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What should we call this age of comics?

I doubt if anyone is nominating the “Golden Age”!

I have argued, twice before, that we’re living in the Golden Age of comics, simply because of the sheer diversity of the product and the accessibility of it all (those links are old; the second one has those formatting problems that older entries on this blog still have). In that first link, I argue for new classifications of the eras of comics, but I’m not going to do that here. I’m just curious if we’re able to move beyond the “Iron Age” of comics yet, and I’d like your help!

So let’s break down the generally accepted “ages” of comics before moving on to speculation:

1. The Golden Age (mid-1930s-early 1950s). Most people begin this in 1938 with Superman’s debut, but would the actual debut of comic books with original content (in, what, 1935?) count better? Whatever, this is the Golden Age. Lots of superheroes showing up, a burst of creativity, the war providing plenty of plots (man, Hitler was a good villain!), and after the war, the slow loss of sales, the rise of EC, and politicians freaking out about things that are none of their business. Hey, wait, nothing has changed!

2. The Silver Age (1956-1971). Again, the Silver Age is pretty much well-defined, from the reintroduction of the Flash in Showcase #4 to Amazing Spider-Man shipping without the Comics Code because, you know, drugs! So, yes, if you’re wondering, Spider-Man ruined comics. Happy now, Spidey? Here we have “science” becoming more prominent in superhero comics, the rise of Marvel and their attempts to be hip (in comics written and drawn by Mr. Lee, age 39, Mr. Kirby, age 44, and Mr. Ditko, the youngster at age 34). DC counters by … well, by making Batman dance a silly dance and fight King Tut and having Wonder Woman become Diana Rigg. Hey, whatever works, man!


3. The Bronze Age (1971-1986?). I imagine most people say this “age” runs until 1986, a watershed year in comics. In that year, DC swept away the vestiges of the Silver/Bronze Ages with Crisis on Infinite Earths, Frank Miller redefined Batman with The Dark Knight Returns, and Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons did Watchmen. These events tended to wipe the slate clean and signal that comics had “grown up.” This is hogwash, of course, but that’s the perception. And, if comics have grown up, we need grown-up comics! 1986 also saw the founding of Dark Horse, which is fairly significant. Other independent comics companies were founded earlier, but none (with the possible exception of Image) has been as successful as Dark Horse. The actual Bronze Age was marked by the Silver Age conventions of storytelling but with more mature themes, which made for some bizarre comics. It was also a time when Marvel and DC threw quite a lot at the wall to see what stuck and they allowed their characters to grow up a little, which is no longer the case.


4. The Iron Age/The Dark Age (1986-1992). This is a contender for the next “age” of comics, but it’s here where consensus breaks down (I suppose the end of the “Bronze Age” is where it really breaks down, but that’s the beginning of this age, so there!). Many people will tell you we’re still living in the Dark Age, as “comics growing up” in the 1980s meant that every writer could now put as much disembowelment and rape into a mainstream superhero comic as they could stand, and everyone would love it! I would argue that this age actually didn’t last that long, because the new age began in 1992. Which Age is that?


5. The Baroque Age/The Image Age (1992-1998). The founding of Image in 1992 has to be considered a shift in the comics paradigm, whether for good or for ill (your mileage may vary). In the late 1980s/early 1990s, as everyone tried to copy the success of The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen, they not only tried to write comics that mimicked those two, but they also began to realize that Frank Miller and Alan Moore (poor Dave Gibbons, getting ignored like that!) were doing all right for themselves as recognized talents who could move units even if they worked on books that didn’t sell traditionally well. So all those hot-shit artists at Marvel decided to form their own company and do thinly-veiled analogues of the characters they were already working on! Meanwhile, Marvel and DC, who had missed the point of DKR and Watchmen, missed the point of the artists leaving and flooded the market with less talented clones of the Image founders (a less talented clone of Rob Liefeld … brrrrr). I prefer to call this age “baroque” because the comics remained rooted in the past while becoming more and more excessively ornamental. Certain creators tried to push the medium forward, but the Big Two were locked into a style that didn’t allow them to change, and they simply kept upping the ante instead of changing with the times. If this sounds disturbingly familiar, it should, but what papered over the veneer of rot was the speculator market. Once that imploded, it was time for a new age to begin.


6. The Dynamic Age (1998-2004). The turn of the millennium was a good time to be a comics reader, especially after the implosion of the speculator market and the wretched comics that came out in the mid-1990s. At Marvel, Bill Jemas and Joe Quesada started changing things, with the Ultimate line (which began in September 2000) and the MAX line (which began in September 2001), as well as continuing the Marvel Knights line (which began in 1998). Marvel also brought in Grant Morrison (he had done Skrull Kill Krew a few years earlier, but he had been a DC guy for his entire career), who gave readers tremendous work on Marvel Boy and X-Men (and okay work on Fantastic Four). In the late 1990s, DC tried a lot of new series, many of which didn’t stick but which gave us some interesting and, more importantly, forward-looking comics (Major Bummer and Chase are, I guess, the two best, but DC had a lot of other cool stuff), and after they bought Wildstorm, we got a glut of superb comics from that imprint: StormWatch (which predated DC’s purchase but led to The Authority), Wildcats 2.0 and 3.0, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (before DC screwed the pooch on that one), Planetary, Tom Strong, Promethea, Top 10, The Monarchy, Automatic Kafka, and Global Frequency, just to name a few. Image, which had been publishing the founders’ Marvel and DC knock-offs, started branching out, too – they brought in Bendis in 1997, and slowly started diversifying, bringing in interesting creators and allowing them to do a lot more eclectic stuff instead of simply the “bad girls” comics that had characterized the “Image Age.” Readers got some great, great comics out of the big companies, and the independents were doing a lot more diverse stuff.


7. The Modern Age (2004-Present). I don’t know what to call the age we’re in now. “The Geoff Johns Age”? “The Nostalgic Age”? “The Decompressed Age”? “The New Dark Age”? When Jemas left Marvel (circa 2004) and when Dan DiDio rose to prominence at DC (also 2004, when he became Executive Editor), mainstream superhero comics entered a new phase, one I’m not terribly happy with. Interestingly, Geoff Johns began writing Green Lantern in 2004, as well. And Brian Michael Bendis began writing The Avengers in 2004. These two writers have become, for better or worse, associated extremely closely with the directions of their companies, hand-in-glove with Joe Quesada (as Editor-in-Chief of Marvel) and DiDio. The recent past in superhero comics seems ridiculously concerned with the past and returning characters to their roots or even bringing them back after they’ve been replaced, this time with an extra helping of ultraviolence. Whether you like that or not (I don’t), it’s the kind of thing we get these days, and anyone pushing against that is swimming against the tide. That’s why I think “The Nostalgic Age” is a good name for this modern period – comic book characters, more than any time in their history, have become calcified and static, so that even the slightest change is disallowed or written away as soon as possible. Comics have become cyclical instead of linear (again, more than the were in the past, because they’ve never changed that much), building up slowly to the next event, which clears the decks and leads into the build-up to the next event. It’s vexing. Of course, the independent market has grown very much in the past decade, and while I’m not sure if it rivals the “Independent Golden Age” of the 1980s, it’s still strong.


I realize a couple of things about this list: the time periods blend very easily into each other – 1956 might be the only hard and fast date, although I think most people agree that 1971 ended the Silver Age, as well; and for the most part, I’m ignoring independent comics. When we speak of the Golden Age and Silver Age, we’re kind of ignoring independent comics anyway, so I feel like I can do it, too. With those caveats, this is my list. What think you, good readers? Can we reach a consensus for the ages of comics, even though it doesn’t really matter and is just something nerds like to do?

(All the covers are from the Grand Comics Database, because it’s awesome. I found quite a lot of interesting titles to feature on Mike’s Amazing World of Comics, which is an excellent site. The Internet is a groovy place, people!)

100 Comments

1. The Crap Age.
2. The Messed Up Age.
3. The Thin Cows Age
4. The Crap Age

Plenty of people are calling this the Golden Age, actually, due to the diversity of available material and growing public interest/acceptance of the medium. (This is obviously a more holistic approach than the traditional Marvel/DC-centric one, but there’s nothing wrong with that.)

commercial hipster corporate hell…age

The overpriced age.

The Renaissance. (All the nostalgia for Golden/Silver Age comics echoes the European Renaissance’ love for the Greco-Roman classics. Just as the printing press revolutionized the accessibility of literature, the internet makes comics more available both via online retailers and digital comics per se.)

Chad Walters

May 5, 2012 at 4:17 pm

I would argue that the split between the Dark Age and the Dynamic Age is 1996. Image was still all about the grim-n-grittiness of the Dark Age, but in 1996 we got Kingdom Come and Marvels, which helped return Marvel and DC to brighter, more fun comics, such as Young Justice, Amalgam Comics, Slingers, and many others (not that Kingdom Come and Marvels were bright and fun, necessarily, but they definitely promoted the old school, which was bright and fun).

But to get to your question, I think we should call it the Electrum Age. Electrum is an alloy of gold and silver, which both points to how the current age mixes Silver Age wackiness with Golden Age violence, while at the same time pointing to how the current age seems to be trying to get back to the status quos set in the Golden and Silver Ages.

The Event Age. That’s what defines the big two more than anything else.

The Hollywood Age?

I accept and use the terms Golden Age and Silver Age, but beyond that I really hate the idea of every ten years or so of publishing needing an “age” name.

I hold out a small hope that some day “the Bronze Age” as a term will fall out of favor and that no more ages will be named unless they are truly significant (which I think the Golden and Silver were).

If the last age is called “modern,” this must be post-modern or “po-mo” in honor of Bongo Comics.

The Milk Age

every publisher is spamming the market? check
every big “writer” is taking on as many books as possible, leading to poor stories, poor execution

the goal of publishers is to milk the hardcore reader, who gets 20 books a month, they want that reader to get 25.

The industry is milking it. Sorta like any corporation, they are strip mining, instead of cultivating, pissing off a lot of readers with gimmicks, blah blah blaah, mostly DC,Marvel, Image, and the licensed property publishers

I like to use the phrase Neo-Bronze Age for the current age; I feel people mischaracterize the current writing as a return to Silver Age style when it’s more a return to Bronze Age style and themes.

(I also think a lot of people think the 90′s are the Bronze Age, instead of the 70′s/early 80′s. There’s a reason my forum signature is what it is.)

Aaron Bourque

May 5, 2012 at 4:47 pm

Diamond Age, honestly. Because Diamond shipping has such a stranglehold on the business.

The American Renaissance. Apart from all the wonderful things happening in the rest of the world, the North American decade has been increasingly marked by the idea that any kind of story can and should be be told in the comics medium. The threads of this idea were present before (and certainly internationally), but they have been accepted and demonstrated with widespread and increasing support in North America only in the last decade. This seems like we’re at the beginning of a very exciting time in comics that will take the form (in the Americas) from its prolonged infancy and childhood into a matured expressive form.

I think that the Hollywood Age will stick, even though it’s not really inclusive of all the significant independent works going on. At this point with such diversity every Wednesday, good luck picking a single adjective to capture them all.

Although I could get behind something suggesting the high prices of all the quality books. The Empty Wallet Age.

Two for Renaissance!

Two for Hollywood!

Interesting dichotomy.

The Corporate Age

This is “The Media Age”. What/how comics are produced will be dependant upon creating synergy for Television/Movie projects. There will be exceptions, but the age will be defined by those creators/studios/corporations that are looking to craft the next Walking Dead, Kick-Ass, The Avengers….

You could say this age started with X-Men or Spider-Man… Or you could choose Sin City, or 300….. I believe Kick-Ass was the first comic written for film (at least the first that worked)

I think the 90s break has to be 1997, when Morrison’s JLA and Busiek-Perez’s Avengers both launched, replacing the Extreme Justice/ Image Avengers eras. Kingdom Come, Marvels, and Astro City were the forerunners, but having such similar, dramatic, near-simultaneous changes at the flagship teams of the big two superhero publishers is about as clear a moment as one can find in this kind of exercise.

(And, yes, 2004 was the next era transition.)

Travis Pelkie

May 5, 2012 at 5:51 pm

If things are changing every 6 years or so, is it really an age?

And to exclude indie comics, and act as if superhero comics are it, well, it kind of misses the point. It also depends on what you’re calling indie in the Golden and Silver Ages — the Dell cartoon based books sold more than superhero books, but are they indie? And I think anyone who refers to the Golden Age without including Barks duck art, or Little Lulu, or Archie stuff, or other such awesome books, is a fool.

I mean, I used to think that the superhero stuff was it, but in reading some more in depth histories of the era, you see that the superhero stuff had become virtually irrelevant by the early ’50s — that’s why Schwartz et al were able to introduce new versions of the Flash, GL, etc — the GA versions had been gone for a while.

But comics were flourishing, and superhero books were only a small portion of what got people up in arms and led to the Code — more it was the crime books, and EC horror.

Perhaps the superhero market will end up being so irrelevant to comics that this will be known as the “Last Gasp” Age.

Mike Loughlin

May 5, 2012 at 6:18 pm

The Adolescent Age (or just Adolescence): super-hero comics aren’t grown up but want to look edgy and daring by throwing in sex & violence cuz that stuff’s cooool.

Cory!! Strode

May 5, 2012 at 6:23 pm

I think some of those ages need to be combined:

From 1986 – 1992 is not long enough to be considered an “age” if you look at Golden, Silver and Bronze. The current age (IMHO started in 2000 when Marvel emerged from Bankruptcy and sales finally started to move upward again.) might best be called the Trade paperback age, but there’s got to be a catchier name for it.

Comics are now made to be collected, and the individual issues no longer matter all that much…

The Content Age. It is content, being pushed out in every way imaginable beyond the traditional comic book medium (omniboo, movies, digital, etc.), that defines what is going on today. All to maximize profits at the corporate level, regardless of where it leaves the industry years from now..l

The Prismatic Age:

http://mindlessones.com/2008/08/03/a-hall-of-mirrors-ii-prismatic-age/

This was the age in which mainstream comics became primarily concerned with counterparts, reflections, refractions, parallel versions, alternate continuities, reducing characters to their primary essential nature. Paradoxically trying to define the “real” version of the characters by constantly spawning new ones. This age was foreshadowed by Flex Mentallo but the concerns of that comic have now become the dominant mode of the mainstream.

If you’re just talking superhero comics, I’d say the Myopic Age. Or the Desperate Age. The Exhausted Age? The Age of Stagnation? The Doggy Paddle Age? Oo! …The Blood from a Stone Age!

Whatever best captures the feeling that the corporations are more interested in spinning the wheels of their top icons rather than seeking true innovation.

For all comics though, indie and web based, we’re currently in the middle of a renaissance, aren’t we?

I’m not sure that a proper name for this age belongs on a family website.

I like the “Renaissance” idea.

I think we’ve just entered the Digital Age…

I’d have to say is the “Event Age”, because lets be frank, that’s all we got going on in comics.

Marvel went from Avengers Disassemble, to House of M, to Decimation, to Civil War, to Endangered Species, to Messiah Complex, to Manifest Destiny, to Secret Invasion, to Dark Reign, to Utopia/Nation X, to Siege, to Heroic Age, to Age of X, to Fear Itself, to Spider-Island, to Schism, to Regenesis, to Avengers Vs. X-Men. (and these are just the ones off the top of my head)

DC meanwhile went from Identity Crisis, to Infinite Crisis, to 52, to One Year Later, to Amazons Attack, to Countdown, to Final Crisis, to Blackest Night, to Brightest Day, to Batman: Return of Bruce Wayne, to Flashpoint, to the New 52, to Night of Owls and Culling. (again, these are just the ones off the top of my head)

Then there are those events in other companies like that Cthulhu vs. G.I. Joe, TMNT, Transformers, etc…

We barely have individual one-off stories most of the time, but instead everything is directly connected somehow to the next event storyline. So what call it anything but “Event Age”?

I like the ideas others have come up with here, namely Electrum, Diamond, Prismatic, and Post-Modern Age, but I have an idea of my own that could work:

The age we are in right now (in terms of the Big Two) is called “The Drought Age”, an age where (and this also affects the rest of the entertainment industry) right now the majority of original corporate-owned comic ideas are running out, fast, and so to save what good ideas are left, they’re buying time by using the same-old-same-old as a stalling tactic. There’s only one way to end this quickly and painlessly: follow the advice of one Jay Sherman, which goes like this (note that I’m using it in a comic book sense, so ignore the word ‘film’)–
“I am a movie critic by trade, and until recently, I got paid to tell you people which movies merely stink, and which ones you shouldn’t screen near an open flame–well, I am putting the burden of lousy movies back on YOU. It’s very simple: if you stop GOING to bad movies, they’ll stop MAKING bad movies.
(Hollywood exec watching this: “Uh oh, the jig is up.” Jumps out the window.)
If the movie used to be a TV show, just don’t go. After Roman numeral II, give it a rest. If it’s a remake of a classic, RENT THE CLASSIC! (After a great amount of time has passed.) Tell them you want stories about people, not a hundred million dollars of stunts and explosions. People, it’s up to you–if the movie stinks, JUST-DON’T-GO!!!!”

The Revolving Age.

Nothing but attempts to “shake the status quo”, events and jumping from “returns to thier roots” to “new, bold, extreme” year after year. Same crap, around and around. I mean, we’re revolving around the 90s, revolving around the movies, revolving back to “dark version” of this character or the “heroic version” of that. Plus, all they want is revolution.

@BitBiteOuch
Nice name–add that to the list of names I like up above. What do you think of my idea for “the Drought Age”.

@Acer

From the Big2, the idea well seems to be in quite the drought. I think creators still have plenty up their sleeves, but the most popular stuff seems dry indeed. I don’t think we can call this a drought though, with the success of the movies, the move towards digital etc. I mean we just had FCBD, and I can’t speak for a lot of places (or of profit), but my city was exploding with nerdy pride. The drought concept really only applies to one aspect of the industry right now I think, but I like your thinking.

I agree with (IIRC) Grant Morrison’s suggestion of “The Prismatic Age”. A lot of different colors of the same thing (multi-colored Lantern Corps, multiple Batmen and Hulks, Wolverine getting a clone and a bastard, several teams of Avengers and X-Men….even the creator-owned superhero comics tend to be established archetypes with the serial numbers filed off).

Oh, and I’m still longing for the Dynamic Age :(

I like Renaissance. It means things! Enough with the insults. Whether or not you’re happy with the current direction of comics, that’s not what defines it as a movement within the medium. There are creators here who are doing certain things for certain reasons and it goes beyond “they want to make money” or “they suck.” Maybe examining things beyond it-sucks-and-I-want-it-to-be-different is a good first step if you want to move past it, okay? Or, at least, a step towards figuring out how to take these ideas and do interesting things with them.

Look at Morrison’s Batman. On the surface it isn’t all that different than Bendis’ Avengers–it renumbered itself a few times, parts of it were very decompressed, it tied into big cash-grabby “events,” it has these weird internal tonal shifts. And I completely love it. It’s a fascinating, beloved (and also hated), successful comic that’s built for this age and couldn’t have existed in any other age. That’s the power of literary awareness–it’s possible to be modern without conforming.

I liked this article a lot!

Can anyone help me out on a question regarding these designations. My wife was looking over my shoulder and asked about the ages and so I started explaining.

Wife: “So, the Golden Age. The call it that because those were the best?”

Me: “Well, not exactly. It’s more like because. Well, hm. I’m not sure. Maybe because of nostalgia? Maybe because that’s when comics were at liberty, before the code?”

Wife: “And that has what to do with gold?”

Me: “…”

Wife: “Okay, well, the Silver Age. That’s because those comics weren’t as good as the Golden Age books?”

Me: “No, that can’t be right. It’s because… silver is the next step after gold, maybe?”

Wife: “So why not Platinum? Is it arbitrary? And the next one, the Bronze Age? That’s not because they were worse than the Silver Age and much worse than the Golden Age, is it?”

At this point, I realize I have no idea why those first three eras were so named. So that’s my question: why Golden, Silver, and Bronze? Does anybody have a good answer? At least two people are pretty interested.

It’s probably a measure of reverence for the most creative, formative years of the medium. Anyone second that?

As in… gold is highly valuable. And so is, I guess, silver and bronze, as far as winning medals goes anyway.

When the medium burst on to the scene, the creativity was unparalleled, so I guess it was golden time. But then, the second wave of creativity was also ridiculously high but – oh! gold is already taken! Oh well.. silver then? And so on…

Or, it could be a referral to the Greek Ages of Man. (The Ages of Superman?) The first is Gold, followed by Silver, Bronze, Heroic, then Iron. (Wikipedia says Iron is the age of decline, so… is that what we’re in now?)

Comics do love their Greek mythology! :)

Also, this is a cut and paste from Wikipedia under ‘Golden Age: disambiguation’, so, take it with a grain of salt… ;)

“A golden age is a period in a field of endeavour when great tasks were accomplished. The term originated from early Greek and Roman poets who used to refer to a time when mankind lived in a better time and was pure…”

Travis Pelkie

May 6, 2012 at 12:30 am

Well, I believe in part it stems from Caanan’s cut and paste definition of a Golden Age. I think it first got applied by fans in the time of what we now refer to as the Silver Age (or early Bronze Age), probably with the same notion that some people here have — that the comics today suck and they were so much better back in the day. Silver Age presumably comes from the notion that those fans were no longer in the Golden Age, so they’ve got to be in a different age, and silver is less shiny and prized than gold, so there’s probably that.

Aside: I just realize now the significance of the name of the Astro City character Silver Agent. D’oh!

I think Bronze Age is a relatively new designation. When I first started reading about comics in the early ’90s, I don’t remember hearing of it being used too often, but I may have just not encountered it. I would assume it’s a play on the Olympic medals, as Caanan alluded to, or the Ages of Man thing.

One thing I think is good for the medium, if not for the historians writing about it looking for easy classifications :) , is that it is hard to define a specific categorization, or even a specific time frame.

Hey, let’s try this: I’d tell you what this age should be called, but I’m waiting for the trade to find out what’s going on.

The Digital Age. Simple, concise and too the point.

I like the Diamond Age and the Digital Age.

I’d go with Media Age, the content spreads out to different formats, movie tie-ins are important etc.

Though of course since this history is ignoring most other publishers than Marvel and DC and even within them lines like Epic and Vertigo, and those developments made in Golden Age are not that interesting to me (many of the more interesting innovations happened already well before mid-30s, and in early 50s things were too well in motion to consider an age was ending), I don’t get this thing anyway.

This seems to be very American. I guess the sub-Ages are little incidences like the British Invasion, Japanese Discovery, Aesthetic Movement, Comics Codes Opression and Ownership Rebellion. I guess this is just the Irrational Age

Currently, it seems like another “Image Age”.

Omar Karindu

May 6, 2012 at 4:33 am

For superhero comics, it’s arguably the Grand Guignol Age — Elements of all prior ages are present, but the really distinguishing new feature often seems to be the inclusion of sensationalized ultraviolence. Unlike the Modern Age, the violence is not included as part of a reflection about violence, but instead to shock newer readers and to gratify the cynicism of veteran readers…in other words, for entertainment purposes.

“It’s probably a measure of reverence for the most creative, formative years of the medium.”

Which it was. It’s reverence not just to the most creative years, but the years when the comic books we’re reading right now got their start. The very importance of that era warrants the term ‘golden’, if not because of its quality.

And I sure wouldn’t call the age we’re at right now anywhere near ‘Golden’. Shifty got it right…it’s the “Event Age”, the age where superhero comics will absolutely not sell well [emphasis on the 'well'] without an event tied to it. I got back into comics during Civil War, and years later there’s STILL an event going on!

Though one could argue that the ages could pertain to the superhero genre only. .

Lots of interesting suggestions. The mean-spirited ones are funny, and the more positive ones are quite thoughtful.

Michael P: I linked to the two posts where I argued that we are, in fact, living in a Golden Age. It’s certainly one for me – I love the diversity and accessibility of comics these days, and I think the overall quality has never been better. I’m just using the two major distinctions – Golden and Silver – that most comics readers accept, and extrapolating from there.

For those of you bringing it up, I know I’m ignoring great swaths of independent comics. I just wanted to have some fun with the current age, and this is not supposed to be an exhaustive history of the medium. Even if we account for the non-superhero books, the reason the Golden Age usually starts in 1938 is because of Superman, while the only reason the Silver Age starts in 1956 is because of the Flash. So I’m not the only one. I think “Ages” in comics are a bit arbitrary, anyway – if Showcase #4 was the big superhero comeback, what about all those Batman and Superman comics from 1955 or 1954 or 1953? So I’m aware of the limitations of breaking comics history into “ages,” but it’s still fun to do!

Travis: Ages last shorter times these days because everything moves so fast! Whoooooosh! There goes another Age! :)

My buddy Scott from the Comic Book Pitt podcast likes to call it the Media Age, and I’m inclined to agree.

Personally, I think that most of the 2000s (from Marvel’s resurgence under Quesada to DC’s changing of the guard/change of name to DC Entertainment) should be called the Diamond Age.

The Trade Age. This millennium, Comic books have ceased to be about comic books and have become chapters of a now-inevitably-collected ‘trade’. Stories are decompressed and entire issues can have nothing happen in them as long as they neatly fit together into approximately six-issue-bites in the end. One of the benefits of this is that a comic does not necessarily have to be released monthly and provide twelve issues a year if the creative team has slipped and we no longer have to read rushed comics with fill in artists. As much as the fandom likes to complain about delays, would anyone really have wanted fill-in artists or writers on Planetary, Casanova, Powers, Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men, etc?

Purple Hayes

May 6, 2012 at 9:17 am

I want to go with EXPLOITATION AGE.
Comics introduced shocking themes (rape, death of pregnant women insanity) without addressing the true horror of these ideas.
Fan favorites (Spider-Woman, etc.) were brought back to much acclaim to only be gutted or destroyed in other ways.
Comics readers themselves were exploited. A single comic doesn’t tell a single story but part of a very non compelling whole. We endured cross over after crossover which never ended but bled into the next event.
Marvel and DC are also exploiting the past, reprinting comic panels to distort them and twist them to their current needs.
Back issues are being reprinted in various formats: essential, trade paperback, omnibus etc.

Post-consumer recycled?

Two possible suggestions;

The Angry Age; Creators are pissed, fans are pissed, retailers are pissed, corporate’s always seemed pissed, and it’s the reason the books have become repetitive and cynical. This leads to suggestion two;

The Lost age; As everyone seems at a loss as to what to do next.

The Celluloid Age

Maybe it’s too early, but the digital age. This was the time where access to digital comics both in terms of creating artwork and in terms of downloading has really risen to prominence, and I would say were entering the prime of this age, for better or worse. If we want to add in that this is also the time that comics have traversed the page prominently into other media, this fits as well.

BTW, how are the 90′s not the foil age?

I think when you look over the medium as a whole, you have to be able to look at it from an outside perspective. Look at how many of these responses are overwhelmingly negative.While they’re certainly making some good points, it is human nature to look at the way things currently are in a negative way. It’s always “Things USED TO be cool, but now they suck.”

In twenty years, we’ll be able too look back and see both the positive and negative things about this era of comics. So I guess maybe my argument is that it’s impossible to define an era while it’s happening.

Aw, man. I just made one of my own most-hated typos. We’ll be able ‘too’? Ugh.

Travis Pelkie

May 6, 2012 at 4:47 pm

Ooh, ooh, ooh, I don’t think anyone said this one yet, and it’s a bit of a riff on the Prismatic Age that got bandied about (and Smokescreen mentioning the ’90s as the Foil Age):

The Variant Age.

Sales at DC and Marvel are declining. Independent comics published first on the Web are getting better and better results on Kickstarter. Go to a comics con and about a third of the costumes you see will be from “Homestuck”.

I submit that we are living in the Silicon Age of comics.

If you must constrain this to classifications of monthly superhero comics sold at comic book stores, I suggest “Old Age”. I may admittedly be biased; when I go to the comics shop I’ve ALWAYS blown past the superhero stuff.

I think what defines an age of comics most,is an event or two, that irks a VERY large number of the old fan base into calling it a day.such happened back at the end of 1954,with the coming of the code,that killed off ec and all horror and crime comics.Again in mid 1970,when Kirby left marvel.I know at least one one boomer fan, who then and there gave up both on marvel as well as kirby..As well, many of the old dc fans had no use for Kirby, and did NOT like the changes made to superman and his cast.When a huge block of fans walk, and mostly never come back, thats when an era ends.Just my take on it.

It’s the age I can no longer afford more than a few comics a month, and frequently regret plopping down four bucks for something with no story that takes three minutes to read.

bad johnny got out

May 7, 2012 at 12:49 am

Grant Morrison himself calls the contemporary age Renaissance, but I think Diamond Age should be the winner. It’s a pun after the distribution company, it’s a return to the mineral theme of comic book Ages gone by, and maybe the word “diamond” could evoke the Frank Quitely inspired style of thin linework and large whitespace which has proliferated since the turn of this century.

And yes, comic book ages must be longer than six years. Let’s end the Dark Age with the first issue of Morrison and Quitely’s New X-Men.

Also diamonds and comics are really expensive.

bad johnny got out

May 7, 2012 at 12:58 am

Oh yeah, and nanotech gets used as a sci-fi plot device in everything now.

Seriously guys: Diamond Age.

Give Aaron Bourque up there a big round of applause.

The Transition Age: Renumbering (DC Nu, Reboot of all classic marvel comics) just to get a newer fresher audience with the help of the cinematic movies.

Mars Bonfire

May 7, 2012 at 3:01 am

The CTRL+C CTRL+V Age.

A nod to the way computers have changed our comic reading experiences, to what Marvel and DC have been doing with their properties and, finally, to the artists who love to re-use the same panel again and again.

If this is the Silicon Age then the nineties could be the Silicone Age (although I do like Smokescreen’s Foil Age as a descriptor.)

With things like the iPad and Kindle Fire I would call it the digital age.

Well, all the superheroes wear flashy costumes, so we could call it the Garb Age.

Can’t any of you Negative Nancies recall days gone by when it was fun to think about things like what to call the current age, and then debate it for days with your buddies?

Seems like there are a bunch of jaded folks out there, which is sad, but understandable I suppose. I’m not very old, but I wonder if some of the veterans could help me understand if this sentiment has always been pervasive throughout comic-dom? You people who were actually alive during the Silver and Golden Ages…were we always so damn sour on everything? Buck up, gents.

How about…

The Ozymandian Age?

“Look upon my works… and despair……”

David Greybeard

May 7, 2012 at 10:53 am

I don’t agree with any of your Age definitions. Your labels especially for the last 20 years seem to me ridiculous. But I’m an older reader and perhaps my perspective is quite different from yours.

To start with, I prefer the older definition of The Golden Age, as ending with the mass cancellation of super-hero comics, as ending in the late 1940s. I’ll never be comfortable with any books from the 1950s being called Golden Age books. I’d go on with the others but that’s off topic.

As for the current age? I’ve heard it called the GOLDEN AGE OF REPRINTS and I quite like that idea.

Just a few years ago, the only way to read a comic was to read the floppy. Now, everything is being reprinted into another format, either hardcover, paperback or digital and has immensely impacted the value of individual floppies like nothing else, ever. Floppies have become nearly worthless, readers much prefer reading comics in another format.

Nothing else will define our current age as the availability of comics in various formats. Hence, the Golden Age of Reprints.

I’m still a strong partisan of “The Chrome Age” for your #5, and not at all sure that there’s really a distinct age between it and the current one, which I’d be happy withe either Silicon or Digital as a name for.

The Blockbuster Age.

The decompressed, cinematic story-telling styles. The big events. Putting Spidey back in the black costume for no reason. Killing Bucky to get Cap back in his threads by opening night. Mark Millar inking movie deals before he’s written a page. Everything is inspired by the box office.

capt usa(Jim)

May 7, 2012 at 11:59 am

The Reel Age, starting with the Spider man movie.

I nominate the Charcoal Age.

Everything is still Grim and Gritty.

Sorry to say this, but, greg… it IS true: we´re still living in the dark age.

I thought we were supposed to keep with the metal theme established by Gold, Silver, and Bronze. That’s the way such ages have always been named, ever since the ancient Greeks came up with the idea.

I’ve been calling the current period the Pewter Age, mostly because I just like the sound of it. The ‘Image Age’ should really be known as the Magnesium Age, since it was all flash (although you could make just as good a case for giving the present age that name).

Tony Brancato

May 8, 2012 at 12:01 am

I have two suggestions; the first is pessimistic, the second, optimistic.

1. The Gilded Age – Everything today is “of epic proportions” and yet continually fails to deliver. Marvel and DC are going in some interesting directions, but its all just a gimmick. The collector’s market has become an inflated mess due to Image #1s (not that some aren’t good) and while the new 52 from DC has given us some cool stories, it is still just a way to make more money. Money is good, we all like money, but when you get borderline Gordon Gecko, someone needs to stop you. Marvel and DC want you to think this is a new golden or silver age but alas, it is only gilded.

2. The Indy Age – Almost every truly amazing comic I’ve read in the past few years has been an independent book. When I think of great books from the past 10 years I immediately think of either books, vertigo, Icon, Wildstorm, Avatar Press (I’m a crossed fan, sue me), and the countless other creator owned/indy publishers. Yes I realize some of those are imprints of the Big 2 but they still have creator owned work and they’re still Indy in my book.

Honestly, either of these is fine with me. On the weeks that I am buying A v. X or a Night of the Owls tie in I lean toward the Gilded Age. When I pick up Saga, or see the Indy section in my local comic shop start to but in on the Marvel and DC area I lean towards calling this current era the Indy age.

One final thought: Ages should be longer. I realize that since we are currently watching the comics industry change directions constantly that it is tempting to start drawing lines at every so called, “major shift”. Personally I would create sub categories of ages or, sub-ages if you will. While Watchmen was a huge thing for Comics, so was the foundation of Image, and both were instrumental in creating an indy market. Do we start it at 1986 or 1992? Who the hell really cares? The CGC says the past 32 years are modern. Are they right?

Ed (A Different One)

May 8, 2012 at 7:47 am

Lots of good ideas on here. I’ll throw mine in for what it’s worth – though I think many of the idea above are better.

I often find myself thinking of comics as being completely out-of-touch or “disconnected” from what’s going on in wider pop culture. I mean let’s face it, we’re currently living in a time where the geeks are in the catbird seat as far as pop culture goes. Never has geek culture been more dominant. Geek culture is everywhere on TV right now, and superhero movies are continuing to tear things up at the box office. Geeks have ruled the internet for a long time now and geeks even have their own TV channel (G4). Geeks are pop culture icons (Sheldon is probably the most visible and popular). But what about comic books, that bastion of geek culture during so many dark eras for geekdom? Literally in the sales toilet.

Just this past weekend we had “May the Fourth” and FCBD and the opening weekend of the Avengers movie delegate the binge-drinking holiday that is Cinco De Mayo to second tier status. When did you ever expect to see that happen?

Why can’t comics tap into this zeitgeist? Are they so inept? Is the medium that out of date? I think the answer ultimately lies in successful translation into digital media, but they really need to get their act together on the print end before they can find ultimate success there. Until then, we’re in the “Disconnected Age” IMHO.

@Basara: I believe you mean the Before Ozymandian Age.

beta ray steve

May 8, 2012 at 6:56 pm

The Recycled Age. Marvel & DC keep rebooting, bringing back characters that have been dead for decades, and the last major character introduction was Wolverine, thirty years ago. All the pieces are on the table, and nothing good will be invented for DC or Marvel, because their track record with Alan Moore, Jack Kirby, Siegel & Shuster et al is heinous, to be kind. These are major subdivisions of major entertainment conglomerates. They are caretakers of intellectual properties, not creators.
There are good things about this age. Books are more regular and are generally better written and drawn than in the past, but where is the new Spider-Man? Anyone who can possibly avoid it won’t create him for DC or Marvel, that’s for sure.

Travis Pelkie

May 9, 2012 at 12:46 am

I like Mary’s suggestions — I believe that pewter is an alloy that isn’t as good as what it’s made of, and that fits well for the current age, and magnesium fits the ’90s so well — all that flash (sometimes literally), and what’s left over? Nothing.

Ah, this is depressing.

[...] What should we call this age of comics? How about the Electronic Age? [...]

[...] became stagnant. If you follow current comics at all, this is a very familiar issue. (Note “the Nostalgic Age.”) Oh, and he also laments how comics don’t sell as well as they used to, more echoes [...]

Golden Age 1938-1956
Silver Age 1956-1971
Bronze Age 1956-1986
Dark Age 1986-1992
Chromium Age 1992-1997
Diamond Age 1997-2011
Digital Age 2011-2099

Gerrit Dykstra Jr

August 30, 2013 at 5:16 pm

I prefer to call it the Millennium Age. That combines the Glitter age (When the 1st Spiderman movie came out), the Lost Age (the early 2000′s when comic title declined badly) and the Digital Age (When comics 1st went online)
I would put the Millennium age from 2002-Present
The KEY title in the Millennium Age obviously being Walking Dead #1 =)

god save us from the new 52 age

I like the list above…but I’m gonna stick with the metal allegories:

Golden Age 1938-1956
Silver Age 1956-1971
Bronze Age 1956-1986
Iron Age 1986-1992
Chromium Age 1992-1998 (Good idea, Peter. Chrome foil covers anyone?)

Titanium Age 1998-2004

Why? SILVERy color, high strength, resistant to the tests of time and a lot of comic book titans entered the industry or had a comeback. Some of the best stuff in the last 25 years came out then.

Platinum Age 2004-today

Why? Corporate- and event-driven with a little SILVER to “go platinum”, like good comics precious but rare, “short-term exposure to platinum salts may cause irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, and long-term exposure may cause both respiratory and skin allergies” (Wikipedia).

To go along with the metal-themed ages, I was thinking the *Drumroll please*
“Adamantium” age!
I think this would fit with both the rebirth of the X-Men series (both in comic and film forms) and the recent surge in size for the Avengers fan base. This could be an appreciative nod to Marvel. While it may leave DC fans a bit cold, I could argue that the last few years belong to Marvel.

I really like the names “Renaissance Age” as well as “the Diamond Age”, but I still believe that we shouldn’t name the age while it’s still happening.

After Bronze we have, the Chrome Age for the 90′s due to the gimmicky covers (maybe Foil Age or Hologram Age). Then, the Event age for the ’00′s because you can never have too many big events that lead absolutely nowhere but to the banks for the big 2. And finally, the Digital Age, because, well, isn’t it obvious?

I don’t think the great variety we have now equates to a new Golden Age. That’s not what that term means. If we want to signify that, then maybe call it the Independent Age.

Someone asked why the metal names: this comes from use of the terms in such pop culture phenomena as television (“The Golden Age of Television”) which comes originally from Greek myth, in which each age is of a so-called lesser metal.

The Golden Age was Golden in part because of the shine of its newness — thanks to the novelty, the spirit of unexplored possibilities, and the lack of established rules, there was far more unfettered creativity for better and for worse, sort of like a creative Cambrian Explosion, and the unfamiliarity was part of the joy for the readers. That’s one reason why modern comic readers have trouble understanding Golden Age superhero tales — what seems cliche’ to us was either original or repeatable back then. For example, a single line in which Superman acknowledges the existence of Gotham City might have thrilled back then, whereas comic book crossover is nothing special today; the first time Superman met Santa Claus surprised readers, whereas it’s now often boring from overuse. At the same time, of course, with no established rules or history of what works and what doesn’t, there were also a huge number of failed efforts and missteps. So the “gold” refers to the golden opportunities and the newness, not to profitability or color scheme.

In light of this, it’s easy to see why the next stage was Silver, a valuable metal because there was still so much creative energy going on but also a less valuable metal than gold just as the developing rules and limitations on creativity restricted creative exploration and novelty far more than had the Golden Age.

Etc.

I think of this as

The Plastic Age!

cheap, replaceable, often mimicking something of higher quality, returns to the original shape despite temporary deformations.

I think The Nostalgia Age or The Event Age are good titles, the one I think fits the most is The Plastic Age proposed by James. But personally I believe (or hope) that this age is now coming to an end, or morphing. Marvel specially has now more comics lead by female characters (Captain Marvel, Ms. Marvel, Storm) and some resembling indipendent comics like Hawkeye of Matt Fraction or Moon Knight. DC has gone a step or two back with the New 52, but some of his comics are still valuable. Is my belief that this new tendences in the comics are closer to the Internet, video games and indie terms. Plus the vast diversity of indipendent comics.

I think that the most appropriate title is

The Political Correctness Age

Superheroes are slowly transforming to gays, junkies, lesbians, transvestites, blacks, hispanics, etc.

Personally, I would call the current age the Dark Age, seperated from the Iron Age. While that was mostly defined by brutal and anti-heroic protagonists, it was also bright and colorful compared to the mainstream comics of today.
Let’s face it, at least since the “crisis mania” in the late 2000′s, and even more so after the recent DC reboot, gore and amorality are more common than ever in the superhero genre. Additionally, the overall mood tends to be dark and serious (“realistic” as some call it), not cheesey and over-the-top badass like in the 90′s (what you called the “Baroque Age”).

Alternatively; the Steel Age. More refined, more polished, but still mostly Iron.

There are five ages of man. The Golden Age. The Silver Age. The Bronze Age. The Heroic Age. and The Iron Age.

I categorize the age that began in 1986 as The Heroic Age, and consider it to have ended in 2000 with the publication of Loeb’s “Return to Krypton”, which was the start of DC’s continual regurgitation of Silver Age plots. That, to me, is when the Iron Age began. As for when it ended, I don’t think it has.

I know this is old but…
1.webcomics age
2.the ghost age (no offence but normal comics are fading a little.)

1938-1945: Golden Age
1946-1955:Atomic Age
1956-1967: Silver Age
1968-1977: Bronze Age
1978-1986: Copper Age
1987-1997: Dark Age
1998-2011:Trade paperback Age? Recovery Age?
2012-: New Dark Age

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