A not-so-long time ago in a galaxy within the comic sphere, a website dedicated to personal comics criticism existed. Sadly, this glorious website, comfortfoodcomics.com, remains forever archived online now. It was at this said domain where I was given full reigns to write about any comic-adjacent topic I wanted. One of those topics was a column I ran called, “AHOY Comics Deep-Dive.” In this column, I observed and analyzed comic trade narratives from top-tier indie publisher, AHOY Comics. The goal of each piece was this: I surveyed the comic without spoiling too much in order to probe new readers into reading AHOY comics.
I’m happy to report a revival of the column here at the cozy cave of Comic Book Yeti. Without further ado, I present an AHOY Comics Deep-Dive about Bronze Age Boogie. In lieu of Marvel’s Shang-Chi film release, Bronze Age Boogie feels especially appropriate to critically resurrect right now since one of the primary protagonists is an Asian kung-fu master.
In this piece, we are traveling back to the past . . . and then back to an even further past! But wait, we also go back to the future? Also, there’s wizards! Aliens! Kung fu! Cosmic entities! Have I got your attention yet? Strap into your DeLorean.
AHOY Comics has a wonderfully eclectic group of titles, but Stuart Moore and Alberto Ponticelli’s Bronze Age Boogie takes the proverbial cake for presenting the wackiest, trippiest narrative. This comic will take you back to the past and also back to the future.
Before we begin, I must admit my personal bias for Bronze Age Boogie since it’s written by Stuart Moore. Moore wrote my number one favorite AHOY comic, Captain Ginger, which means I will automatically read any other title he’s written. I have an entire 1,500 words or so dedicated to my love for Captain Ginger in another AHOY Deep-Dive piece at Comfort Food Comics.
Bronze Age Boogie also features the incredible talents of artist Alberto Ponticelli, colorist Giulia Brusco, and letterer Rob Steen. This team works like a well-oiled machine in Bronze Age Boogie, as you’ll soon discover.
Breaking down the title, the “Bronze Age” refers to the comics era (primarily superhero comics) that spanned from 1970 to about 1984 or 1985. The Bronze Age period of comics featured more realism and complexity in both its themes, conflicts, and characters. Think of titles by Frank Miller and characters like Luke Cage. Morality transformed from clear-cut into ambiguity. Characters encountered a conflict that challenged their perception of justice, righteousness, and good vs. evil. The Bronze Age introduced darker, more high-brow concepts into comic storytelling while still maintaining the characteristic entertainment that superhero narratives delivered.
Bronze Age Boogie takes both common and disparate elements of ‘70s comics and ‘70s film and throws them in a high-octane blender of time travel, martian invasions, and excitement. Oh, and the characters do get to boogie -- eventually. If these elements don’t sound entertaining enough, know that the narrative stretches between both 1975 A.D. and 1975 B.C. Bronze Age Boogie doesn’t begin in the Bronze Age: It begins in the Conan-reminiscent era of early mankind. Thus, after a brief, one-page prologue where humanoid simians and a Go-Go Golem creature discuss the fate of mankind, Bronze Age Boogie opens on a magnificent splash page in the barbarian era.
Immediately, the comic establishes a tone of mayhem through this incredibly rendered image of dinosaurs, battle, wizardry, and a sword-wielding princess fighting alongside her burly, God of War-looking father. There’s a multitude of splash pages in Bronze Age Boogie. Still, there’s something special about this first glorious piece of art on pages 2-3. Unquestionably, Ponticelli and Brusco’s initial two-fold artwork delivers an extravagantly illustrated and psychedelically colored promise of the whirlwind narrative to come.
Stuart Moore and Rob Steen’s lettering delineate the time, hint at the impending conflict, and introduce our strong protagonist: Princess Brita Constantine, daughter of King Domnall Constantine. Brita’s sharp, biting attitude and willingness to fight for a kingdom, despite feeling out of place, is the beating heart of Bronze Age Boogie. She finds difficulty in maintaining interpersonal relationships. She is unimpressed by the all-powerful wizards and her father’s loquacious tendencies. Loyalty to her fierce ancestors doesn’t interest Brita, and she feels weighed down by her father’s filial expectations. These character traits give Brita essential relatability amidst the chaotic plot. Brita views the world both pragmatically and wishfully. Because of Brita’s engaging character and her trait of longing for a life beyond her woefully plotted-out destiny, Bronze Age Boogie never feels bogged down by the haywire narrative. As much as the comic is plot-driven, it is underpinned by character-driven elements, tethering the reader to the world Moore has created.
Brita’s father is committed to his immigrant duty as a king in a somewhat foreign environment. As a result, Domnall Constantine fiercely believes in his need to prove himself as a capable leader. Although Domnall conjectures that Brita echoes his sentiment of filial piety, he ultimately cares about his daughter above all else. Like any teenager, Brita feels smothered by her father’s sentiments. The comic explores the teetering dynamics of their unbalanced father-daughter relationship throughout the narrative, leading to unhinged moments of misty-eyed tenderness. If the convoluted plot synopsis deters you, I encourage you to read Bronze Age Boogie for the character development/dynamics! The emotional payoff is heart-wrenching.
Brita continually hears a poetic voice in her head during her time in 1975 A.D. Meanwhile, her Planet of the Apes inspired pal, Sniffer Ape, hands her a small, disco ball-shaped object he received from a time . . . in the future! Sniffer functions as the talking animal pal no characters ever ask for, but always receives, nonetheless. The ape is foul-mouthed and angry -- rightfully so -- about his entrapment in a period over 3,000 years before his own. Also, Sniffer’s got a personal problem, made evident by his name . . . There’s entirely too much humor packed into these pages. Moore supplements archetype characters with unique idiosyncrasies and satire, fortifying their originality without sacrificing relatability. And Sniffer is just funny.
Without warning, Brita and Sniffer witness an alien invasion without any idea how to combat the “gleaming cephalopods.” Stunned, Sniffer begs Brita to remove herself from the arcane situation while Demnall unleashes the fury of Old English eloquence upon the Martians. The enigmatic disco ball bequeathed to Brita begins glowing, transporting Brita across the galaxy of time over two ethereally illustrated splash pages. I love how Sniffer’s quip about Brita being “on drugs” acts as a motif that ties the two 1975 time periods together in one short sentence.
Ponticelli’s linework and detail in these splash pages are akin to filtered images taken from a movie. The cinematic quality in Bronze Age Boogie inhabits and consumes a reader’s vision. Ponticelli and Brusco construct imagery with attention to detail, expressive flair, and rich colors that emulate a 1970s era film. Bronze Age Boogie’s splash pages could appear in an art gallery. Or one of those “film screenshot” pages. Either way, Ponticelli gives an organic quality to a scene with destructive Martians. The scene is given space to breathe in the upper right and lower left-hand corners of the page. Every image in 1975 A.D. screams ‘70s wackiness with animated and congruous visual techniques.
Brita’s disco ball teleports her in Star-Trek like, “Beam me up, Scotty!” fashion, right into yet another Martian invasion in 1975 A.D. New York. In the 1970s, New York was reshaping itself. The silver-age screen, disco-era brought bright colors, Blaxploitation, kung fu movies, and dancing! Bronze Age Boogie coalesces these era-formative elements into a mash-up of thrilling entertainment.
The comic synthesizes nostalgia with a modern, contemporary atmosphere through its empathetic characters and easily recognizable pop culture elements. Brita first meets Lynda Darkk in the strange new time of 1975. Lynda’s prowess and mission to avenge her sister bolster Lynda’s will to survive.
Another dramatic character dynamic evolves between Lynda and Brita. Lynda, having lost her sister, never wavers in her dedication to Brita’s safety. Regardless of her past, Lynda battles for Brita’s protection throughout the story, despite barely knowing the teenage girl. Their relationship shines a light on loss, empathy, and trauma in a softly nuanced fashion. Lynda prides herself on independence, yet relishes the potency of human connection. I believe Stuart Moore excelled in portraying a resilient, powerful Black woman not built on invasive stereotypes.
Instead, Lynda is an emotional and physical force to be reckoned with and is artistically depicted with thoughtfulness. She’s not over-sexualized or hyper-exaggerated in either her appearance or characteristics. Thankfully, the creators carefully handled PoC representation in a narrative that could have easily mishandled these characters. Racism is addressed in intimate moments like the panel above. The imagery and interior dialogue boxes overtly evoke thematic relevance without distraction.
Martial art master Jackson Li rounds out the main trio of characters featured in Bronze Age Boogie. Kung fu movies, and significantly, Chinese-American martial artist Bruce Lee had an indelible cultural impact on the 1970s. Jackson Li’s character is extricated from these cultural touchstones. Jackson operates on tradition, skill, awareness, and has a penchant for introspection. He also has a white dog companion (that bears similarities to Krypto the Superdog?) named Disco! The parallel is on-the-nose, but cute, nevertheless.
Unlike Lynda, Jackson Li’s yearning for personal connection was extinguished after a life with an absent father. The character foil dichotomy between Lynda and Jackson generates both internal and external tension. Jackson refuses to reveal any secrets, while Lynda divulges her life story to Brita and Jackson. Jackson Li regards honor as quintessential to his existence, seemingly uncaring of others’ opinions. Lynda questions her own self-worth and ability as a PoC in a bigoted world. Jackson speaks in almost hypocritical platitudes to shield his personality from the world. Consequently, Jackson’s philosophical mindset and detached veneer threaten his life later on in the story. The slow-burn character development and unraveling mystery into Jackson Li’s origin have a shocking payoff.
Intriguingly, artist Alberto Ponicelli is a martial arts teacher! Accordingly, his physical talent for martial arts off the page spectacularly transfers into his illustrations. Ponticelli’s eye for action, movement, and distinctive angles in fighting scenes reflect his knowledge of the craft. On several two-page splashes, Ponticelli renders the unarmed battle between Lynda and Jackson Li with impeccable fluidity. Each punch and kick relates to realistic motion and practical limb movement. As someone who took karate for seven years, these scenes resonate with me. Every hand-to-hand combat scene in the comic is authentically drawn, propelling you into the moment.
Pages of prose text is another narrative choice Stuart Moore incorporates into his comic love letter to the Bronze Age. In the Bronze Age Boogie trade, Stuart Moore’s introduction states, “. . . those crazy illustrated-text pages . . . characterized some of the more literate Marvel books of the ‘70s.” I discovered that an example of prose pages in Marvel Comics even date back as far as 1941 in Stan Lee’s Captain America #3. AHOY Comics are known for experimentation. Therefore, the addition of these lushly illustrated/colored prose pages serves the narrative well. Additionally, the prose pages amplify the palpably cinematic feeling of Bronze Age Boogie. They emulate a diegesis voice-over present in a movie. Further, Ponticelli and Brusco’s ethereal artistry produces a cinematic symbiosis.
For me, the prose pieces work. For others, they might be annoyed at having to read a huge wall of text in a comic. But Rob Steen’s lettering must be appreciated at all costs--always! Arguably, Jonathan Hickman’s current X-Men line utilizes a plethora of text pages. Bronze Age Boogie’s prose pages can be considered analogous to Hickaman’s narrative format.
Additionally, if you opt to read the individual issues, there’s an adorable story added on to the end of several issues about a space bear called “Major Ursa.” It is fully worth reading. AHOY Comics should consider releasing an extended edition Bronze Age Boogie trade including the “Major Ursa” backups. Bronze Age Boogie is also rife with figurine potential. With hype for Shang-Chi at an all-time high, AHOY fans should flock to content like this comic trade.
Bronze Age Boogie challenges stereotypes and centers itself around character relationships, personal growth, and durability. Meanwhile, the stakes are high, as menacing aliens in two timelines have the potential to wipe out life altogether. Time-travel stories rarely come off as plausible or coherent. Moore deserves accolades for weaving a semi-sensible time-travel narrative together with well-constructed characters.
I didn’t grow up in the 1970s. Or the '80s. Or the '90s. I was born in 1998, so you may be wondering, “Why would I like this comic if I don’t know anything about the ‘70s?!”. Those factors are naught because Bronze Age Boogie is an entertaining comic through and through. Everything doesn’t have to make sense. Not everything made sense in the 1970s, and things don’t make sense now. Bronze Age Boogie’s appeal lies in its sense of artistic and narrative freedom to be exactly what the creators intended to create; an enjoyable, entertaining comic – with plenty of Planet of the Apes references.