The Second Coming

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Comic books suffered for nearly two decades from the self-imposed censorship that grew out of the McCarthy era. The "Second Coming" is often called the Silver Age of Comics. Some say that's because the superhero stories took on more "adult" themes. In reality, it was an era of good sales to a new generation of readers. Good sales meant the comics publishers could hire more writers and artists and pump out more issues. Some stories and superheroes were quite good, like the Jack Kirby/Stan Lee comics, and some older superheroes changed to fit the times, like Superman, the dark and moody Batman, and the wonderful but short lived Green Arrow/Green Lantern series.

Many superheroes, like Spiderman and The Flash, became "anti-heroes." They now had very human shortcomings. They suffered mental anguish and torment. Sometimes they wondered if they were doing the right thing, or if it was worth it at all.

Before the traditional comic books entered the Silver Age, another form of comic art developed that many of the old E.C. comics artists and writers drifted to and newer European artists migrated to. These were the black and white comic magazines and comic/graphic novels. Jim Warren, who had been publisher of Harvey Kurtzman's Help!, began a series of horror and war magazines in the style of E.C., even so far as having a ghoulish host in each issue. Warren brought in Frank Frazetta, Jack Davis, Reed Crandall, Al Williamson, and other pre-comic code artists and writers to spice up the stories--and they were spiced up. When Vampirella came along, many young boys' voices changed overnight. Even spicier were the graphic novels of such classics as Emmanuel and The Story of O. Foreign artists like Guido Crepax became very prolific during this era illustrating the novels and doing work for Warren. The popularity of the comic magazines and novels helped loosen the Comics Code, allowing some of the characters to finally grow up.

The samples on the following pages are from my own collection.

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