Every decade has glory moments, even the creative nadir of the 90s and all those X-Men riffs still having sterling work like Kingdom Come or Marvel or Mark Waid’s Flash or Grant Morrison’s JLA. But I was looking through some comics last week and wonder if there’s a kind of pattern forming here.
The early 40s were awesome, an explosion of ideas from the brand new Superman and Batman launched slightly earlier to the creation of Wonder Woman, Shazam, Captain America, The Flash, Green Lantern and pretty much all the DC characters they’ve updated several times. The early 60s were at least as good with brilliant revamps of the Golden Age heroes as well as the creation of 99% of the good stuff from the modern Marvel universe. The 80s were a creative high-point with Miller and Moore and the British explosion and guys like Wolfman, Chaykin and Byrne ruling mainstream comics and the early 00s is already a really classic creative period at Marvel in particular, although some very good DC books came out in this period too.
Now my controversial thought is that these bursts of creativity tend to follow creative fallow patches, the industry being run into the ground and rescued at the last possible moment. Every one of these highs seems to come from a moment of creative desperation, Lee andKirby’s creation of FF, etc, coming as a last-ditch attempt to keep the company afloat. So I wonder, are the 50s, 70s, 90s and RIGHT NOW creative lulls at Marvel and DC? I know a lot of 40-something creators really love 70s Marvel, but as a kid reading reprints in the 80s I much preferred the 60s stuff and found all the Shang-Chi/Power-Man/ Jack O’Hearts etc characters very B-list by comparison. The 90s almost had me stop reading comics and I’d say I’ve read about 3 Marvel or DC titles in the last eight years, switching entirely to indie in around 2008.
But is this maybe a natural creative cycle? Am I alone in finding the alternate decades much less interesting OVERALL than the 40s, 60s, 80s and 00s?