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Aging heroes in US comics 
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Most of the USA’s top heroes are now over 50-years old, or just short of this: Spider-Man; Thor; Iron Man; Hulk; Fantastic Four; the original X-men; Daredevil + so many more. With many other long running titles such as DC’s Superman; Batman; Captain America even older.

Over the decades, a few title’s attempted to have their main heroes age in the comics, though unfortunately experiment’s notably Conan; Chris Claremont’s 'new' X-men (c.40-years old themselves now) have never quite come off or aged significantly. Instead the titles are usually reinvented for new readers and the heroes mostly ageless. Some heroes such as 1880s born Wolverine are known to age only slowly, as part of the abilities, but not others such as Magento who was a victim in WW2.

I alway’s thought it a shame that although subsidiary characters such as Boom-Boom; Jubilee; Skids did age a little and grow-up, others such as Franklin Richards have alway’s been perpetually portrayed as aging only slowly. Of course I can see that it would not be sensible to have Mr Fantastic as an octogenarian and something like this or Prof-X reaching old age, likely to lead to a sales drop – not least changing film spin-offs.

Has anyone else given this topic any thoughts? The UK’s Judge Dredd has interestingly been aging in his strip, with clones such as the flawed Kraken and the second Rico Dredd being lined up as possible replacements. Would similar aging work in the US titles – In the past Iron Man’s suit has been worn by others, which could eventually allow Tony Stark to retire if needed and become a pensioner. Could Batman be Bruce Wayne’s grandson? Could a younger Spider-man be from an alternative dimension, and so on?

What do other’s think?

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Last edited by Muffy on Mon Sep 22, 2014 7:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Mon Sep 22, 2014 6:56 pm
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The annoying thing is, it happened occasionally, but reverted back when there was no need. When Kid Flash/Wally West took over from the Flash, it was seemless. He worked really well. Bucky as Captain America. Worked great. Why bring the originals back when there was no clamour too? So I think it can work.

Just don't do a Green Lantern, then fans will be desperate to get the original back.

I have to say, I don't see the need for that to happen. I guess it's all in the writing/plotting. What has been terrible is something like Earth-2. Not that the stories are bad but it's just not Earth-2! The connection is tenuous at best.

The original X-Men being dropped back into current Marvel is a great idea, as are 'classic' new stories, e.g. going back to an Avengers story and telling untold tales. At the time that Marvel almost went bankrupt and Image took over for a while, Tony Stark was replaced by a young Stark. I wouldn't like to see that happen all the time but the occasional seems an interesting concept.

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Mon Sep 22, 2014 7:27 pm
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Muffy wrote:
Most of the USA’s top heroes are now over 50-years old, or just short of this: Spider-Man; Thor; Iron Man; Hulk; Fantastic Four; the original X-men; Daredevil + so many more. With many other long running titles such as DC’s Superman; Batman; Captain America even older.

Over the decades, a few title’s attempted to have their main heroes age in the comics, though unfortunately experiment’s notably Conan; Chris Claremont’s 'new' X-men (c.40-years old themselves now) have never quite come off or aged significantly. Instead the titles are usually reinvented for new readers and the heroes mostly ageless. Some heroes such as civil war veteran Wolverine are known to age only slowly, as part of the abilities, but not others such as Nick Fury who participated in WW2.
Sorry, but this was the worst example you could have picked. We've known since the late 1970s that Nick Fury did not age normally thanks to annual doses of the Infinity Formula. It's been a major part of his backstory for decades. And Wolverine isn't a Civil War veteran, he was born in 1886.
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I alway’s thought it a shame that although subsidiary characters such as Boom-Boom; Jubilee; Skids did age a little and grow-up, others such as Franklin Richards have alway’s been perpetually portrayed as aging only slowly. Of course I can see that it would not be sensible to have Mr Fantastic as an octogenarian and something like this or Prof-X reaching old age, likely to lead to a sales drop – not least changing film spin-offs.

Has anyone else given this topic any thoughts? The UK’s Judge Dredd has interestingly been aging in his strip, with clones such as the flawed Kraken and the second Rico Dredd being lined up as possible replacements. Would similar aging work in the US titles – In the past Iron Man’s suit has been worn by others, which could eventually allow Tony Stark to retire if needed and become a pensioner. Could Batman be Bruce Wayne’s grandson? Could a younger Spider-man be from an alternative dimension, and so on?

What do other’s think?
I don't think people would really accept a Spidey who wasn't Peter Parker or a Batman who wasn't Bruce Wayne in the long term, really. Comics fans don't like change as a rule-only the illusion of change, as Stan Lee once said.

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Mon Sep 22, 2014 7:32 pm
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starscape wrote:
The annoying thing is, it happened occasionally, but reverted back when there was no need. When Kid Flash/Wally West took over from the Flash, it was seemless. He worked really well. Bucky as Captain America. Worked great. Why bring the originals back when there was no clamour too? So I think it can work.

Just don't do a Green Lantern, then fans will be desperate to get the original back.

I have to say, I don't see the need for that to happen. I guess it's all in the writing/plotting. What has been terrible is something like Earth-2. Not that the stories are bad but it's just not Earth-2! The connection is tenuous at best.

The original X-Men being dropped back into current Marvel is a great idea, as are 'classic' new stories, e.g. going back to an Avengers story and telling untold tales. At the time that Marvel almost went bankrupt and Image took over for a while, Tony Stark was replaced by a young Stark. I wouldn't like to see that happen all the time but the occasional seems an interesting concept.
Image never took over Marvel. You're thinking of Heroes Reborn, which occurred after the teen Tony storyline. Jim Lee and the others were given the freedom to reinvent various characters by Marvel, but they were farmed out to Wildstorm and Extreme Studios while still being Marvel publications.

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Mon Sep 22, 2014 7:36 pm
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Apols Tony re-Wolverine and other examples – have tweaked original. Hopefully you know what I meant though.

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Mon Sep 22, 2014 7:47 pm
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Yeah, Image creators is what I meant. I did also remember it was immediately before Heroes Reborn (which is what I meant by 'at the time') as the Avengers series I was following just left all the plot threads hanging and, suddenly, everything's changed.

I've never liked Iron Man, so shed few tears over the death of adult Tony.

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Mon Sep 22, 2014 7:52 pm
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Muffy wrote:
Apols Tony re-Wolverine and other examples – have tweaked original. Hopefully you know what I meant though.
Unfortunately, you tweaked the original by replacing Nick Fury with Magneto. And Magneto's unnatural longevity has also been addressed in-story: in the mid 1970s, he was de-aged to babyhood by a character called Alpha the Ultimate Mutant, and it was later revealed that when he was made an adult again, he was several decades younger than he had been. :D

Actually, the only Marvel characters I can think of who were connected to a specific time period (mostly World War II) whose ageing issues were not addressed were Nick Fury's fellow Howling Commandos, and Marvel have now dealt with that problem by gradually killing them off over the last few years. The last one to go was Dum Dum Dugan, who actually believed he still looked forty because Fury had shared the Infinity Formula with him, but who was eventually revealed (a few weeks ago) to have died in 1966 and been a sophisticated android copy ever since. I think Izzy Cohen is still around, but he was last seen wheelchair bound and looking pretty ancient, in the Secret Warriors series a few years ago.

I read a lot of Marvel... :oops:

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Tue Sep 23, 2014 8:19 am
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Thanks Tony – impressive knowledge of Marvel! I’d never even heard of this infinity formulae.

If you’ve any other examples such as non-mutants like Moira McTaggert or perhaps some DC characters who have hardly aged, your probably one of the best people to ask. You probably know what I’m referring to with aging. Did you not find Franklin Richards turning into a very young child in Power Pack very annoying? Before then he looked around 7-8 years old. Any idea how old he is these days?

In the comic book version of Days of Future Past it was nice to see Franklin finally grown up with all the X-men looking older. Personally, I thought Wolverine looked better with some grey on his temples.


Tue Sep 23, 2014 10:31 am
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Characters ages have always been inconsistent in superhero comics it seems. Didn't Reed Richards and Ben Grimm serve in WW2 or Korea? It was mentioned in a sixties FF. And Tony Stark's origin as Iron Man has been retconned from its original setting of Viet Nam to Afghanistan in modern times.

I think the reason the companies don't age characters and replace the heroes with younger characters in the costumes is basically because they 'civilian' identities are copyrighted names just as much as the superhero names. It's all part of the branding.

That said, the current Captain America story has seen circumstances that have aged Steve Rogers to his correct age (about 90) and a replacement Captain America. Although strictly speaking, the new Cap, Sam Wilson, would be in his sixties by now if they stuck to real aging. :lol:

I came up with a solution to this aging / non aging stuff years ago. Was going to incorporate it into a Combat Colin strip at Marvel UK but didn't bother. Basically it was this: in 1966 after encountering Galactus, Reed Richards realises that if the Earth is going to face increasingly powerful alien threats, the handful of Marvel heroes currently around wouldn't be able to deal with it as time rolled on. (And being 1966 there were few new heroes coming along at that time.) The Shaper of Worlds appears, and does a deal with Reed so that Marvel Earth ages at a slower rate. This is Reed's secret, and no one else on Earth is aware that they've celebrated so many Christmases or that they're not aging at a normal rate. The punchline being that after 1972 tons of new heroes started appearing anyway, so there would always be protectors for Earth, so Reed needn't have worried. And the slow aging continues to this day, with no one the wiser, except for Reed, and such knowledge would eventually turn him into a mad scientist, - a perfect enemy for Combat Colin. :)

Load of cobblers isn't it? You can probably understand why I never developed it. :lol:

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Tue Sep 23, 2014 10:59 am
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Muffy wrote:
Thanks Tony – impressive knowledge of Marvel! I’d never even heard of this infinity formulae.
Originally introduced in Marvel Spotlight #31 (December 1976). Apparently, Nick Fury was injected with it in 1946 and the scientist who gave it to him subsequently blackmailed him into paying for annual doses. Eventually, Fury discovered his system had metabolized the formula and he no longer needed the annual doses. It was recently eliminated from his system and he began ageing normally again.
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If you’ve any other examples such as non-mutants like Moira McTaggert or perhaps some DC characters who have hardly aged, your probably one of the best people to ask. You probably know what I’m referring to with aging. Did you not find Franklin Richards turning into a very young child in Power Pack very annoying? Before then he looked around 7-8 years old. Any idea how old he is these days?
Franklin, I did find annoying-he basically lost about four years in order to appear in Power Pack, though I think it's now generally assumed that he subconsciously used his own mutant powers to keep himself that young in order to stop himself from losing control of them again. These days, he's depicted as being about nine or ten, which as far as Marvel's sliding timescale goes, is about right. Generally, any event not tied to a specific real world date (like World War II) is now reckoned to have occurred at some point in the last ten to fifteen years. So Tony Stark was not wounded in Vietnam but in Afghanistan, these days, and that's also where Flash Thompson served. Captain America was still frozen in 1945, but he was woken up in about 2000, not 1963. And in a few years time, he'll have been woken up in maybe 2005 or whatever.
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In the comic book version of Days of Future Past it was nice to see Franklin finally grown up with all the X-men looking older. Personally, I thought Wolverine looked better with some grey on his temples.
So did I, though realistically, he shouldn't have looked grey at all, if he doesn't now.

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Tue Sep 23, 2014 11:01 am
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For many years, when comics had an audience that constantly renewed itself, it wasn't a problem. If anyone did keep reading after most of their contemporaries had stopped then they'd just have to accept certain conceits such as characters not aging. Unfortunately, as the audience has come to be dominated by aging fanboys who've seen it all before, we end up with characters getting older but it's never consistently applied and we end up with a mess.

The characters shouldn't age. All the stories take place "now". Old stories took place "a few months" or "a few years ago". If something becomes a problem - Reed and Ben having fought in WW2 - you simply stop mentioning it.

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Tue Sep 23, 2014 11:42 am
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Or keep mentioning it but don't bother about it as a problem. There'd be something lost for me if Ben and Reed were fighter pilots in the War on Terror. Dispenses with too much history. Keep 'em as WWII but just don't bother so much how it fits in. If some kid needs an explanation, his imagination could probably fire one up. If an adult does, then, y'know, that's comic history. Revel in it!

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Tue Sep 23, 2014 12:02 pm
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Thanks everyone – keep the thoughts coming

Lew Stringer wrote:
That said, the current Captain America story has seen circumstances that have aged Steve Rogers to his correct age (about 90) and a replacement Captain America. Although strictly speaking, the new Cap, Sam Wilson, would be in his sixties by now if they stuck to real aging. :lol:

Don’t quote me as my Marvel knowledge is not perfect, but of course Cap was frozen or something like that for a couple of decades. I re-read some of the late ’70s to early ’80s Steve Rogers Captain America’s in the UK reprints (he had his own UK weekly for a while) seem very dated. I can see why UK Marvel and later Excalibur tried to focus more on Captain Britain.

If anyone remembers ’Nam that was really clever with aging and tours lasting 12 issues – the early Michael Golden artworked issue are worth keeping. The promotions were handled really well too.


Tue Sep 23, 2014 12:54 pm
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The Cap of said weekly was pretty contemporary for the time. He was a graphic designer for a start. Not the sort of job that came along in the Sixties. His clothes were pretty up-to-date and his girlfriend, Bernie, was very much the 80s gal.

I did like Cap of the Ultimates though, when the Wasp got miffed by Steve spending so much time around old people, listening to big band music and asking her to cover herself up. That man-out-of-time hadn't been seen for a long time in mainstream Marvel.

That whole 'I'm a rubbish man but a great superhero, so Steve Rogers will be the disguise and Cap the real person' is so unMarvel. I've often thought Cap and Batman shopuld swap universes. Bats can be the loner with a closet full of insecurities, whilst Cap can be the everyman Superman, all flash (no pun intended) and heroic, with none of the demons Marvel insists on.

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Tue Sep 23, 2014 1:49 pm
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Muffy wrote:
Apols Tony re-Wolverine and other examples – have tweaked original.
I don't think posters should do any tweaking because it can tend to make subsequent posts nonsensical. Apologies for mistakes should be offered as a matter of course, but our posts are a kind of conversation when all is said and done, and in an actual conversation everything that is said remains said. I would be interested to read other members' views on this matter because I have always found the practice irritating. This is not to say that it happens often, but for a handful of members the need to eliminate the errors from their posts after they have been pointed out to them is almost an automatic reaction.

Regarding the aging factor in Thomsonworld, Wilson and Valda are the only characters that come immediately to mind, and they both age normally day by day. They just happened to be born in the late eighteenth century.


Tue Sep 23, 2014 8:05 pm
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