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
the
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
sections).
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
Rider.
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
Age.
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 George on March 10, 2010 at 3:36pm
I think of Giant-Size X-Men No. 1 (1975) as the start of the Bronze Age. The early '70s were either the last years of the Silver Age, or an "in-between" age like the early '50s. As with the early '50s, there was an emphasis on other genres (horror, satire, "dark" sci-fi, pulp adaptations, etc) before the industry rediscovered superheroes.

Someone (I forget who) compared the New X-Men to the movie blockbusters of the late '70s. Just as "Star Wars" and "Jaws" swept away the quirky, offbeat movies of the early '70s, so did Claremont's mutants sweep away those quirky early-'70s comics. As a big fan of quirkiness, I don't regard this as an entirely good development.

When did the Bronze Age end? I'd put it in the mid-'90s, when a series of events changed the face of comics: Marvel's bankruptcy, the ascendency of Image (and the imitation of the "Image look" by Marvel and DC), Marvel renting out some major titles to Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld, DC getting rid of Hal Jordan, the disastrous "clone sage" in Spider-Man. What followed was a different era ... but I'm not sure what to name it.
Comment by Chris Fluit on March 12, 2010 at 9:30am
I guess my objection to post-Silver Age periodisation is that the last twenty years seem to me one long period.

That doesn't negate the possibility of a Bronze Age, Luke. Twenty years only takes us back to 1990 while most of the people here are suggesting an end date for the Bronze Age of 1986.
Comment by Chris Fluit on March 12, 2010 at 9:49am
Once again, thanks for the comments, everyone. Especially the people who disagreed with me. Arguing these things out is part of the fun. I'm planning to the continue the conversation with yet another article.
Comment by Luke Blanchard on March 12, 2010 at 10:42am
It's 2010 now? Last thirty years.

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