300px-New_Teen_Titans_1 Last week, I wrote about the possibility of Marvel’s Heroic Age and DC’s Brightest Day ushering in a new age of comics. Along the way, I
discussed the previous ages of comics, the eras by which many categorize
its history. I received some excellent feedback and I’d like to respond in this follow-up column.

First of all, let me say thanks for the compliment, Jeff of Earth-J; the thoughtful reply, Luke Blanchard; and the exceptional reference, Turning Point.

Luke Blanchard wrote, “I'm always uncomfortable with attempts to continue "age" periodisation down to the present.”

You're not the only one, Luke. Besides Turning Point (who posted in response to the initial column), there's also Maggie Thompson, the editor of Comics Buyer's Guide. When they had their Bronze Age issue, she commented that she didn't believe
in the existence of a Bronze Age. As far as she was concerned, there's
Golden Age, the Silver Age and everything after (that’s a paraphrase, not a direct quote).

However, I think there are a couple of problems with that stance.

388px-Daredevil168 The first problem is that the ship has already sailed. Bronze Age has entered common usage. I mentioned eBay in the first article; I recentlytyped “Bronze Age comics” into eBay and it came back with 2,253 results. That’s more results than “Golden Age comics” and within a
1000 results of “Silver Age comics.” I tried Google and got over
800,000 results including a very lengthy description on Wikipedia
and several blogs that specifically focus on Bronze Age comics.
Retail sites use the term as well. Capital Comics and House of Comics
have entire Bronze Age sections (in addition to Golden and Silver Age
The term exists and it’s here to stay.

The second problem is what to use instead. No offense intended, Luke, but I think your post illustrates this. You rejected a historical categorization of comic books based on capital- A Ages but you then proceeded to discuss the history of comics based on a different set of ages. It’s just that you used decades rather than the metallic nomenclature of Golden,Silver and Bronze Age. Are decades the best way to categorize and understand the history of comics? Maybe they are. We certainly use
decades for other
facets of pop
culture, especially music. But maybe they aren’t. A comic book in
1983 has a lot more in common with a comic in 1977 than it does with
one in 1989.
The beginning and end-points of some movements coincide with the beginning or end of a decade, but not always.

On the other hand, I think there are advantages to using Age categorizations to comics. The main one is that it does a better job of reflecting the periodic nature of comics and conveying the movements within that history. The history of comics
isn’t a steady march over time, as a decade-by-decade survey might
suggest, but a story of rises and falls.

Pacif01 Some of the best evidence for the existence of a Bronze Age comes from people who don’t use the term, including those who were involved or who
were there. Mike Richardson, publisher of Dark Horse Comics, doesn’t
subscribe to the notion of a Bronze Age. But in his book,
Comics between the Panels, he writes about a “creative revival in the late ‘70s with Claremont and Byrne on Uncanny X-Men, Frank Miller on Daredevil and Walt Simonson. Jon Cooke, the editor of Comic Book Artist,
refers to Marvel’s “Second Wave” in the ‘70s including the origin of
the new X-Men, Jim Starlin’s cosmic books and Mike Ploog on Ghost
Actually, many issues of Comic Book Artist are celebrations of the Bronze Age, despite the fact that Cooke doesn’t use the term himself.

I wish I had the reference handy, but one of the creators of the time (I think it was Walt Simonson) even called the late ‘70s and early ‘80s “Marvel’s Silver Age” (Marvel’s real Golden Age being the Lee/Kirby/Ditko years
upon which most of the company was bu
ilt). In addition to the previously mentioned creators, there was also Shooter and Perez on Avengers and Roger Stern’s Spider-Man.

ZOT01 Then, there’s the 1981 article from Amazing Heroes that Turning Point posted for us. The “Third Wave” that Michael Catron writes about is what we now call the Bronze Age.
He got a few things wrong. He anticipated the possibility that DC’s
Third Wave would inspire their main competition at Marvel to follow
suit, as had happened in the early Silver Age when Marvel responded to
the success of JLA with Fantastic Four. But he didn’t notice that the
tables had turned and that DC’s Third W
ave was coming in response to Marvel’s Second Wave (as coined by Jon Cooke). Specifically, the New Teen Titans were a response to the Uncanny X-Men. However, he also got a few things right. He noticed that the advent of new publishers
like Eclipse and Pacific were indicators that a Third Wave was already
underway. Indeed, Pacific and Eclipse (as well as other companies like
First and
Comico) played a similar role in the Bronze Age that secondary
superhero publishers Archie, Charlton and Tower played in the Silver
They were part of the creative resurgence that contributed new titles and new characters.

Richardson’s Revival, Cooke’s Second Wave, Simonson’s “Marvel’s Silver Age” and Catron’s Third Wave are all terms for the same time period. It’s the Bronze Age. You don’t have to embrace the term in order to notice that there was a creative, cultural, and consumer ascendance. The Bronze Age is a handy term for describing it.

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Comment by Chris Fluit on March 6, 2010 at 12:50pm
Once again, thanks everyone for the comments to last week's column. I hope you don't mind that I used your comments as a springboard for another article. I was working on a reply to Luke when I realized that it was long enough to serve as a column.
Comment by Captain Comics on March 6, 2010 at 1:11pm
I'd certainly vote in favor of a Bronze Age.

Do we really need to vote? As you said, Chris, that ship has sailed. I've heard the term in use for a couple of decades now.

And I don't know if it counts, but I certainly have an idea in my head of what the Bronze Age is. I might not be able to articulate it, but when I hear the term, certain books -- or types of books -- pop into my head. Marvel's "horror" books, New Teen Titans, Nova & Firestorm, the satellite JLA, Conan the Barbarian, the indie explosion (including Cerebus, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and First Comics), etc.

If I had to put numbers to it, I'd say 1970 to 1986. (Which, of course, everyone's going to disagree with.) But something changed in comics that you could almost feel, from 1968 through about 1974. Kirby left Marvel, DC fired its Golden/Silver Age writers, the Comics Code was relaxed (allowing an explosion of "horror" characters like Ghost Rider, Son of Satan, Werewolf by Night, Dracula, etc., and DC reverting House of Mystery and House of Secrets to horror anthologies), other experiments with non-superhero fare (fantasy, sword & sorcery), an explosion of indies (beginning with Star*Reach, and growing throughout the '80s), Marvel's '60s superheroes ceasing the aging process and beginning to run in place, new heroes invented expressly for the generation following the Baby Boom (Firestorm, Nova) that had room to age, DC Marvel-izing its characters (Sandman Superman, New Teen Titans), and a few other earmarks.

Is that too much? But by the same token, I can tell when these things more or less ended -- when the "feel" changed. And that would be late '80s, early '90s -- the advent of Image, when all comics tried to look like Rob Liefeld drew them. Plus, the indie boom died (or consolidated into Image and Dark Horse), as First, Pacific, Mirage and a host of others faded away in the late '80s (I think First managed to last to 1991). But also comics got darker, as characters like Wolverine and The Punisher became popular, and other characters (like Daredevil) caught the "grim and gritty" wave.

Which, of course takes us to the quintessential example of "grim and gritty," The Dark Knight Returns. Whether it led the "grim" trend or simply was the climax of it (both arguments have merit), it is hard to overlook. Coming out the same year as Watchmen , which took the "realistic superhero" trend as far as it go, and Crisis on Infinite Earths, in which DC stamped "The End" on 30 years of Silver Age continuity, 1986 is a high water mark of ... something. So that's why I picked it for the end of the Bronze Age. (But the first year of Image -- 1991? 1992? -- would work for me as well.)

My argument, unfortunately, isn't objective. I'm just reporting my sense of things changing in the years I've mentioned. And, while still subjective, I think most would agree that if nothing else there was a wholesale change in creators at the Big Two around 1970, as Boomers replaced the (really) old hands left over from the '40s, and that books in the '90s didn't look much at all like books in the '80s. In between there was what I call the Bronze Age, which had a distinct "feel" to it that was not Silver Age, and was not Image-esque. It was its own animal.

That's my opinion, anyway, for what it's worth.
Comment by Doc Beechler (mod-MD) on March 6, 2010 at 9:21pm
I'm reading collections of the bookend comics of my personal "bronze age" currently. I entered the Marvel universe with Roy Thomas' Eternals saga in Thor in late 1979 and it's fun to compare the storytelling to Ann Nocenti's Daredevil from 1989.
Comment by John Dunbar on March 6, 2010 at 9:26pm
I agree it's kind of silly to dismiss the notion of a "Bronze Age". We may quibble on the beginning and ending, as Cap said, but definitely the comics of the mid to late 70's are different enough from those of a decade earlier that it can and should be categorized differently. Heck, even with the Silver Age, while there's common agreement it began with Showcase #4, there are many different views on where it ends.

For me, I look at it as different eras for each of the Big Two. For Marvel, it's the editors in chief that define it - the Stan Lee era, the Jim Shooter era, and the Joe Quesada era all loom large. For DC, it's a little different. Their Silver Age kicks off with Showcase #4, their Bronze Age begins with Green Lantern/Green Arrow #76, and ends with Crisis on Infinite Earths. The post-COIE relaunches of Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash, and the Justice League are definitely the start of something else.

Chris said "A comic book in 1983 has a lot more in common with a comic in 1977 than it does with one in 1989." For Marvel and DC, that's very true. Jim Shooter began his tenure as EIC in 1977; he didn't induce a sea change overnight, but he gradually made his mark on them. By 1989, Shooter was gone for 2 years, and Tom Defalco, at least to me, was a very different EIC, and the Marvel books have a very different feel. At DC, let's say we use Action Comics as an example - a comic from 1977 and 1983 are pretty similar; but there's a world of difference by 1989. Byrne's 1986 revamp is still firmly in place, vastly different from the Silver Age Superman.
Comment by Jeff of Earth-J on March 8, 2010 at 9:09am
For years I resisted the notion of A Bronze Age, but it was Cap’s fellow CBG columnist Craig “Mr. Silver Age” Shutt who finally convinced me (through a series of articles and a few e-mails) not only that there was, indeed, a Bronze Age, but what defined it. First, he set about defining what constitutes an “Age” (as opposed to a trend) and then providing examples and illustrating how there’ usually a gap of a few years between when each of the Big Two entered it. And again, I’m referring to ages of superhero comics. Here, briefly, are the Ages I accept:

DC: Action Comics #1
Marvel: Marvel Comics #1

DC: Showcase #4
Marvel: Fantastic Four #1

Marvel: Giant-Size X-Men #1
DC: New Teen Titans #1

Comment by Chris Fluit on March 8, 2010 at 5:34pm
Great comments, everyone.

Cap, I agree with you on the dates of the Bronze Age (1970-1986). You're right that there's not a unanimous opinion on it, but I think the general consensus is there.

As much as I like Craig Shutt's suggestion of Giant-Size X-Men (as mentioned by Jeff of Earth-J), I find a couple of problems with it. The main one being- what do you call all of those comics that appeared from 1970 to 1974? The consensus seems to be to count those comics as early Bronze Age rather than late Silver Age.

So I go with John Dunbar and the others who point to Green Lantern/Green Arrow #76. For me, that's the title that launched the early Bronze Age, while Giant X-Men #4 is the issue that started the Bronze Age boom.

As for the end point, it's pretty easy to point to 1986 as a before and after date. The Dark Knight Returns, The Watchmen, Crisis on Infinite Earths and Secret Wars II all came out that same year, changing the content, continuity and tone of most comics.
Comment by Chris Fluit on March 8, 2010 at 5:36pm
Doc, I've been reading a bunch of Bronze Age series during the past six months as well such as Walt Simonson's Thor and Marvel's GI Joe.
Comment by Captain Comics on March 9, 2010 at 3:46am
From TurningPoint:

"I have no beef with the majority who want to coin the term "Bronze Age" as a historical period in THEIR comic book timestream. It's not a big issue with me as long as there's an understanding that it's not the holy grail beyond the reach of subjective opinion and criticism to the few who might want to argue the structure or use another term outside of conformity."

I want to repeat what he just said, because it is the very basis for this forum. Let me repeat that: What he just said the very basis for this forum.

Yeah, there's a Bronze Age in my head. I think I phrased it that way. But is it THE Bronze Age? No. IS THERE A BRONZE AGE? The very basis of Chris's post is "I have my idea -- what's yours?"

In objective areas, there is no disagreement. Either a thing is, or it isn't. And if you can run an controlled experiment that trumps existing data, then a new thing is in place.

But what we're talking about is subjective matter. Everyone has a whole diagram in their head about how these things work. AND WE ARE ALL RIGHT ... in our own heads. I will never tell anyone they're wrong in their own head.

But since we're talking about a subjective thing, we all have an opinion. But the fun is kicking that can around. I think the Daily Bugle is legitimate newspaper. Somebody else thinks it's a tabloid. We kick it around. We are BOTH right, and we are BOTH wrong. We don't make a decision ... the fun is in the journey. That's what we do. That's the whole point.

So TurningPoint is exactly right. Nobody gets to DECLARE a "Bronze Age." Instead, we engage -- as Chris phased it on the front end -- in a conversation in what it might be if it did exist, and what arguments we can muster to determine the parameters.

That's a fun talk. But it's just talk. And that's what TP reminded us of, and he is exactly right. This is a forum, not a science lab.
Comment by Luke Blanchard on March 9, 2010 at 6:32am
Jeff's and my understanding of the Bronze Age are opposites, because I've understood it as the period after the changes of the late 60s/early 70s until the changes of the late 70s/early 80s, and he understands it as the period that the changes of the late 70s/early 80s ushered in. Chris's understanding embraces both.

I guess my objection to post-Silver Age periodisation is that the last twenty years seem to me one long period. For a long time now no lastingly successful new characters and features have been created, creators have been faced with the same problem of renewing interest in flagging or cancelled long-established characters and features, and have used many of the same tricks - going darker, killing off characters, having characters break up etc.

I think you're overestimating the extent to which things changed c.1986, Chris. DC had been trying to shake up its line and bring in new talent for a while. I don't know that the post-Crisis DCU immediately got darker.
Comment by Jeff of Earth-J on March 9, 2010 at 11:50am
Like old soldiers, comic books Ages don't die, they merely fade away. IOW, I have no problem with superhero comics released between 1970 and 1974 as being "ageless," neither this nor that. But as Turning Point and Cap all this conjecture in purely subjective. On Earth-J (and I'm about to veer far off the beaten track here), I like to note one or two "false starts" with should have started an "Age" but didn't. For example, EC was well on the way to starting what should have been a defining age until Congressional hearings and the CCA brought that to a halt. Also, I like to think Jack Kirby's "Fourth World" titles had to potential to usher in an age of storytelling defined by complex inter-realtionship between a family of titles (along the lines of the "hyper-continuity" of today) had DC had a little more faith and not pulled the plug too soon.

In any case, Shutt's definition allows for a certain amount of casting about for the next trend as one age peters out before the new "Age" is defined.


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