By David Kenney
Once a superhero’s personality was bigger than any bulge from muscles or elsewhere. Nowadays, artwork is just as important, if not more so than solid storylines. Pre-Todd MacFarlane and post ’60s campiness, a happy medium existed called The Silver Age.
Over the past year, The Silver Age has undergone a rebirth. Marvel Comics lead the way with a new Silver Age Avengers, camp and all. Following Marvel’s genius, DC recently published a series of new Silver Age comics.
Beginning in Silver Age, the series features the age-old storyline of people switching bodies. This time it’s superheroes and their arch-nemeses. Here, Lex Luthor has Superman’s powers and is literally indestructible. However, the storyline isn’t the propelling force behind the comic–it’s the characters.
Silver Age is ridden with character traits vacant from current DC superhero staples. Aside from wearing bland spandex and sporting bad ’80s hair, the heroes don’t carry the weight of power versus responsibility. Batman may wear a cape and cowl here but he’s no Dark Knight. His detective skills are as keen as ever but he’s missing the ominous cloud that shadows his every waking thought. As for Supes, it’s more muscles than brains against the devious Lex Luthor. The krypton kid possesses all the intimidation factor of a beach lifeguard. And despite another world-domination scheme, all heroes involved are pretty moral dilemma free.
Herein lies the varnish of Silver Age: fluffy heroes for a period where the biggest difficulty was foiling a villian’s plans. Then, self-doubting or gloomy lose-win situations were rare if not non-existent. Silver Age is definitely not a thinking man’s
comic. Imagine a "how many heroes does it take" joke and you’ve got Silver Age. No life or death urgency here.
Although it’s an attempt at resurrection, Silver Age fails to breathe life into the retro comic scene. Past the alluring cover with switched versions of Batman, Green Lantern and Superman, the artwork barely mimics the Silver Age drawing style. Superman minus exaggerated bulges: cool. Gradients in old comics: nope.
Marvel struck the bullesye with their true-to-form retro Avengers. DC misses with their Silver Age by teasing with retro characters but mocking the artwork department. Failing to live up to its title, Detective Comics leave only one mystery: why they dared to tarnish the shiny Silver Age.