Strange Times & Places: The Golden Age

Welcome back to Strange Times & Places, where we’ll be taking two weeks to examine two DC Comics stories that tackle similar themes with similar characters while being very different tales. First up is 1993’s The Golden Age!

How’s It Different?

Hmmm….I’d say Royale With Cheese, though honestly it barely counts as an Elseworlds tale. Though there are a few major departures from established canon, it honestly wouldn’t have been out of place as a retcon-laden in-continuity tale.

What’s The Story?

Taking place from 1947 to 1950, this four issue mini-series chronicles the fall of the Golden Age superheroes into the distrust and paranoia of the 1950s. Tex Thompson, AKA Mr. America AKA The Americommando, has returned from World War II a hero for having killed Hitler! As other masked mystery men fade into anonymous retirement, Thompson uses his hero status to begin a career in politics, crusading against the Red Menace and assembles a team of true patriots to protect America…but all is not as it seems.

Best of Differences

  • The series captures a kind of Post-War “well, what now?” feeling and applies it well to superheroes:
    • The female heroes – most notably Liberty Belle – are having some trouble adjusting to the expectation they settle down after years spent stepping up for absent young men.
    • Other heroes – the scientific genius Starman and the magical powerhouse Green Lantern – have the hardest time dealing with the revelation of the atom bomb. Starman’s work helped create it and he’s devastated by the destruction he unleashed on the world, while Green Lantern struggles to reconcile what right he has to the unimaginable power of his ring in light of (what he feels) is the irresponsible creation of the A-bomb.
    • John “Tarantula” Law and John “Johnny Quick” Chambers fear themselves unable to live up to their wartime greatness, leading Tarantula into alcoholism and Johnny Quick into endless editing and re-editing of his documentary on superheroes.
    • Finally, heroes considered nobodies and also-rans – lead by Americommando (who, spoilers, has been replaced with the Ultra-Humanite) and Dan the Dyna-Mite (rebranded Dynaman and, spoilers, replaced by Adolph Hitler) – are all too ready to use the achievements of the Mystery Men as a whole to build up their own legends for their own gain.
  • The final issue makes brilliant use of Captain Comet, a DC hero whose 1951-53 heyday straddles the line between The Golden Age and the Silver Age by making him both the last Golden Age hero (showing up when all the wartime heroes are called to appear at the capitol by Tex Thompson) and the first Silver Age hero (no one there takes him seriously…until he steps up in the big fight against Dynaman).

Next week, we’ll stay in Cold War Strange Times & Places to look at 2004’s DC: The New Frontier!

 

About Chris Walker

Chris Walker (@back2past) is affectionately referred to as Back to the Past's social media lackey. He's all over finding nuggets of pop culture news, wherever they may be hiding!

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