Comic ages. It’s a funny thing, right? Many of you might not think so, we have a system in place, which has served it’s purpose perfectly well so far. We start off waaaay back in 1938, the year Action Comics #1 was birthed unto the world, the defining event of modern comics as we know them and the dawn of the “Golden Age” of comics. The Golden Age ran from here, until the mid 1950’s where in 1956 another DC superhero changed the landscape of comics moving forward. A man famous for moving forward at speed, funnily enough. You see, 1956 was the birth of the “Silver Age” of comics thanks to Barry Allen’s début in Showcase #4 which is arguably where the Silver Age all kicked off. I know, I know, before the comics historians start jumping down my throat, there’s a lot more that went on behind the scenes before Barry made his first appearance, but I’m skipping over the details deliberately. This isn’t meant to be a history lesson, I have a point I’m working my way towards.
Anyway, The Silver Age took us from 1956 all the way through to 1970 where the “Bronze Age” of comics kicked off, though unlike the previous two ages of comics, there wasn’t to my knowledge one particular comic that brought all this around, simply that there was a significant switch in tone from the Silver Age bringing things into darker realms with more socially relevant story lines. Now, the Bronze Age ran for around 15 years, bringing us to 1985 and the beginning of the “Modern Age” where the Comics Code of Authority carried less and less weight, comics began a path down the very dark and gritty (not all, I know) and there was a significant rise in independent publishers.
Modern is a bit vague though, don’t you think?
And this leads me to my point of thought today. This has been bugging me for a little while now and I’ve only just gotten myself around to discussing it, but let’s just do a super quick breakdown of everything above. Golden Age was, for arguments sake, 1938-1956, so ran for 18 years. The Silver Age then ran from 1956-1970, so we’re talking 14 years there. The Bronze Age is largely accepted as 1970 to 1985 which makes 15 years. That leaves us in the Modern Age now, running from 1985 until now, 2015. That’s 30 freaking years!
The funny thing is, the more I thought about this age system, the more I thought about the use of the term “Golden Age”. Now, I know for a fact that this line of thinking will set some people in a right tizzy but, you know what, this is just the way my mind works. In my mind, when I think of a Golden Age of anything, that to me is when something is at it’s best, it’s absolute best and nothing should ever be better than that. Can we say that about the Golden Age of comics? Sure, that era birthed what would eventually be distilled into the comics industry we have now, it brought us a large number of wonderful characters, many of which are still in publication in some form or another right now. That’s great, and I’m not trying to undercut the value of that era with this post, but I hesitate to say that comics then were the best they could ever be. Technology held things back then, sure, but society on the whole wasn’t as accepting of comic books then as it is now. Frankly, the writing was nowhere near some of the quality we have right now, and while there were some pioneers back then absolutely, artistically things are better now (on many books, again, not all I know) than they ever have been.
And that’s not all, folks! We have an ever diversifying collection of people from all over the world reading comics right now, and that is absolutely reflected in the titles available from the many publishers putting out comics. It’s a wonderful time to be in where anyone, and I really do mean anyone, whether they’re a comics fan or not, could find a comic that would appeal to them. Comics span pretty much every genre I can think of, bringing nuanced characters and intricate story lines into this amazing visual story telling medium. So right now, we are comics fans living in a time where in most cases, art and story are the best we’ve ever seen, and we have such a wide variety of comics and readers that there is something that will appeal to you out there. It’s becoming an ever more accepting hobby, there are closed minded people here of course, but I feel the industry right now is there best it’s ever been. Sounds kind of like the general definition of a Golden Age, don’t you think?
Now, before I have to break out my torch and pitchfork defences, I’m not even remotely saying anyone should consider changing the current age designations. I don’t think it would ever happen anyway, and I’m not so arrogant as to think this one little blog post of my rolling thoughts on the matter would ever carry enough weight to put a change like that into motion. No, that’s not what I’m looking for, this is just something I’ve been pondering on for quite some time. But maybe it is time we lost the “Modern Age” moniker. We’ve come so far as a collective since 1985, things inside the industry have changed massively since then, the readership has changed massively since then and for the most part both in very positive ways.
Thirty years is a long time to carry this designation, I think a change is due and I think it’s a change we can probably backdate by several years. I would go back so far as 2003. This was a significant year for comics, the year a new title launched which, I think, helped propel comics to the masses again. A series that still runs right now and while it’s not one I’m a fan of, it has a huge following and has spawned a TV show, multiple video games and a highly successful toy and merchandise line. That would, of course, be the Walking Dead. I think it gave publishers a lot more confidence in creator owned work, it provided a huge surge in awareness of both Image and comics in general and it showed those outside of our community of readers that comics didn’t have to be over-the-top superheroics. As I said, I’m not a huge fan of the series, but the far reaching influence inside the comics industry and out, whether it be TV or the public in general, is undeniable. So for that reason, I think we can quite easily go back to the same markers as both the Golden and Silver Ages, using a particular series as the beginning of a new age.
But what would we call it? This is something else that’s been puzzling me, I think it needs to be something that signifies where we’re at right now, and have been at least moving to since that time. The Creator Age? Creators have so much skill and influence these days, and the sheer number of creator owned titles being released right now that absolutely kick ass is truly a wonder to behold. Maybe we could take a really cynical look at it and call it the “Cross-Over Age” since the big two have been so heavily plagued by events and cross-overs in recent years. That would, of course, be doing a huge disservice to the origin of this newly dubbed age, so I think we can strike that from the possibilities. Maybe something like the “Everyone Age” since, as I said, there are literally comics for all ages and tastes out there, whether they are published in print or published as webcomics? I know it sounds kind of corny, but that is the age we are in now, a much more welcoming and diverse age. The Disparate Age?
I don’t know, something along those lines would really suit where we are right now, but whatever happens I think it’s well past the time we ditch the “Modern Age” distinction and move on to something more relevant. It’s hardly a major issue, I know that, but as I said it’s something that’s been hassling my mind for a good while now and I really just wanted to get my thoughts on the matter out there. What do you think? Are you happy keeping everything under the umbrella of the Modern Age? Do you think we could do with changing it up, and if so have you got a better suggestion for what to call it?
I’ll leave it with you, no doubt I will continue to ponder on this myself.