In the parlance of comic book fandom, the
Bronze Age is the period beginning just after the
Silver Age (about 1970) and ending just before the
"Modern Age" (1980 to the present).
Batman, the Bronze Age began soon after the cancellation
of the live-action TV show in 1969. Editors at DC were determined
to banish the specter of "camp" and return the
character to his origins as a shadowy, spooky figure. Beginning
with Batman #217 and the story, "One Bullet Too Many,"
the clutter that had accumulated for decades was swept away
for a fresh start. The Batcave and all its assorted
bat-devices were locked up and left behind as Batman (now
"The Batman") relocated to a penthouse
apartment atop the towering Wayne
Foundation in downtown Gotham. The highly stylized and
gadget-laden Batmobiles of the past were replaced
by a low-key sportscar with only a painted bat-head on the
hood to suggest its owner's identity. It was rarely driven
anyway, as Batman's new residence put him near the center
of the action; usually he could simply leap from his apartment
and swing on a rope to wherever he needed to go.
The Joker and the rest of the rogue's gallery were
out of the picture, at least for a while. Even Robin
was gone, Dick Grayson having been sent upstate to Hudson
University where he had his own adventures in a series of
back-up tales. Batman operated alone and relied on his wits,
and fighting street thugs in back alleys. He had become
again what he had been in the beginning; a lone wolf, a
mysterious figure haunting Gotham by night and striking
fear into the hearts of evil-doers.
on the Batman books underscored the change in direction.
From the 40's through the 60's, Batman had been drawn wearing
a cowl with short "bat-ears" and a calf-length
cape. Now the ears were long and razor-sharp, and the cape
wrapped around him like Dracula's. Depending on who was
drawing, or what Batman was doing at the time, the cape
could go down to his ankles or billow out behind him as
large as a sail. The new Batman was rarely seen in daylight,
keeping to the shadows and swooping down on criminals like
a force of nature.
For kids of the era...like me...it was an exciting time.
Batman was an alluring alternative to the all-powerful Superman
or the flashy Marvel characters with their array of odd
powers. He was down-to-earth, human, a fellow who survived,
and excelled, on his wits and abilities...abilities we could
aspire to even if we never crossed paths with a radioactive
spider or gamma rays. And in the hands of artists like Neal
Adams, Jim Aparo and Irv Novick, he was very
close to being what those other guys could never be...real.
My young eyes marvelled at the sight of Superman flying
through a super-nova or the Hulk tossing around army
tanks, but this guy Batman looked like a flesh-and-blood,
living man in a spooky outfit.
But Batman had other incarnations in the Bronze Age, as
well. Outside the comics, he appeared in the Saturday morning
Super-Friends," smiling and friendly as he'd
been in the old days. Meanwhile, the live-action series
starring Adam West was airing in syndicated markets around
the country, acquainting a whole new generation of kids
with the likes of the Riddler and the Penguin
and "Holy This" and "Holy That." It
was this more kid-friendly Batman who dominated merchadising
of the period; Mego gave us 8-inch action figures of the
Dynamic Duo and their four most famous (TV) enemies, plus
a Batmobile, Batcycle and playsets of the Batcave
and the Wayne Foundation. Batman's image appeared on walkie-talkies,
radios, bedsheets, t-shirts, alarm clocks and school supplies.
Then, as now, television and toys reached more people than
comics. Youngsters attracted to Batman by these tie-ins
must have been confused to encounter the Robin-less, spooky
Darknight Detective then haunting the books. Perhaps as
a result, Silver Age trappings began creeping back in. A
flashy new convertible Batmobile appeared, looking suspiciously
like the model driven on "The Super-Friends."
The colorful villains of the 60's TV show were featured
in more stories, and Robin came home from college a bit
By the time the Bronze Age ended in 1979 a lot of the old
clutter was back in place and as the 80s dawned it came
racing back in full force. A new Robin arrived, and one-time
lone wolf Bruce Wayne was a domesticated "dad"
again with his new ward, Jason Todd. Long-running subplots
dealt with corporate intrigues at the Wayne Foundation as
well as Bruce/Batman's romances with Vicki Vale, Selina
(Catwoman) Kyle and the sort-of villain Nocturna. One story
followed Batman and Catwoman for a night on the town that
ended with them sharing a plate of spaghetti like the Lady
and the Tramp! Batman had lost his edge, and the stage was
set for artist/writer Frank Miller to reboot the character
once again with The Dark Knight Returns, a 1986
miniseries that reimagined Batman as an aging, embittered
warrior in a very dark Gotham indeed. Although presented
as merely a "possible future" for Batman, and
not part of official continuity, DKR -- and the acclaim
it received -- created a new blueprint for the character
that's still followed today. Unlike the Bronze Age model,
this new Batman is obsessive, frequently brutal, emotionally
distant from the other "Bat-Family" characters
and, as far as his fellow heroes are concerned, not entirely
trustworthy, or even mentally sound.
For those of us lucky enough to grow up with him, the Bronze
Age Batman was a true hero working for justice, not a nutjob
looking for personal vengeance or trying to work out his
inner demons. He was driven but not obsessed, heroic but
not a goody-two-shoes, a loner but with a family of supporting
players he didn't mind showing affection for. Bronze Age
Batman was a master escape artist, a genius inventor, an
accomplished martial artist and of course, "the world's
greatest detective." But he was also a human being,
someone who could be -- and sometimes was -- physically
injured, emotionally involved and, at least temporarily,
even outwitted. His victories came from hard work and persistence;
he was the kind of guy you could look up to, not someone
to pity or fear.
This site, then, is my dedication to the Batman of my childhood;
the imaginative stories, the spooky art, the gloriously
huge 100-page Super-Spectaculars and giant tabloids.
And yes, the Super-Friends in all their goofy glory and
those exciting live-action adventures of Adam West Batman
that I raced home from school to watch every afternoon.
It's my hope that in this little corner of cyberspace,
at least, the Bronze Age can live on.
- Nightwing of Kandor