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The Silver Age of Comic Books (1954-1970) began after the establishment of the Comics Code Authority, and is defined by the evolution of mainstream comics under its strictures, as well as the emergence of underground comix, many influenced by the pre-Code comics read by their creators as children.
As a result of the Code's strict content rules, fewer genres could thrive. The superhero genre was the only one to be reinvigorated in the Code's aftermath, starting when DC rebooted the Flash in 1956. With the start of the Marvel Universe in 1961, the Silver Age cemented the primacy of the superhero genre, as well as Marvel and DC themselves, in the traditional comics industry, though other genres and publishers continued to have modest success. Key to Marvel's success was a more sophisticated approach to writing and characterization relative to Golden Age superheroes, as well as their treatment of social issues (though largely through allusion and metaphor) which attracted an older adolescent audience.
Underground comix emerged around 1968, published and sold through non-traditional outlets, and thus not hampered by standard newsstand policies requiring Code approval. Underground comix dealt explicitly with social, political, and other previously taboo subjects, especially sex and drugs.
The Silver Age drew to a close as both Marvel and DC began drawing more heavily on real-life issues and directly challenging the Code, ushering in the Bronze Age.