“How long would you say Heroic Ages last, Wally?”

– Jay Garrick, the Flash (I)

“Twenty years, according to Jones and Jacobs. The Golden Age lasted until 1955, the Silver Age until 1975, but the Dark Age just ended in ’95. That’s why it’s still too early to say what this new age is going to be called yet.

– Wally West, the Flash (III)

Flash #134, cover-date Feb 98, script by Mark Millar & Grant Morrison

It always comes back to the Flash, in the end: from a purely DC pantheon angle, it’s easy to see how the missing middle mantle above, Barry Allen, and his death (“outracing the tachyon at the heart of the Anti-Monitor’s anti-matter cannon…[he] became one with the other side of light.” – so impossibly romantic, that) resonate with the term “Dark Age”, certainly as used pejoratively.

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It seems like an awfully long time since we found ourselves under the Ultimate Man’s protection. Think back. Waaaay back to the mid-90’s. The comics industry was beginning to drag itself out of a self-inflicted slump of pointless speculation and multiple foil variant covers. Chains and guns were beginning to lose their appeal and the world was rotating towards a newer, shinier vision of superheroes. Pop, rather than Metal was going to be the order of the day in the lead up to the Millenium it would seem. Superheroes were going to be fun again. No more torturing paedophiles or deacpitating rapists. At the forefront of this movement we have Waid’s hyper-fun Flash and Impulse comics; Busiek’s Astro City with it’s progressive nostalgic vision of meta-comics; Robinson’s Starman that sought to build an engrossing and believable mythos for his pet character, whilst never forgetting that being a superhero is first and foremost fucking skill. Moore was shaking off the dust of self-publishing and gearing up his ABC assault. Miller’s DK2 lurked on the horizon ready to introduce his bezerko psychedelic bigfoot parable on the world. And somewhere lurking at the sidelines was Morrison and Millar’s AZTEK.

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In another post Sean Phillips was described as having a telepathic drawing style. Not telepathic in the Zener card sense or even the psychic ninja-knife sense, but telepathic in the very simple sense that the reader can read the thoughts of the figures he draws. By this is not meant that Phillips has a particularly good grasp of how to draw realistic or communicative anatomy or body-language, but literally that something strange happens to his pictures where they somehow become imbued with a quality as yet unknown to science that transmits the thoughts of imaginary beings into the minds of any non-imaginary viewer. To demonstrate – the reader knows exactly what Miss Misery is thinking here:

Don’t you?

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If I have to make up a bloggy reason why this post was written, it’s recent noise from the Factual Opinion that Andy Diggle’s current run on Hellblazer is the best it’s been in years. I picked one up, saw with relish that the colour palette they’re using still contains every conceivable shade of mud, put it down. To say it’s currently firing on all cylinders isn’t saying much, as Vertigo’s old horror warhorse is a perpetual disappointment, which it shouldn’t, because the basic ingredients are so solid. It’s about the street-sorcerer John Constantine, magic, and a bit of London grime, all mixed together with a quip and a crafty fag. Despite these perfect alchemical elements something inevitably goes wrong with the final potion, which rarely drips the creep and splatter I hunger for from anything so keen to proclaim itself a horror comic.

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So. Mindless Ones is good name for a comic blog, isn’t it? (I didn’t come up with it.) Conjures the notion of a ravening* horde, slavering* devotion to Dormammu, the Dark One, battling NeilAlieN on some etheric plateau adrift in this noosphere. Perhaps that’s exactly what we are. Perhaps we really are just that.

*Having no mouths to eat, only hands to type, I’m not so very sure a Mindless One such as I really can raven“? I can surely slaver, though.

Anyway, enough bullshit. I came here today to talk about the entire history of superhero comics because, well, better to start big and THEN drift into meandering personal vendettas and general self-loathing with a little credit hopefully in the bag, you know? Oh, and the love. Of the thing. Because they’re important to me, no matter how – generally, if the internet is to be believed – repugnant the fandom (like, whenever there’s a fan ‘outcry’, I’m like, “good”; I love seeing these risible chuds bathing their innards in acid,) how venal the publishers, how dubious the sexual and racial politics… there’s a massive iconic energy these things harness, or can harness, thousands of cultural, thematic and generic worlds they (can) straddle in bright, tight trouserpants and they’re just. my. favourites.

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