What was actually changed from the Golden Age to the Silver Age?

On November 16th, 2014, /u/Holtzy35 asked the following on /r/DCcomics:

What was actually changed from golden age to silver age? I know things like Kal-L to Kal-El happened, but what else was actually changed?

Hey hey, this seems like my kinda question. For these purposes, and because it’s this sub, I’ll stick to what happened with DC during this time ;)

Firstly, lets make it clear what time periods we’re talking about:

Following the Golden Age of Comic Books and an interregnum in the early to mid-1950s, the Silver Age is considered to cover the period from 1956 to circa 1970…

Now, as you mention, the ‘changing of the guard’, so to speak is definitely something that is iconic of the differences between the ages. The Golden Age had the Justice Society of America while the Silver Age saw the introduction of the Justice League of America, and along with some completely new characters we actually got new versions (unrelated at this stage) of past heroes.

For example:

Golden Age Silver Age
Green Lantern, Alan Scott Green Lantern, Hal Jordan
The Flash , Jay Garrick The Fash, Barry Allen
The Atom, Albert Pratt The Atom, Ray Palmer

Now along with them were naturally Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman too who existed both as part of the Society and would eventually form the League. That said, you have to remember at this time that all the other Golden Age heroes were out of print, and by kids, mostly forgotten:

The Silver Age began with the publication of DC Comics’s Showcase #4 (Oct. 1956), which introduced the modern version of the Flash. At the time, only three superheroes—Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman—were still published under their own titles. According to DC comics writer Will Jacobs, Superman was available in “great quantity, but little quality.” Batman was doing better, but his comics were “lackluster” in comparison to his earlier “atmospheric adventures” of the 1940s, and Wonder Woman, having lost her original writer and artist, was no longer “idiosyncratic” or “interesting.”

So taking the name of an old hero, giving them a new secret origin, identity, background etc wasn’t, like it would be nowadays, some big thing that required an explanation, it just sort of happened. Obviously there were people who remembered the Golden Age, but comics were mostly being read by young kids, and small references – like Barry Allen choosing his name based on a comic he read about a speedster called Jay Garrick – were just that.

That said, they didn’t really explain how Bats, Supes and Wondy had all fought Nazis etc and were still somehow going strong, and seemingly never aging, until they hooked on the explanation of the Multiverse, specifically at this stage the premise of Earth One and Earth Two. DC revealed he latter was where the currently published comics were occuring, while all the stories prior to the Silver Age had taken place on Earth Two. So really there were two Batmen, Supermen, Wonder Woman, Hawkman etc.

The concept was first broached in Flash of Two Worlds (1961), a story in which Barry Allen vibrated himself accidentally to Earth Two and teamed up with Garrick. This lead to annual team-up events between the JLA and the JSA for more than two decades, which now have the catchall title Crisis on Multiple Earths* (1960-87) – this is also the origin of DC using ‘crisis’ as a term to denote it’s big reality crossing/warping stories.

Anyway! The point is, it was a period of big upheaval in comics so there were LOTS of changes, new characters etc, but there were also lots of changes going by in the real world too. For a reasonably good, brief run down this article A Brief History of Comics – Golden Age & Silver Age will give you a really good idea of what it was like.

The JLA and the JSA calling one another during the 60s…

Hope this is helpful, and if there’s anything specific you want details on I’d be happy to help :)

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