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Top 10 Bronze Age Comic Books

April 14, 2022 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
Amazing Spider-Man 129 Image Credit: Marvel Comics

Welcome back! I’m Steve Gustafson and if you enjoy discussing anything comic book related, you’ve come to the right place. Each week we cover something in the industry and I always enjoy your input in the comment section below.

Previously on…

Last time we discussed our Best Comic Book Supervillains. Here’s what some of you had to say:

SonoftheMountain: “I thought all villains are anti-heroes now?”

Erick Rowan’s Beard: “Thanos has done more than enough to get out of Darkseid’s shadow. In most situations, Thanos is the key to his own undoing as he’s had infinite power on several occasions. The Infinity Gauntlet storyline is probably the most classic example in that he was more powerful than everything, with the exception of the Living Tribunal and the One Above All of course. Even the combined forces of universal powers like Eternity, Mistress Love, Sire Hate, the Celestials, the Stranger, Galactus, Master Order, Lord Chaos, Mistress Death and Mephisto were nothing compared to Thanos wielding the Infinity Gems.

It’s hard to argue against villains like Magneto, Doctor Doom, Lex Luthor and Darkseid being on any list of the best villains in comics. For the most part, I’ve also enjoyed Sabretooth as he’s sort of the anti-Wolverine in the sense that he’s Wolverine without a sense of honor and conscience. He’s a nigh unkillable killing machine and revels in it. Sure, he’s never really had grandiose ambitions like Magneto or Doctor Doom, he doesn’t see himself as a guardian of Earth’s evolutionary destiny like Apocalypse nor does he seek ultimate power like Thanos or Darkseid. He’s more along the same vein as the Joker, at least in some ways, as he’s mostly wants to watch the world burn while causing his archenemy as much pain as humanly possible.”

D-Unit: “Green Goblin, Joker, Dr. Doom, Bane, Magneto”

Lawrence Ziese: “There is only one name fear, and that name is DOOM”

El Atomico: “I always thought the Serpent Society was cool”

“Filthy” Jake Fury: “Since nobody has mentioned them yet:

The Rogues. Villains in their own right but they also follow their own code of honor.

Deathstroke was mentioned but Slade’s internal struggle over the years were captured beautifully in the DC Rebirth series. Not quite as sold on the new series by Josh Williamson yet but still enjoying it.

Deadshot is a personal favorite from Secret Six and Suicide Squad. No mention of Doctor Octopus either and I’d easily put him in Spidey’s top 3.”

Michael L: “While it may not necessarily be the pinnacle for the Joker,one storyline I remember him for was the conclusion of No Mans Land where he sets up traps to get a deraged Gotham Police officer to kill his colleagues, and then kills Sara Gordon (James’ wife).”

MoMoney1985: “Kingpin all the way. Gritty and more grounded than most but has a huge presence and is such an important character in the legendary Daredevil run. The story with Vanessa made him relatable too. So many good Kingpin stories.
The Governor was a great forgotten villain from Walking Dead books but Negan was more memorable.
What about Sinister?”

Great stuff and thank you to everyone who commented last week! Too many great comments to list so go and check it out!

This week we discuss…

Top 10 Bronze Age Comic Books
Have you been watching Moon Knight on Disney+? I have to admit that I’m still surprised to be seeing some of my favorite comic book characters on the big and small screen done in such a fun and cool way. 

Moon Knight got me thinking about his first appearance in Werewolf by Night #32 and then I went down a rabbit hole of classic comics from the Bronze Age. From about 1970 to around 1985, the Bronze Age ushered in a new era of comic styles and opened the door for the Modern Age of Comic Books. 

The Bronze Age brought in a darker edge to the art and storylines, introducing more mature themes like drugs and racism. It also has some of the most classic stories out there that still impact the comics we love to read today. 

Dennis O’Neil and Neal Adams had an amazing run on Batman and Detective Comics that set the bar high and gave us a Batman that I felt balanced the more odd elements of the character with the grimness of the characters personality. Frank Miller would take this a bit farther and introduce a more “grim and gritty” Batman. 
The Bronze Age also gave us Alan Moore and Garry Leach’s Marvelman/Miracleman. This story turned the character upside down and gave us some of the most shocking scenes in comics. The book still stands out today and I challenge you to read it for yourself. 

Jack Kirby’s Fourth World Saga is one I’m mixed on. It’s Kirby alright but without a strong editor to rein him in, I’ve never really connected with it…but completely understand everyone who has. 

Alright, let’s get to the Top 10. In no particular order…

Cerebus the Aardvark #1
Back in the day Independent comics had a different reputation than they do today. Black and white, usually lesser quality, and a sporadic print schedule meant that outside the Big Two…you didn’t have a slew of solid choices. They were out there but you had to search. 

Enter Cerebus by Dave Sims. Now, I’m not going to get into Sims and his beliefs. What I’m focusing on is his 300 issue epic saga that stands out with its design, experimental storytelling, and attention to detail. Sims was his own worst enemy and this book would most likely be more respected and discussed among fans. Alan Moore himself said, “Cerebus, as if I need to say so, is still to comic books what Hydrogen is to the Periodic Table”.

Amazing Spider-Man #129
The first appearance of the Punisher. Who could have predicted that Frank Castle in 1974 would still be kicking all these years, finding new and bigger levels of popularity and relevance. Originally an assassin and foe of Spider-Man, the character was tweaked over time to be a vigilante with a super cool design. Gerry Conway helped design the character’s distinctive look. Conway talked about it in 2002, “In the ’70s, when I was writing comics at DC and Marvel, I made it a practice to sketch my own ideas for the costumes of new characters—heroes and villains—which I offered to the artists as a crude suggestion representing the image I had in mind. I had done that with the Punisher at Marvel.” The rest is history.

Luke Cage Hero for Hire #1
Luke Cage has gone in and out of popularity but seems to be sticking around this time. Another character who’s gone through some updates and changes over the years, he was a reflection of the time and the blaxploitation genre and it took some good writers to untap that potential. Sweet Christmas!

Green Lantern #76
This launched the Neal Adams relaunch for the character and he along with Dennis O’Neil went on to craft some of the most dramatic and memorable stories from that era. Along with their Batman run, they were THE creative team of that period. 

Giant Size X-Men #1
“Deadly Genesis” from Len Wein and Dave Cockrum might be my favorite Bronze Age book. Plus it launched the X-Men to another level of storylines, character designs, and stories. I’ve lost count of the number of homages I’ve seen to the cover and concept. That’s how impactful this book is. 

“Whatever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow?”
Alan Moore and Curt Swan created a story that was published in two parts, beginning in Superman #423 and ending in Action Comics #583, both published in September 1986.

Moore’s intention was to create a plot that would honor the long history of Superman and to serve as a complete conclusion to his mythology. The ego of that man! 

The Amazing Spider-Man #121-122
“The Night Gwen Stacy Died” still resonates today but not in the way it did back when Gerry Conway and Gil Kane created it. Killing off a major character like that was still a big deal at the time and this one stuck with Spider-Man for quite a while. Yes, we now have several versions of Gwen to contend with but while this issue killed her off, she became more popular and more relevant to the Spidey mythos. 

The Uncanny X-Men #129-138
Another creative team that brought the magic! Chris Claremont and John Byrne’s “The Dark Phoenix Saga” was another one that killed off a major character. Yes, Jean Grey died, came back, died, came back…you get the gist. In a way her death was both poignant and opened the door to comic book deaths losing their luster. “The Dark Phoenix Saga” is perhaps the most well-known and heavily referenced X-Men stories in comic book history. 

“Crisis On Infinite Earths”
To me this book represents the wrapping up of the Bronze Age. Marv Wolfman and George Pérez hit on all cylinders and delivered a sprawling saga that still hangs over the DC Universe. In a way, we can thank them for all the relaunches and large scale crossovers we get as the idea for the series came from Wolfman’s desire to abandon the DC Multiverse depicted in the company’s comics, which he felt was unfriendly to readers, and create a single, unified DC Universe. Did he succeed? Not really but you have to dream big!

Incredible Hulk #181First Appearance: Wolverine. Do I really need to say more?

OK, that’s my 10. What’s yours?

That’s all the time I have. See you next week!