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Author Topic: Comic book ages.  (Read 388 times)

Offline Tomato

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Comic book ages.
« on: February 07, 2020, 12:53:30 AM »
So I was thinking about the whole comic ages thing yesterday, and I wanted to pose the question... Since comic ages usually go in 15-20 year gaps, now that we're 20 years into the 2000s, what would you call the last two decades of comics?

That said, real quick before we get into it... I've seen some nonsense in an article or two about the current "modern" age lasting from the end of the bronze age (~1985) to today... And that's nonsense. No, I would define the late 80s and a bit into the 2000s as the Dark Age... A period mostly defined by 90s extremism, the marvel bankruptcy, and general cover gimmick nonsense. That's not to say there weren't good books in with early image nonsense and clone saga insanity (I would argue late 90s is the best DC has ever been) or that those trends suddenly ended, but I fell there's a pretty clear delineation between books from that era and those that came after.

And really, it is in those changes that I feel we get the two biggest contenders for what I feel has defined this era: reboots and decompressed made-for-the-trade stories.

And to be clear, when I say reboots, yes the new 52 is part of that, but I actually am talking about more than that. I'm talking about the prevalence of new or altered origin stories like Iron Man's Extremis storyline, the Ultimate Universe remaking classic characters, stories like Identity Crisis which sought to cast old stories in a new light... There was a notable uptick of stories that went back to old Wells of stories and sought to tweak, twist, and alter them for whatever reason.

And then there's decompressed stories. Everything now had to fit in neat, 6 issue stories to be sold as trades. USM was kind of the worst about this, but it's a problem the industry had and continues to have. It's a lot rarer to see cute one off issues with compelling stories like the classic Spiderman swings a cancer patient throughout New York story, without there being some special event or writers missing deadlines.

Offline BentonGrey

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Re: Comic book ages.
« Reply #1 on: February 07, 2020, 04:57:21 AM »
Very interesting question, 'Mato.  I'll have to think about it some, but you are, of course, right that we are in an era distinct from that of the "Iron Age" / "Modern Age."  Of course, it is equally true that all "ages" are convenient and manufactured categories that never correspond perfectly to reality, so it doesn't pay to be too dogmatic about them.  I can understand why some might see continuity from the Post-Crisis day to today.  This era does share some of the myopic tendencies of the last, though it is not as defined by them.

I think you have identified the two most prevalent structural trends in this era, but it is also characterized by a curious juxtaposition of tastes.  While there is a greater tendency towards whimsy and wonder, there is also a continual struggle between those darker elements and attempts at new 'grim 'n gritty' storytelling, with more lethal heroes that we've ever seen before and the continuing erosion of any respect for traditional ideas of morality or heroism.
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Offline SickAlice

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Re: Comic book ages.
« Reply #2 on: February 07, 2020, 04:18:39 PM »
The same question has bounced around my thinkpan often as well. I dunno, usually they are denoted by a metal forge type. I would say The Cinematic Age personally as the comic to film revolution was the largest boom to the industry itself.

Offline daglob

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Re: Comic book ages.
« Reply #3 on: February 07, 2020, 05:11:14 PM »
The same question has bounced around my thinkpan often as well. I dunno, usually they are denoted by a metal forge type. I would say The Cinematic Age personally as the comic to film revolution was the largest boom to the industry itself.

This might be accurate, since it seems to me that many comic books are being "adjusted" to match the cinematic versions of the characters. Funny, but in the past the difference between the comic book and TV or movie versions has sunk a movie (or TV show: Jon Sable, for instance).

Offline Tomato

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Re: Comic book ages.
« Reply #4 on: February 07, 2020, 05:16:25 PM »
See, I look as ages as just a loose way of describing the cultural shift in comics that happens every few decades.

Golden Age books, despite the term, tended to be very loose, pulpy, and experimental, reflecting the relative youth of the medium and the era they were made in.

Silver Age books tended to be more fantastic, with commie smashing and alien busting, reflective of the rise of space technology and cold war scares. It was also where superhero books would once again come to dominate the medium.

Bronze age books tended to be more mature stories, books no longer written by children like in the golden age. They didn't push the envelope too hard due to the comics code, but this is definitely where the code really started to weaken. You also started to see more focus on social issues like race, drugs, and pollution.

Finally, I'd contend what I call the Dark Age of comics really got started in the mid 80s, with books like Watchmen and TDKR. For better or worse, books like that really changed the industry in a major way, both in terms of content, and, in the case of Watchmen, this sense of the industry screwing over the creators (tbf, my feelings on that situation are not exactly kind to Mr. Moore, but what happened to him was indicative of the industry at the time). You start to see good people either leaving or pushed out of the big two, and a decline in the industry due to Marvel bankruptcy nonsense.

As for calling this the cinematic age... I'm not so sure, tbh. While Marvel has undoubtedly been affected by the films in terms of stories, characters, and events... I honestly don't see the same with DC, or any other comic company. Yeah, they made DC movies, and there's been a design change or two, but it really hasn't affected the books any more than bat-mania in the 60s did.

Really, I look at this last "age" really beginning with Ultimate Spider-man. A book that, while fun and often creative, is single handedly responsible for putting the 6 issue decompressed writing for the trade story on the map, as well as being essentially a modern Spiderman reboot without actually rebooting him and pissing off fans. In a way, USM is a microcasm of issues that'd plague the industry through DC's rebirth, this sense that we constantly need to fix old stories instead of just moving forward.

Offline SickAlice

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Re: Comic book ages.
« Reply #5 on: February 08, 2020, 04:31:17 PM »
Sort of but not really. The comic industry in terms of sales inside and outward works like a roller coaster. It's never been pinned down why that is exactly but it always seems to be. The high points when the industry is doing well are denoted by ages.

Offline Mothgirl

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Re: Comic book ages.
« Reply #6 on: February 10, 2020, 04:17:10 PM »
I think Modern age (starting roughly around '95) ended around 2015-16.

Offline detourne_me

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Re: Comic book ages.
« Reply #7 on: February 11, 2020, 08:40:43 PM »
I'd say 85~2000 is the Copper Age, Lead Age, or Dark Age - Maybe Lead works best because it's dark, and heavy, but if you ingest too much you go a little crazy and extreme
2000~2012 is the Platinum Age, as it's kind of a return to the silver age, and with the silver screen cinematic side of things.
Then from 2012 on I'd call it the Mercury Age, This was when all of the major retcons, reboots, and renumberings started.  Just like Mercury, it's malleable, fluid, and potentially poisonous

Offline BentonGrey

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Re: Comic book ages.
« Reply #8 on: February 11, 2020, 10:15:35 PM »
Mercury Age, interesting DM.  The mutability does seem to be a defining characteristic of this period, though I don't know if it captures the entire quality of the era. 

As for the previous age, "Iron" fits the original metaphor/story and is just a pretty perfect characterization of the period:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ages_of_Man
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Offline Mothgirl

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Re: Comic book ages.
« Reply #9 on: February 14, 2020, 07:11:49 AM »
Few people also use Obsidian age for the early 90's.

Offline kkhohoho

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Re: Comic book ages.
« Reply #10 on: February 17, 2020, 03:09:50 PM »
I mostly adhere to the traditional model when it comes to 'ages', at least up the modern era. Golden Age, Silver Age, Bronze Age and the Dark Age, with that last one ending around 1994.

To me, the 'Modern Age of Comics' is actually two. 1994-2005 is the Throwback Age, where Marvel and especially DC took a good hard look at the stuff they were putting out during the Dark Age and made an effort to harken back to yesteryear, toning down a lot of the excessive bits while doubling down on what made comics so great to begin with. All while bringing with it a greater sense of characterization and self-awareness than the older comics they were aping. Whereas everything from 2006 on is the actual Modern Age, or rather the Event Age. Everything is dominated by events and yearlong storylines that often run across multiple titles, with the excess dialled back up and everything being designed to shock the reader as much as possible. Heroes fighting villains is no longer the main objective necessarily, with heroes fighting other heroes being almost as common. It's all about stunts and publicity, with everything else being secondary.
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