The Marvel Silver Age: A Timeline Spreadsheet

Some years ago, when Marvel started its Essentials program, I decided that I'd like to read every Marvel Silver Age superhero title. I realized that in order to do that, it would be useful to have a list of every Marvel Silver Age superhero title, and I set out to make one. After a couple of false starts, I recently put it all together in an Excel spreadsheet. Each row is a month; each column is generally either a series title or a character name, or, often, both. The data in the cells are, of course, issue numbers.

Note that the dates are cover dates. During this period, Marvel comics generally shipped three or four months before their cover-dates. Yeah, it was dumb, and it lasted a long time.

There are some odd columns. Marvel Super-Heroes was mostly a reprint series, but for nine issues it included new material, including the introduction of two minor Marvel mainstays--Captain Marvel and the Guardians of the Galaxy. There's a column for "Hercules/Angel" to cover the one Hercules and three Angel back-up stories in Ka-Zar and Marvel Tales, probably the most obscure Marvel Silver Age superhero stories. And the Annuals are all lumped together in a single column; generally, I tried to put them in the month in which they "occurred" in continuity, since I don't usually know what months they actually shipped in.

Generally speaking, as noted, I only included the superhero titles. I didn't include reprint titles unless they had new material (like the Ka-Zar issues mentioned above). I didn't include the Westerns (Kid Colt, Outlaw; Rawhide Kid; etc.), the teen humor/romance titles (Millie the Model, Patsy and Hedy, etc.) or the war titles (Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos and Capt. Savage). I also didn't track the monster titles as monster titles (Tales to Astonish, Strange Tales, Amazing Fantasy, and so forth). And I didn't list Conan the Barbarian, in large part because it's so different from the Silver Age books. Maybe I should list it, at least the Roy Thomas/Barry Smith issues.

I did include Chamber of Darkness and Tower of Shadows for idiosyncratic reasons, even though they aren't superhero titles. Besides having important work by Steranko and Wrightson, they were very different in tone from the monster books which Stan and Jack and Steve and Larry cranked out by the hundredweight before (and well into) the Silver Age. These titles seem like important precursors to the explosion of horror titles which marks the interregnum between the end of the Silver Age and the beginning of the Bronze Age (1974)--titles like Man-Thing and Werewolf by Night and Tomb of Dracula.

I also included Not Brand Ecch because so much of it is superhero parody.

I had expected to be able to make a tidy dividing line between "Silver Age" and "post-Silver Age", probably somewhere in late 1970. In previous discussions of when the Silver Age ended, the primary candidates I can recall were:

The last four of these are clustered in a three-month period--Kirby's last FF, Silver Surfer #18, and Conan #1 are all Sept-November 1970. If one were to draw a sharp line to the end of the Marvel Silver Age, that would be the time to draw it.

However, I discovered that the various titles strongly resisted that sharp line. Marvel started two split-hero titles (Amazing Adventures and Astonishing Tales) in 1970, and while they could be seen as the first post-Silver Age titles, I think it's more accurate to see their early divided issues as the last hurrah of the Silver Age.

For some longer-running titles, the transition to the Silver Age came as late as 1971 or 1972. So, for each title, I tried to figure out an appropriate stopping place. There are four obvious signals:

  1. The title is cancelled.
  2. A major creator departs. For most of the titles, this means Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, or Roy Thomas, although the departure of Archie Goodwin from Iron Man seemed like a good break.
  3. A post-Silver Age creator arrives. In most cases, this means Steve Englehart or Gerry Conway (though Conway did do some issues of Daredevil which are probably Silver Age).
  4. A change in tone marked by a major story event, often the death of an important character (cf. my comment about Captain Stacy, above).

I've used comments in the spreadsheet to indicate several possible end-points if there wasn't a single clear one.

The last issue that I am certain is a Marvel Silver Age comic is Avengers #104, September 1972, Roy Thomas's last issue as writer. Thomas started writing Avengers with issue #35 (December 1966) and left a huge impression on the book; he wrote twice as many issues as Stan Lee. The Roy Thomas/Neal Adams "Kree-Skrull War" storyline in issues 89-97 (June 71-Feb 72) are the capstone of the Marvel Silver Age mentality--brash and huge and inventive and, well, not quite sensical--and it would be tempting to end the Silver Age run after that, but the seven issues which follow are very much of a piece with the later part of Roy's run. Thomas's final story--a three-parter featuring the X-Men nemesis, the Sentinels--is very Silver Agey. Steve Englehart begins with #105, and Englehart is pretty much the definitive post-Silver Age, pre-Bronze Age Marvel writer, in my book. Well, him and Steve Gerber.

One of the effects of having a staggered end to the Silver Age is that there were comics which were definitely post-Silver Age coming out while Silver Age books were still being published. Probably the most striking example within Marvel is Marvel Feature #1, which contained three stories, all by Roy Thomas, including the first appearance of The Defenders, who got their own (post-Silver Age) series in August 1972. The third story in this issue shows the return of Dr. Strange, who had retired at the end of his series in 1969. Reviving a retired Silver Age character seems quintessentially post-Silver Age. However, this came out in December 1971--eight months before Thomas's final Silver Age issue of The Avengers.

So, there it is.

You can download the Excel spreadsheet. This is Microsoft Excel 2000 document. I'm pretty sure that it's virus-free.

I might make it available in other formats if asked nicely.

Any corrections, comments, suggestions (especially on good dividing lines between the Silver Age and post-Silver Age for specific titles) and so forth are welcome via e-mail.

Acknowledgements and notes:

This page and the attached spreadsheet are copyright 2003 by Kevin J. Maroney, kjm@panix.com. Feel free to distribute this page and this spreadsheet without modification and with appropriate credit only.

Page Last Updated: 11 Aug 2009
Spreadsheet Last Updated: 16 March 2004