10 Bronze Age Comics That Changed DC & Marvel Forever

Demons, drug addiction, diversity and death, comics were never the same again.

Spider-Man The Night Gwen Stacy Died
Marvel Comics

Compared to the Golden Age, which gave us the DC trinity of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, or the Silver Age, in which Marvel brought us Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk and Fantastic Four, the Bronze Age of comics doesn't seem so immediately iconic or impactful.

But it would be a mistake to forget the ways in which this era - which ran from around 1970 to the mid-80s - changed comics in a fashion which is still felt today.

By the early 70s the architects of the bright, zany and wildly imaginative Silver Age comics were stepping aside.

Marvel's Stan Lee stopped writing regular monthly comics in 1972 to become the company's publisher and increasingly a symbolic figurehead, while over at DC long-term Superman editor Mort Weisinger retired in 1970. In their place writers like Len Wein, Chris Claremont, Marv Wolfman and the late Denny O'Neil brought new ideas to the table.

Meanwhile, the iron grip of the censorious Comics Code Authority began to loosen with a series of reforms to bring the code more in line with societal attitudes in 1971.

All of this conspired to create an era in which comics became less outlandishly fantastical and embraced a darker edge. Sometimes this meant being more open to socially relevant issues-driven storytelling or characters that were more relatable to the youth of the 70s. Sometimes it meant pushing things in the direction of demons, black magic and other supernatural horrors.

Either way, these Bronze Age comics changed the game for good.

10. Luke Cage: Hero For Hire

Spider-Man The Night Gwen Stacy Died
Marvel Comics

Luke Cage: Hero For Hire #1-#16 (January 1972-December 1973)

Marvel had featured black heroes before the ex-con with unbreakable skin. As long ago as 1963 Gabe Jones had joined Nick Fury's Howling Commandos, while a 1966 issue of Fantastic Four had introduced the high-tech African nation of Wakanda and its prince T'Challa, the Black Panther - a character widely regarded as the first proper superhero of African descent. None of them had been deemed worthy of their own title, though. That changed with Luke Cage.

By the early 70s the success of the movie Shaft had proved that there was a mainstream audience for the new blaxploitation genre and Marvel wanted a piece of that action. Cage, later dubbed Power Man, successfully tapped into that market and in so doing opened the door to a more diverse array of heroes and titles.

In the years following Cage's debut, the roster of Bronze Age Marvel black characters would expand to add Blade (in 1973), Storm and Misty Knight (both 1975), and Monica Rambeau (1982). Meanwhile at DC, Black Lightning became the first black hero with a solo title in 1977, while John Stewart was introduced as the first black Green Lantern in 1971.

Cage's world - of a hero who works out of a need for money rather than altruism - protecting the streets of a grittier, grimier New York paved the way for the street-level heroics of the later reworking of Daredevil and, ultimately, the recent Netflix Defenders universe.


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