Metapost: what age of comics are we living in again?

Over at the AV Club, there’s an article about Bronze Age comics (the ones published between 1970-1986, where Watchmen ushered in a new era). There was some fun in the comments section over what the current age is called. The current popular term is “Modern Age,” but pretty much everyone considered that pretty dumb, since anything in the Now is modern. (Other fun alternatives: Iron Age, Adamantium Age, Mylar Age, Aluminum Age, Silicone Age, etc.)

But is that age already over? Most of those terms seem to be focused on the “grim n’ gritty” excesses of the 90’s, which we current comic readers now look back and laugh about. Print comics are now all about harsh realism (The Ultimates 1 & 2, Civil War, Captain America, Daredevil) and a healthy respect for the camp aspects of the past (starting with Kingdom Come and continuing with New Frontier, Justice Society, etc.). In addition, there’s the webcomic boom to consider. Even the old bricks-and-mortar publishers see online as the future.

So are we now in the Fifth Age of Comics?

Golden Age, Silver Age, Bronze Age, Modern/Iron/Adamantium Age …

Digital Age?


About El Santo

Somehow ended up reading and reviewing almost 300 different webcomics. Life is funny, huh? Despite owning two masks, is not actually a luchador.

Posted on February 25, 2010, in comics, metapost, The Webcomic Overlook, webcomics. Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. The digital age. Possibly a renewal of some sorts.

    The current state of mainstream comics in the US seems to me to be failing. They’re losing comic sales and anything truly original is either online or from Japan (I’m not the biggest fan of Japan stuff though). Anything good happening in comics is going to start on the web, so why not the Digital age?

    • Mainstream US comics aren’t selling as well as they used to be, true. But the characters created from them are stronger in the popular consciousness than ever, thanks to movies and television. Who would’ve guessed that a second-tier Marvel character like Iron Man would be doing well internationally? I think superhero comics won’t go away; they’re just beginning to transition to a new medium. Somebody once said that superhero fans aren’t necessarily comic book fans, and those superhero fans will eventually need to be served.

    • anything truly original is either online or from Japan (I’m not the biggest fan of Japan stuff though).

      Clearly, somebody hasn’t been reading Beanworld. Or Finder. Or anything by the Hernandez brothers. Or Seaguy. Or Jason Shiga.

      There is more original work in American comics now then probably at any time in the past.

      • That hardly says anything to its credit. There being more original work now when there was nearly nothing before doesn’t say much. And it’s all drowned out by the superhero comics that too many people find unappealing and overused. I’m not comparing the originality to times before, I’m comparing it to other mediums. There’s more originality in a few webcomics I’ve seen than an entire comic store.

  2. Don’t we name the ages after they are over? Or I guess people are just too impatient for that nowadays.

  3. Arguably, you have three eras; the 80s, characterised by the black and white boom, the 90s, characterised by the Image revolution, and the post-Image, webcomic era.

    And of course, the problem with the “age” designation is that it seems to be based mainly on sales, or possibly nostalgia. The “Golden” age was almost entirely composed of utter shit, artistically speaking.

    Honestly, besides the Spirit, can anybody name a Golden Age comic that has any kind of artistic merit? Yeah, we all love Batman, but have you tried to struggle through one of those Golden Age hardcovers?

    So, if we’re talking about sales or nostalgia, we could just call it the shit era, and that would pretty much cover things.

    Brainwave! It occurs to me that you could call this entire post-bronze age era the Renaissance Age. The last thirty years have probably seen more experimentation and careful thinking then the entire rest of comic book history.

    • Here’s another example: Jack Cole’s work on Plastic Man is widely considered to be some of the best art from the Golden Age.

      Yes, a lot of the art and storytelling from that time period was amateurish by today’s standards, but as a history buff, collector and lover of comics, I’m still drawn to it. (Pardon the pun.) There’s a lot of value there BEYOND just the lines on the page…

  4. What about “Dark Age”?
    The general tune still seems to be “grim and gritty” as far as graphic novels are concerned, there appears to be a kinda Noir revival (X Men Noir etc.) too, zombie-versions of many DC superheroes are popping up (almost ironic isn’t it?) apart from the fact that crises, ultimate crises and infinite crises seem to have become rather popular within the comicverses of some of the main publishers…

    • Dorian Cornelius Jasper

      There was a Dark Age, and we’re still feeling the aftershocks of it. But since nowadays we look “back” at it, it means it’s passed. Sort of.

      There was even a TV Tropes page on it. Not linking because it’s TV Tropes.

  5. I like this idea I was just thinking to myself that the “modern age” ended. I think that what we know as the early modern age should be be considered THE DARK AGE and then current age of comics should start around the new millennium

  6. I go by decade. It’s easier for me, since I am a pop culture enthusiast and tend to lump comics in with pulp novels, film and other formats, although comics are still #1. This is how it breaks down in my mind:

    Roaring 1920s
    Pulp 1930s
    Golden 1940s
    Atomic 1950s
    Silver 1960s
    Bronze 1970s
    Dark 1980s
    Extreme 1990s

    I don’t have a consensus name for the two most recent decades — they’re just the “2000s” and “2010s” for me right now. But I do think “Prismatic 2000s” has promise for the first decade of this century…

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