurt.

  • John Lancaster says:

    Yeah! I’m “internet famous” thanks again to Mike.

  • Robcat says:

    As JohnJ pointed out, Superman hardbacks have been reprinting Superman strips as Golden (40s), Atomic (50s), and Silver (60s). Personally, I love the name “Atomic” as it brings to mind all the weirdness of the time period. A focus on a future that America really had no clue about. Not just comics but motels, lights, cars…

    Modern age: maybe this is a sliding term (like comic timelines). Modern age is always THIS decade. Speaking of which, it seems like after the Silver age, I hear a lot of people just referring by decade. The 80s, the 90’s, etc. That might work for 50 or 100 years or so…

  • Chris V says:

    Would that make the cover of The Outsiders #2 from the 1980s retroactively part of your Atomic Age designation?

  • Snark Shark says:

    Dave Carter: “Though I’m sure the old 1950s & 60s personality-based comics (e.g. Bob Hope or Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis) will never again see the light of day—the rights issues on those must be a huge mess of hurt.”

    I read one of the Bob Hope comics this year- it was more silly than funny. But I kind of like that type of stuff, anyway!
    I would imagine the rights issues on those would be a legal NIGHTMARE. the estates of all 3 of them, plus the artists/writers from back before comics were regularly reprinted!

  • There are even Dobie Gillis comics. Regarding rights, of all the stories I’ve written, I cannot put a story I did for NIGHTMARES ON ELM STREET: FREDDY KRUGER’S SEVEN SWEETEST DREAMS. The editor of the book died, and that seems to be the biggest problem in a paper trail.

    No one literally knows who has the right to anything.The seven stories were of course work-for-hire, but no one knows if New Line Entertainment or St. Martin’s Press on down the line has a clue.

    The estates might be easy, unless the contracts mention nothing about reprints, and while the writers and artists were listed in the 60s, some of those titles started out in the late 50s.

    I’m sure it could be done, but like the Elm Street book, which itself hasn’t been reprinted since 1992, the effort might not be worth it. I’d certainly buy that book, though likely not as an omnibus, but I can’t imagine them flying off the shelves.

  • Turan, Emissary of the Fly World says:

    Actually, the Dobie Gillis comics did get a reprinting in 1969-1971, but the title was changed to “Windy and Willy,” and the characters were all renamed and redrawn. The legality of that can be a bit tricky. When DC tried reprinting its “Bomba, Jungle Boy” comic under the title “Simba, Jungle Boy,” it quickly received a cease & desist letter from Bomba’s owners–but, maybe that was a little too close to the original.

    I note that Windy & Willy made a cameo appearance recently, in SCOOBY-DOO! TEAM-UP #36. They are seen taking pledges at a telethon, along side of Binky, Scooter, and Debbi (as in “Leave It to,” “Swing with,” and “Date with”). The host of the telethon is a thinly disguised version of Jerry Lewis (“Louie Jervis”), and there is also a modified version of Bob Hope (“Rob Pope”) on hand. The story also features the Inferior Five, Angel & the Ape, the Maniaks, Stanley & His Monster, and a couple of surprise guests that I shall leave as surprises. Goody Rickels is mentioned, but does not appear. This is worth seeking out (the whole series is fun).

  • Windy & Willy were in Showcase, and didn’t Woody Allen make an appearance with The Maniaks? I’ll look up Scooby, thanks. Did you read, was it Legends of Tomorrow? There was a Sugar & Spike as grownup P.I.s and I’d like to see that collected. Each issue took a bit of craziness from DC’s past, like they looked for Itty, that weird starfish that was Hal Jordan’s BFF for a few years in the 70s.

  • Snark Shark says:

    “Goody Rickels”

    ohhhhhhhhhh that reminds me, Don Rickles appeared in a Superman comic (possibly Jimmy Olsen).