It seems like every creative medium, genre etc… has at least one “golden age” – a time when it was consistently at it’s absolute best.
For science fiction, this was probably the 1950s-60s and/or the 1980s-90s. For computer and video games, this was probably the 1990s (no prizes for guessing what inspired this article. Surprisingly though, it wasn’t “Doom II”). For British comics, this was probably the 1980s-90s. I could go on for a while… but all of the “golden ages” I can think of are in the past.
But, if you’re an artist, comic-maker and/or a writer, should “golden ages” matter to you?
The answer to this question is a bit more complicated than a simple “yes” or “no”. On the one hand, things produced during a “golden age” can be an invaluable source of inspiration. Although these things are fascinating to look back at in retrospect, I have to imagine that actually being an active member of the audience during a golden age must be an even more inspirational and fascinating experience.
On the other hand, producing “golden age” quality and/or “golden age”-style things when you aren’t in a golden age can actually be advantageous, since there’s less competition. At the very least, you’ll attract an audience who are fans of the “golden age” things and are glad to see “new” things in a familiar style.
However, the thing to remember here is that you should always try to put your own spin on things that are inspired by something from a genre’s “golden age”. If you have many different sources of inspiration, then this will probably happen anyway – but it’s something that you should try to achieve. Merely making thinly-disguised copies of famous things may be easy, but it’ll mostly only attract fans of the original thing – and they probably won’t think that it’s as good as the original.
However, not being in a “golden age” can be somewhat dispiriting. If everything that is popular in the genres that you love is significantly different to your favourite things in that genre, then this can be slightly alienating. Of course, if you’re smart, you’ll know that this sense of alienation can be used as a powerful source of creative motivation. If no-one else is making the things you love, then it’s up to you to keep the tradition alive.
The other thing to remember is, of course, “golden ages” are often something that can only be seen in retrospect. If I’m being very cynical, then I’d say that this is because things are getting progressively worse and yesterday’s rubbish looks better by comparison to today’s rubbish.
However, if I’m being less cynical, I’d say that it’s probably because people need time to see and to define new trends. To use a computer game-related example, when “Doom” was originally released in 1993, there was no specific term to describe what kind of action game it was. It was only after several other games were made in the same genre that the term “Doom Clone” emerged to describe them. A while later, this term changed again to “First-Person Shooter”. But, this took several years.
So, you could be at the very beginning of a “golden age” right now and not even know it.
The other thing to remember is that good things are produced every year. Just because you aren’t in the middle of a “golden age” doesn’t mean that your creative works have to suffer as a result. Likewise, although there are some widely agreed-upon “golden ages” for various artforms, a lot of them are also up for debate too. So, your idea of a terrible cultural desert might be someone else’s idea of a “golden age”.
At the end of the day, it’s probably best ot use the “golden age” of your favourite artforms as a source of inspiration. But, don’t let the fact that you don’t seem to be in the middle of a “golden age” at the moment get you down.
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂