Defining the Modern Age
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I'm not sure if many people saw this, it was published on the CBCA Quarterly newsletter. Written by Mike Cathro I found it to be an exceptional piece, and a topic that will no doubt still be lingering on a few years from now.

Considering the Modern Age is now dating back nearly 20 years, surely it's time to find a cutoff date for what is now the Modern Age and create an age between Copper and the 'now' Modern.

 

 

 

What is traditionally thought of as comic books has been around since 1933 when Maxwell Gaines, working for the Eastern Color Printing Company, decided to put 10 cent price stickers on copies of Famous Funnies to sell at the local newsstands. This book is widely considered the first comic book that used the familiar format that is still in use today. Ever since then, comic books have been entertaining the young and old alike. No one really thought of them as being a collectible though. For just a dime, comic books were meant to be read and discarded. This all changed in the 1970’s with the creation and growth of the comic book specialty store. Now the comic book that was meant to be thrown away after reading was being collected! As the hobby grew, so did the classification. Comic books were divided into ages.

 

Each comic “Age” begins with a defining moment. For the Golden Age it was the release of Action Comics #1, the book that introduces Superman to the world. The Silver Age starts with the release of Showcase #4. This is the introduction and reinterpretation of the Flash by DC Comics. The Modern Age is seen to begin with the formation of Image Comics back in 1992. Below is the list of generally recognized comic book ages and their time spans…

 

Platinum Age – Pre-1938*

Golden Age – 1938-1945 (8 years)

Atom Age – 1946-1956 (11 years)

Silver Age – 1956-1970 (15 years)

Bronze Age – 1970-1984 (15 years)

Copper Age – 1984-1992 (9 years)

Modern Age – 1992-Present (19+ years)

*While there are other ages that predate the Platinum Age, I want to focus on the Golden Age and after.

 

These time frames are generalizations and some overlap does exist. The last recognized “age” is the Modern Age. When seven up-and-coming Marvel artists banded together for creator rights and left en masse to form Image Comics, the Modern Age began. But where does it end? The question being proposed is has the Modern Age ended and a new “Age” begun and it not be noticed? As can be seen, the other Ages are 8 – 15 years in length while the Modern Age is closing in on 20 years. Has there not been a defining moment in the last 11 or so years that could signal the end of the Modern Age and the beginning of another? If so, why hasn’t it been accepted?

 

I propose that the time frame of 1992 – 2004 be considered a new age. Why the year 2004? There are many reasons that this year should be considered. First, it was in 2004 when the publishing company Valiant Comics went out of business. When Valiant Comics came out they shot to the top of the publishing world. Valiant Comics started in 1991 with Jim Shooter, Bob Layton, and Barry Windsor-Smith publishing comics of some of the old Western Publishing properties. These titles included Dr. Solar and Magnus, Robot Hunter. They quickly expanded with original creations, such as X-O Manowar, Archer & Armstrong, and Harbinger. In 1993, Valiant Comics was named Publisher of the Year and became the only company to challenge Marvel and DC at the top of the sales charts. They were the third highest producer, behind Marvel and DC, and sold over 80 million comics their first five years.

 

The collapse of Valiant was not the only defining moment that happened in 2004. Two of the most popular independent comic book series ended that year. Cerebus by Dave Sim started in 1977 and tells the story of an aardvark barbarian. It holds the record of the longest English-language title with the same creative team. This title was said to have inspired many other self-publishers and Dave Sim used the commentary pages in the book to advocate for creator rights. He decided that it should continue on for 300 issues. It ended its run in 2004.

Jeff Smith’s Bone, a highly acclaimed series, also ended in 2004 after going for 55 issues. It told the story of the three Bone cousins, Fone, Phoney, and Smiley Bone. Jeff Smith was inspired by the works of Carl Barks and Walt Kelly. He started the book in 1991 and it was one of the first to benefit from word of mouth over the Internet. Each of the 55 books is a chapter in a 1,300 page story. In 1994, Bone won four Eisner Awards and three Harvey Awards. The entire story has been collected into a graphic novel called Bone: One Volume Edition. The cessation of these two books was a huge blow to the independent publisher.

 

While the previous reasons involve the ending of an age, the next reason involves the beginning of one. 2004 saw the start of many series that would prove to be very popular. First is the Astonishing X-Men. Written by fan favorite Joss Whedon (creator of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer) Astonishing X-Men was an instant success. The team was made up of Cyclops, Emma Frost, Beast, Wolverine, and Shadowcat. It also saw the return of Colossus. In 2006, the series won the Eisner award for Best Continuing Series.

Captain America by Ed Brubaker was also released in 2004. His interpretation of the character was very popular since the very first issue. While he was responsible for introducing various new villains in the title, there are two moments that define the series. The first was the successful reintroduction of Bucky as the Winter Soldier. Long considered and “untouchable” character, Bucky’s return was a shock to the comic book world. The second moment was the death of Steve Rogers. Unlike when Superman and Batman were killed, there was very little media coverage until after the issue was released.

Another series that saw its start in 2004 is Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Created by Bryan Lee O’Malley this series consists of six graphic novel digests. It tells the story of Scott Pilgrim who must defeat the seven super ex-boyfriends of Ramona Flowers if he wishes to date her. This series has been nominated for various awards and a motion picture based on the series will be out shortly.

Identity Crisis by DC Comics was also released in 2004. This seven issue mini-series by Brad Meltzer set in motion the disbanding of the Justice League. It started with the murder of Sue Dibny, wife of Ralph Dibny the Elongated Man. The series was also responsible for the death of the old Captain Boomerang and the introduction of a new one. Other revelations lead to the fracturing of the Justice League. When this series came out it was both critically acclaimed and reviled for what it revealed.

While the release of Astonishing X-Men #1 or Identity Crisis #1 might be enough of a reason to consider 2004, there is another series that should be considered. The comic series The Walking Dead debuted in late 2003. This series by Robert Kirkman has been overwhelmingly popular since its release. It has helped to reinvigorate the industry with its well written human drama set in a zombie apocalypse. It follows a small group of humans that have to survive while a zombie infestation has taken over. One reason this series is so popular is that while the setting might be a zombie apocalypse, the story focuses on the humanity of the characters. No one is safe in this series. Fan favorites are often killed off at unexpected moments. It has proven so popular that AMC will be doing a television series based on the property.

 

So in conclusion, and for the reasons listed above, I propose that a new “Age” be created for the time period of 1992 – 2004. Paying homage to the use of special covers that were so prevalent during that time the new Age should be "The Chromium Age". The Modern Age would be moved to start in 2003 with the release of The Walking Dead #1.

 

 

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So if this gains traction, the key books seem to be Cerebus 1, Bone 1, Walking Dead 1, Astonishing X-Men 1, and Captain America 1.

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Considering Cerebus #1 was published in 1977 I doubt that one. WD #1 I'd put into Modern, not the interim age. As has been said in the Copper thread, it would be hard to nail it down to one particular year.

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I honestly agree with everything stated in that article, Thanks for sharing Gav. I have thought for a while that WD, Scott Pilgrim and Identity Crisis were keys to a new modern age. I am not quite sure about the assumptions made about Astonishing X-men #1 but I can agree that it was quite an important book/series in the X-universe.

 

There is obviously a lot of conjecture in defining an age and a lot of different opinions but I can certainly see 2003/2004 as being an important turning point in comics.

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Considering Cerebus #1 was published in 1977 I doubt that one. WD #1 I'd put into Modern, not the interim age. As has been said in the Copper thread, it would be hard to nail it down to one particular year.

 

Yep, Cerebus #1 (1977) is bronze, and Bone #1 (1991) is copper.

 

The arguments the writer uses to support his hypothesis are so bad I don't know whether to laugh or cry :eek:

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Considering Cerebus #1 was published in 1977 I doubt that one.

 

I thinkhe was saying that, along with the release of new titles such as those mentioned, the end of Cerebus, as well as Bone, in the years mentioned was a turning point in defining a new era. Not that those books were part of the new age!

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The other thing about this so called interim age that increases the notion it should end in the early '00's is the cessation of the myriad variant covers for every issue. While that trend is slowly ramping up again, were the Walking Dead to have debuted four years earlier, there would be doubtlessly more variations of issue 1.

 

Perhaps the interim age should be called the "Chromium Age." I kid, I kid...sort of.

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1992-2004 = Dark Age (cuz I know I'm not the only one who turned the lights off on my comic collecting)

2004-present = The Renaissance

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The other thing about this so called interim age that increases the notion it should end in the early '00's is the cessation of the myriad variant covers for every issue. While that trend is slowly ramping up again, were the Walking Dead to have debuted four years earlier, there would be doubtlessly more variations of issue 1.

 

Perhaps the interim age should be called the "Chromium Age." I kid, I kid...sort of.

 

There are more variants & incentives being published today than ever before - seeing 5 covers for every issue of Red Sonja that comes out makes me almost yearn for 1992.

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Awesome article! I want to throw it out there that since the Silver and Bronze Ages are 15 years each, why not extend the copper age so it is 15 years as well.

 

 

I think also worth mentioning is that Warren Ellis' run on Iron Man started in late 04/early 05 which introduced a new modern take on the character which was very very popular. The new armor design even lent itself to the movies. So I believe that #1 should be included as well.

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I may be getting my dates wrong but wasn't Green Lantern Rebirth released in 2004. (shrug)

 

Also wasnt it around this time that all the current major events were seeded. Without Rebirth there would be no Blackest Night/brightest day, Without House of M and Civil war, no Second Coming and Siege. No Identity Crisis there would have been no 52, infinte crisis, final crisis etc.

 

Also, not sure how important this was but wasn't new Avengers #1 released in 2004

Edited by gaz2810i

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I may be getting my dates wrong but wasn't Green Lantern Rebirth released in 2004. (shrug)

 

You are correct. Green Lantern Rebirth #1 was released in late 2004 and should have also been considered in the article. That was an oversight of the author (me).

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Considering Cerebus #1 was published in 1977 I doubt that one.

 

I thinkhe was saying that, along with the release of new titles such as those mentioned, the end of Cerebus, as well as Bone, in the years mentioned was a turning point in defining a new era. Not that those books were part of the new age!

 

That is correct. The ending of two of the most popular self-published titles in the same year seemed to be important and should be recognized.

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Considering Cerebus #1 was published in 1977 I doubt that one.

 

I thinkhe was saying that, along with the release of new titles such as those mentioned, the end of Cerebus, as well as Bone, in the years mentioned was a turning point in defining a new era. Not that those books were part of the new age!

 

That is correct. The ending of two of the most popular self-published titles in the same year seemed to be important and should be recognized.

 

Certainly.

 

But saying that the end of these two titles - one of which started in the copper age (Bone), and another which started in the bronze age (Cerebus) - in some way signified the end of an era when it comes to independently published titles is just silly.

 

"The cessation of these two books was a huge blow to the independent publisher" is ridiculously hyperbolic, and has zero bearing in reality - Bone is thriving through the Scholastic reprints which have been Jeff Smith's bread & butter for years now, and when Cerebus ended with issue #300 it was with a whimper instead of a bang due to Sim's massive alienation of his readers in the previous decade.

 

The same is the case with your claim that the death of Valiant Comics - which, as a company, hadn't been relevant for the preceding 6-7 years - somehow had a huge effect on the comic book industry as a whole; trust me, it didn't.

 

And your pick of Astonishing X-Men as the flagship title for this re-defined Modern era? :screwy:

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I dont have an issue with Bone or Cerebus per say. I like the Valiant Comics argument in the grand scope of things.

 

The areas I saw the author might have stretched some is with Astonishing X-men, and Brubaker's Captain America. They were both good, but I think David's Hulk and John's JSA are brillant, but they wont begin an Age either.

 

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Ultimate Spiderman #1 - the start of a new age for Marvel?

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Considering Cerebus #1 was published in 1977 I doubt that one.

 

I thinkhe was saying that, along with the release of new titles such as those mentioned, the end of Cerebus, as well as Bone, in the years mentioned was a turning point in defining a new era. Not that those books were part of the new age!

 

That is correct. The ending of two of the most popular self-published titles in the same year seemed to be important and should be recognized.

 

Certainly.

 

But saying that the end of these two titles - one of which started in the copper age (Bone), and another which started in the bronze age (Cerebus) - in some way signified the end of an era when it comes to independently published titles is just silly.

 

"The cessation of these two books was a huge blow to the independent publisher" is ridiculously hyperbolic, and has zero bearing in reality - Bone is thriving through the Scholastic reprints which have been Jeff Smith's bread & butter for years now, and when Cerebus ended with issue #300 it was with a whimper instead of a bang due to Sim's massive alienation of his readers in the previous decade.

 

The same is the case with your claim that the death of Valiant Comics - which, as a company, hadn't been relevant for the preceding 6-7 years - somehow had a huge effect on the comic book industry as a whole; trust me, it didn't.

 

And your pick of Astonishing X-Men as the flagship title for this re-defined Modern era? :screwy:

 

OK, sue me for using some hyperbole in my article. I do feel that it was a huge blow to the independent publishing. If you look at the attention both creators brought to the independent publishers having their two flagship books end at the same time I thought was pretty important.

 

I think that your statement that Cerebus ended with a whimper instead of a bang could also be taken as hyperbolic. Issue #299 has 7,200 copies ordered while #300 had 11,200, an increase of over 50 percent. I would hardly call a 50 percent increase in orders a whimper. It was also good enough to place at #166 in the Top 300 for the month. Just to compare, Bone #54 & 55 finished at 15,400 and 15,903 copies. This gave #55 a placement of #141. So as you can see, there was still interest in both of these books at the time they were ending. (These numbers were rounded from figures derived on the comichron.com website).

 

While Bone is still doing well with its Scholastic reprints I was focusing solely on the ending of the original comic series. My point is, these two series brought a lot of attention to and advocated for the independent publisher. Did the independent publishing cease with these two books? No. I in no way implied that. But that segment of the market has changed since that time. That was what I was trying to say.

 

My point with Valiant was that here was a company that came out and was considered a true challenger to the Marvel & DC duopoly. Both Jim Shooter and Stan Lee were awarded the Lifetime Achievement Awards for creating the Valiant and Marvel universes respectively in the same year. The recognition (and the sales) that Valiant achieved in the beginning was huge in the industry. And it was because of these accomplishments and the subsequent fall that I included it in my article. It was their fall and eventual death that I felt was noteworthy because of what they meant to the industry when they first came out not what they meant when they ended.

 

Finally, I didn't pick Astonishing X-Men #1 as THE flagship title. Having Joss Whedon writing an X-Men title was a big deal. When it came out it had 209,000 copies ordered to be the number 1 slot. The next month it had another 7,000 copies ordered to place in #186. The 3rd month it had another 1,800 copies ordered (#274). So yes, I do consider it one of the books that help make the case for what I stated. The book that I did pick as the flagship title would be Walking Dead #1.

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I think the new age kicked off when Kevin Smith started writing Daredevil. Here was a major publisher trying to drop the gimmicks and get back to storytelling by using a writer from outside comics.

 

This is a trend that gains momentum. Publishers and editors go back to focusing on the writing instead of variant covers and whatever McFarlane/manga/anime clone artist is hot at the moment.

 

A little bit later comes J. Michael Straczynski, a t.v. writer, to breathe new life into the Amazing Spider-Man (and later destroy it, oh, irony). The keys to the kingdom are handed over to a raging lunatic, er, I mean, Grant Morrison takes over the X-Men.

 

Ultimate Spider-Man is handed over to a guy who writes indy crime comics. The Black Pather is penned by Reginald Hudlin, a movie director. The Brits invade again, led by Mark Millar, who cut his teeth on 2000 A.D. and, I believe, Sonic the Hedgehog.

 

Captain America is handed over to another crime writer. So is Moon Knight. And so on. Your results may vary. Past performance does not guarantee future success, etc. etc.

 

For a brief moment, story became all and the powers-that-be understood that. And then I think, greed kicked in, and the variant covers came roaring back onto the scene and then the never-ending parade of cross-over events, spin-offs and one-shots...but I digress.

 

I got back into moderns in 2001 and the vibe felt different from the 90s. Now, not so much.

 

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Why the year 2004? There are many reasons that this year should be considered. First, it was in 2004 when the publishing company Valiant Comics went out of business. When Valiant Comics came out they shot to the top of the publishing world. Valiant Comics started in 1991 with Jim Shooter, Bob Layton, and Barry Windsor-Smith publishing comics of some of the old Western Publishing properties. These titles included Dr. Solar and Magnus, Robot Hunter. They quickly expanded with original creations, such as X-O Manowar, Archer & Armstrong, and Harbinger. In 1993, Valiant Comics was named Publisher of the Year and became the only company to challenge Marvel and DC at the top of the sales charts. They were the third highest producer, behind Marvel and DC, and sold over 80 million comics their first five years.

 

The collapse of Valiant was not the only defining moment that happened in 2004.

2004? (shrug) Valiant ended in 1996.

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I do think there is a need for a new age,but defining it is another story. ???

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