THE COPPER AGE (1985 – ?)
— “I know pain. Sometimes, I share it… with someone like you!” – Batman (Batman: Year One)
Also referred to as the ‘Modern Age’ of Comics, and is seen as a continuation of the ‘Dark Age’ of Comics. I like to say we’re in the Post-Modern Age, since the current comics barely resemble the comics of the 90’s and it’s been long enough to establish a New Age. This ‘Modern’ Age is often classified with works like Alan Moore’s Watchmen, and Frank Miller’s the Dark Knight Returns.
During this time leading up to today comics evolved into graphic novels. Comic issues were intended as single episodes in a greater story, and usually collected into larger volumes to be sold at book store chains. Many acclaimed, award winning graphic novels came about around this time including: V For Vendetta, the Sandman, Hell-blazer (Constantine), 100 Bullets, ‘Maus’, Fables, American Splendor, Kick-Ass, the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Wanted, Red, the Losers, Road to Perdition, A History of Violence, Y: the Last Man, and Grimm Fairy Tales, among others, most of which have been turned into blockbuster films along with a majority of super hero comics.
The Copper Age also covers the mixed bag of comics that was the 90’s when the X-titles reigned supreme, and cross-overs galore flooded comic shops with overprinting and variant cover marketing gimmicks. Comics of this decade were marked by unnecessary (and meaningless, non-permanent) deaths, constantly confusing title cross-overs, ridiculously out of proportion body-types (either steroid muscles, or DDD size boobs), and pointless violence coupled with raging CAPS and EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!!!!!!! Now regardless of all the negatives, there were some pure gold tales that came out of this mess like: The Death of Superman, the Knightfall Saga, etc… This was also the rise of other comic company giants, like Image and Wild-storm, but that’s for another article.
During the 80’s and 90’s the status quo was significantly changed. DC took a page from Marvel when they revamped their entire line of heroes. Some were altered more drastically than others, like Superman. In John Byrne’s ‘THE MAN OF STEEL’ miniseries (1985), Superman’s origin was completely revamped from the start. Superman himself was significantly depowered compared to the god-like Silver Age version and he was made more relatable and down to Earth. His entire cast of supporting characters were also given updates. Most notably, LEX, the original criminal-mastermind was no longer a crazy-ass mad-scientist with desires for world domination, instead he was a ruthless business man who had already conquered the world and had practically built the city of Metropolis! Lex became insanely jealous when this new hero of tomorrow overtook his own spotlight, and vowed to destroy him.
THE BRONZE AGE (1970 to 1985)
— “I am fire and life incarnate! Now and forever — I am PHOENIX!!!” – Jean Grey (Dark Phoenix)
This is considered to be the start of the ‘Dark Age’ of Comics, and with good reason, which continued into the late 90’s (the Copper Age). Some very dark twists to many popular characters backstories were first established during this time such as: (Retro Spoiler Alert!) the Green Goblin killing Spider-man’s girlfriend (Gwen Stacy, not MJ), the demise of Jason Todd (the second Robin) at the hands of the Joker, Elektra’s murder by Bullseye, etc… (BULLSEYE was introduced in Daredevil #131 – 1976, and ELEKTRA in #168 – 1981)
Often disputed between comic fans / historians, this Bronze Era is typically said to have occurred sometime between 1970 and 1985 give or take a couple years. This was a time when comic books became more socially conscious and began featuring real-world issues. Comic books were no longer just an escape from reality, but a mirror of it. This is when the legends behind the most acclaimed adult-themed comics started to creep onto the scene. Writers and artists like Alan Moore, Frank Miller, Neil Gaiman Chris Claremont, John Byrne, Jim Lee, George Perez, Joe Quesada, and countless others who are still relevant today, most of whom are still actively in the comic industry today!
The Bronze Age was when there was a resurgence in interest for super heroes in general. Following the cheesy campy spoof that was the Batman 60’s TV series was the first serious, live action, depiction of a comic book, on the silver screen with Superman: The Movie in the late 70’s, and in the 80’s there was the Wonder Woman show and the Incredible Hulk became a Smash Hit! (pun-intended)
Continued from Part 3: Leagues, Titans, and Guardians (oh my!)
#4 – “Holy Bat-Comics, BATMAN!”
In the New-52 there are a total of 16 current Bat-related titles, 6 of which actually star the Dark Knight himself, and in 4 of those he’s the leading man (3 of which are solo missions), and best of all, every single one of them is top-notch… as it should be! Batman is simply a great character in every sense, created by the legendary Bob Kane, but it’s astounding, after all this time, how these writers still manage to come up with new and different takes on all his villains, various allies, and numerous adventures, without constantly re-hashing the same damn stuff!
I’m not the world’s biggest Superman fan. I don’t normally read that many Superman stories, but I tend to gravitate towards the really good ones. There’s something about Superman; I would say that the best Superman stories just feel like there’s something extra special about them compared to any other character. Maybe it’s because he’s the first and the best, but really good creators tend to do their very best work on Superman, whether that’s Grant Morrison, Alan Moore, or whomever.
5. The Death and Return of Superman
The thing people have to remember about the death of Superman is that nothing had ever hit the public like that from the world of comics. Not only was this story getting mainstream press every week, it was getting a LOT. Air time on Saturday Night Live, the Tonight Show, and pretty much every news show talked about it for quite a while. The creators and editors involved were made into instant pseudo-celebrities. It has since spawned video games, an animated movie, and a ton of stories. Its immediate follow-up, the Reign of the Supermen, created 4 new ‘Supermen’, 3 of which were still prominent figures in DC, at least until the recent line-wide reboot.
So to begin things off the creators introduced Doomsday, an unstoppable killing machine that would be the one to kill the Man of Steel. Doomsday effortlessly cuts a path of devastation across the country until he is confronted by the Justice League. Unfortunately for the League, they are utterly overmatched by Doomsday, even with one of his arms still tied behind his back. Literally. The dude has one of his arms confined behind his back and still punks the JLA out like they were a bunch of rookies.
Superman then shows up, and they proceed to destroy the hell out of each other and everything until at last they stop each other. With the last of his strength, Superman unloads everything he has into one last blow, which kills Doomsday. The effort from the punch, combined with the severe damage and injuries sustained during the battle, was just too much, and he dies in Lois Lane’s arms in the middle of the streets in Metropolis.
So everyone knows about Year One and the Dark Knight Returns. A lot of people know about The Long Halloween and Dark Victory, and most people who have ever read a Batman comic know about the Killing Joke (after Year One, my personal favorite). But those have been discussed, dissected, and praised into the ground.
I’d like to tell you about 5 Batman stories that you probably have never heard of, much less read before. One of them is an “Elseworlds” story, which was an imprint DC Comics used to tell stories about their characters in completely different situations than you would normally find them, much like Marvel’s “What If…?”. For instance, in an Elseworlds story you might see Batman become a vampire and fight Dracula, or see what would have happened if Kal-El’s rocket ends up being discovered by a young Gotham couple before they ever have a son of their own, a couple named Thomas and Martha Wayne… Another of the stories I’m going to talk about isn’t an Elseworlds story, but it doesn’t really ‘count’ in the Batman continuity, as it takes place 100 years after the Batman first showed up in Gotham. The others take place in completely different periods in Batman’s career, from the beginning to the ‘dark period’ of the 1980’s to more or less the present.
I present my 5 Batman stores you’ve probably never read.
5. Batman: Year 100
100 years after Batman first began stalking the streets and rooftops of Gotham city, and things aren’t so great. Big brother is watching everyone all the time, everything is run by gigantic corporations that own and control governments, and there isn’t anybody standing up for the people in Gotham. The police have the capability, but are largely crooked beyond belief. One of the honest Gotham cops, a Lt. Gordon (the great grandson of the Commissioner) does what he can, but it’s not enough. Then there is a gun fight, and a federal agent turns up dead, and the police are shut out of the case. Nothing adds up from the outside, and Gordon can’t figure out what’s going on. Everything seems strange, especially when you add in the bizarre reports of some kind of creature with giant, leather wings that can’t be killed by bullets, is inhumanly fast, and impossibly strong.
We all know who that sounds like….
Paul Pope writes and draws this entire story, and his artwork is incredible. You see every wrinkle, every fold in Batman’s suit. When he uses gadgets you can see every nut and bolt. The details are great.
The story is a little strange as you get into it, as you don’t really know who Batman is until the end, and while it’s a cool reveal, it’s also a bit of a head scratcher, because it’s hard to believe that this person would still be alive after all this time. Regardless, it’s a really interesting take on the Batman mythology, and in my opinion every bit as valid of a possible future for Batman as the Dark Knight Returns was.