Bronze Age

The Bronze Age (1974 - 1992)

Mighty marvel mutant madness hits Neptune City? (The shift from Silver Age to Bronze Age tone is really a very gradual thing.)

Campaign Tone -- What does “Bronze Age” mean anyway?

This campaign was written to be mainly Bronze Age in tone. As promised, I’ve tried to put together some more thoughts on what I mean by that. To me, the Bronze Age represents a balance between the camp & absurdity of the Silver Age, and the grimness & excessive violence of the Iron Age.

The Silver Age was full of evil clones & alternate versions of characters from other Dimensions (“No, that’s the Superman from Earth 4…”), alien imps who play super-powered pranks on the heroes, and the like. Villains like the Penguin actually use armies of penguins, and imprison captured heroes in Giant Pinball Machine death-traps. Kid sidekicks and/or super-powered pets are obligatory. People rarely ever die. Morality is (almost) completely B&W, and thanks to the Comics Code characters can’t have sex, drink, or do anything else controversial. Think of the `60s Batman TV show, or the Chris Reeves Superman movies. Foxbat thinks he’s living in a Silver Age comic.

At the other extreme, the Iron Age attempts to be much more “realistic” mostly by amping up the violence and deleting any sense of morality. OK, that’s probably too harsh; there have been some excellent Iron Age comics. But if the Silver Age was too B&W, most Iron Age tends to be too Grey for my taste, at least as a sustained diet. The line between hero and villains is thin, subjective, and changes from issue to issue. “Heroes” routinely manipulate, abuse, and even kill people because the ends justify the means. Government is (almost) always corrupt and manipulative, tho to be fair usually no more so than the “heroes.” Most problems can be solved by getting bigger guns. All supporting characters are required to be addicted to drugs/alcohol/porn, and/or to have been abused as children; so are most heroes, for that matter. If you can’t kill off a supporting NPC, have them get kidnapped and raped, or mutated into a flesh-eating monster. All attacks are killing attacks, and it’s not a decent fight until someone’s brain matter gets splattered on the wall. Dark Knight Returns, Watchmen, and Straczynski’s Supreme Power are examples of Iron Age at its best; Dark Knight Strikes Again and Marvel’s current Civil War saga are Iron Age at its worst IMHO.

I see the Bronze Age as a happy medium between those two extremes. Characters are three-dimensional people with human frailties & weaknesses, but heroes generally act like heroes, or at least try to. People sometimes die, whether innocents (Gwen Stacy), villains (Green Goblin) or even heroes (Jean Grey/Phoenix), but it’s a Big Deal when it happens and they (almost) never die at the heroes’ hands. The Comics Code is gone, so sex, drugs, and other “mature” issues can be portrayed; morality isn’t always B&W; government isn’t always just and well-intentioned; and good doesn’t always triumph over evil. But those elements are used primarily as “seasoning” and tend to be the exception rather than the rule. Similarly, you have a few characters who are a little more Iron Age in outlook (Punisher, Wolverine), but they’re there primarily for contrast. The Death of Gwen Stacy arc in Spider-Man, the Phoenix/Dark Phoenix saga in X-Men, and the Wolfman/Perez run on New Teen Titans are standout examples. The Death of Jean deWolff storyline in Spider-Man is also an excellent example of a late-Bronze Age story that plays with darker elements and greyer morality. I would say most of the better superhero movies in recent years have a primarily Bronzish feel to them, including the Spider-Man movies, the first two X-Men movies (the third went seriously Iron Age IMO), and arguably Superman Returns. I’d even say Batman Begins is borderline Bronze-Iron, in that Batman always strives to be a hero in spite of the darkness around him.

Anyway, that’s my take on it; see also the “Code vs. Killing” guidelines I sent around awhile back (posted in the Files section of the NewChamps group). Based on the initial conversations we had and your answers to that Questionnaire I asked you all to fill out before we started the campaign, I concluded that Bronze Age best described the type of game you all wanted to play. If everyone doesn’t agree, please let’s talk about it; I’m happy to adjust the tone if it’ll make for a better game. Similarly, I’m fine with having one or more “contrast” characters who might be a little more Iron (or more Silver) in outlook; as far as I’m concerned, contrast makes for good roleplaying. But at the same time, the contrast can’t be so extreme that your characters can’t work together as part of a team.

Bigdamnhero (Mar 5th, '07, 11:49 AM, Hero Games Discussion Board)

The Feel of the Bronze Age

Social relevancy is the buzz word for the day. Stories (and characters) now have a depth that was missing in previous eras. Heroes don’t just have the occasional girl friend problem; they face real dilemmas that are relevant to the readers. Also, the stories take on a slightly darker edge. Suddenly, the hero might not always be able to save the girl. True heroes still don’t kill, but a new breed of anti-hero is starting to appear – and they will. In many respects, we see a return to what the original Golden Age stories we like. Not quite grim and gritty, but the heroes are no all nice.
Patriotic heroes become rare, and those who have been around from earlier eras begin to question their own blind patriotism.
The conceptual walls built by the Comic Code Authority are starting to crack and the heroes begin to face issues that previously would have been forbidden.

Bronze Age Characters

Bronze Age characters become more rounded and deeper than their Silver Age predecessors. Motivations are much more complex and their personal problems are frequently a larger part of the total picture than their powers or heroic deeds.
Common origins are being magically cursed by sinister supernatural forces, finding or making a costume with circuitry built into it, being rebuilt by secret government programs into a living weapon, deliberate genetic engineering.
Classic Power Origins for the Bronze Age
  • Alien or space god
  • Mystical
  • Horror monster - vampire, werewolf, demon etc.
  • Gadgetry
  • Mutant
  • Taught kung fu
  • Cyborg
  • Genetic engineering
  • Being the son or daughter of a superhero

Character are, in general, less powerful that their Silver Age predecessors, although in game terms they will be built on the same number of points but with the expectation that more points will be spent on skills and less on powers. The Bronze Age is also an era of tightly defined teams who actually practice working together (as opposed to a group of super-powered pals and gals who get together once a month for a club meeting). As such, the Teamwork skill would be very common for characters. Character Build: 200 point base + 150 points in disadvantages

Defining Events in Neptune City

To the world at large, their greatest hero has been struck down. More importantly, a super villain has finally crossed the line and succeeded in killing a (popular) superhero. This changes everything. Slowly, new heroes begin to enter the scene who are grimmer and rougher. Some heroes begin to try to address serious social issues (with only limited success). Villains, in response, start appearing who are not merely villainous, but actually mean and nasty. More heroes (and occasionally villains) die, and the Mental Midget drops out of sight.