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10 Jokes From The Golden Age Of Marvel Comics That Wouldn't Be Printed Today

CBR logo CBR 7/27/2022 Jerry Stanford
© Provided by CBR

The Golden Age of comics was a period that shaped the medium. This shaping came from trial and error from many creators, and the humor within the comics, like the action, was a product of the times the comics were created in. Just as there are characters that don't work in the modern age, some humor doesn't work with modern references.

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Society has changed significantly in the decades since the Golden Age. There have been advancements in social equality, with racist and sexist jokes that would no longer be tolerated in most forms of entertainment. Marvel Comics, operating in the Golden Age as Timely Comics, had jokes that would not see print today.

Instances of animal cruelty, sexism, body-shaming, and sexual harassment are discussed below

Asbestos Was Overused, Making It An Unintentional Joke Years Later.

In the Golden Age, Marvel's Human Torch seemed unstoppable, so criminals, Nazis, and other villains resorted to asbestos, a material that became popular for its resistance to fire. In the 1970s, it also became known for causing cancer.

While the use of asbestos was not originally played for humor, the best-known example of this is Asbestos Lady, who clothed herself head-to-toe in the carcinogenic material. However, the funniest example comes from All-Winners Comics #11, where a villain known as the Hawk traps the Human Torch and Toro in an airtight, asbestos-lined dungeon. The Torch's hyperbole call the sealed room "a death trap." Time has made this an unintentional joke.

Patsy Walker's Weight Loss Jokes With Nancy Wouldn't Fly Today.

First seen in Patsy Walker #3, Patsy's friend Nancy refers to her weight and needing to shed pounds, even though she's drawn just like Patsy is drawn and doesn't look overweight at all. This was far too stereotypical for female characters until recently, translating into eating disorders and body-shaming of too many women and girls.

By the end of the story, repeated many times for many female characters, Nancy even gives her weight as 128 pounds, considered a healthy weight for a woman slightly shorter than Patsy Walker. It's a joke that grew tiresome within a few decades but kept getting reused but unimaginative writers. With too many people dealing with weight and body image issues, making light of it for the sake of comedy seems insensitive.

Hurricane's Taunts Would Have Different Meanings Today.

Best exemplified in Captain America Comics #8, Marvel's Golden Age speedster, the Hurricane, was prone to taunt his foes. With his speed, he easily avoided retaliation, provided he could see the attack coming. When a crooked carnival owner tried to kill Hurricane by throwing the hero into a cage with a hungry lion, Hurricane likewise taunted the angry feline.

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In doing so, Hurricane uses a word often used in the forties to describe a cat, especially a small, harmless pet. Nowadays, that word carries a different connotation and is considered vulgar. It's often something that makes older forms of entertainment awkward in retrospect.

Nobody Sells Magazines Door-To-Door Anymore.

In Gay Comics #38, Nellie the Nurse has her bath interrupted by someone ringing the doorbell. She thinks it's her boyfriend Snazzy, but is very much mistaken. Hilarity ensues as Nancy rushes to get ready and answer the door, only to find the person on the other side is just selling magazine subscriptions door-to-door.

Door-to-door salespeople are practically a thing of the past. That notwithstanding, magazines are quickly going extinct as well. The entire premise is a thing of a bygone age.

Hunting Seals Was The Premise Of A Comedy Story?

The lead story in Krazy Komics #35 features Wacky Duck setting out to get the pelt needed for a sealskin coat for his girlfriend. He travels to the North Pole to hunt a seal. This premise for comedy would be horrific today.

One of the defining events in the development of modern animal rights came when the footage was made public of baby seals being clubbed for their pelts. It's ingrained in the public zeitgeist how inhumane the fur industry has been. If this story were published today, the creators would be drummed out of the industry.

Tessie The Typist Would Be In A Hostile Workplace Today.

In Gay Comics #33 Skidsy used Tessie the Typist as a swimsuit model to land an important client. This client was very much romantically interested in Tessie. While this type of negotiation tactic might have been tolerated in the 1940s, it shouldn't have been. Tessie goes along with the ruse because she enjoys making Skidsy jealous.

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This type of behavior might land Skidsy in court today. The company's HR department would most likely point out that these types of negotiations are not just frowned upon, but illegal.

"You Told Them About The Atomic Bombs, Right?"

In Namora #3, the "sea beauty" and her cousin Namor face off against anachronistic Vikings intent on declaring war on America. Namora is the first to confront them and attempts to convince them their plight is a deadly folly. She tells them of the atomic bomb, information the Sub-Mariner echos when he arrives later.

This is intentional humor, apparently intended to add levity to the story. Today, the threat of nuclear weapons is not something that only the United States wields. It's also confirmed as so deadly that only a madman would threaten to use them as a first option.

Open Air Nuclear Tests Were Banned In 1963.

Speaking of atomic bombs, Super Rabbit #10 ended with a story featuring Little Lionel trying to get away from the noise that keeps him from sleeping. No matter where he goes, there's unbearable noise. When Little Lionel finds a perfectly secluded and deserted island, his rest is disturbed by the realization it's where the military tests its atomic bombs.

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This comic was published in 1947 when it was commonplace to test nuclear weapons in the open atmosphere on deserted islands or remote deserts. Such a punchline to a simple humorous story can't be done today for a simple reason; open-air nuclear testing was banned by the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty of 1963.

Gender Roles In Clothing Have Blurred Over The Years.

Cindy Comics featured Cindy Smith, a teenage girl who was often shown wearing men's shirts and pants. Cindy was always expertly drawn as a beautiful young lady. Many times, jokes would be written about Cindy's preference for "men's clothes."

Over the decades, the gender roles in clothing have evolved to the point that women can wear whatever they want. Cindy was pushing these boundaries until her stories were made more mainstream and a lot less interesting. However, this quality in Cindy would mean she wouldn't be as interesting if her book was revived today.

Products Made From Exotic Animals Are No Longer Fashionable.

While furs were the focus of many stories featuring Timely's roster of female characters, even handbags got the humor treatment. The most prominent joke was the 1944 cover of Gay Comics #1. While the joke showing the bag with an alligator's face isn't terribly funny, the problem is in the advancement of animal rights and the hunting of endangered and threatened species.

A real alligator bag is harder to find today, just as a genuine fur coat or stole. Anything bearing an animal's face would be viewed as barbaric. Making jokes like this just can't be funny.

NEXT: The 10 Most Important Comics In Marvel History


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