|Crisis on Infinite Earths # 1|
Everyone pretty much knows about the Golden and Silver Age of comics. The Bronze Age then basically started in the '70s and began to show the darker turn that was coming and started to bring in real world issues to superhero stories (most famously in the Green Lantern/Green Arrow series). The end of the Bronze Age and the beginning of what has often been called the Modern Age occurred around 1985-86 with the release of Crisis on Infinite Earths (which signified the end of the Bronze Age) and then Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns (which signified the beginning of what has been known as the Modern Age).
From '80 through the early 2000s comics became incredibly dark, and as one creator put it you could sometimes only tell the heroes from the villains based on the name on the book. It was during this period that Superman died and Batman was nearly killed, but it wasn't just those stories that marked the change; even the heroes origins were darker (see Batman: Year One and The Man of Steel). During this period it seemed like superheroes were willing to cross any line to beat the bad guy. In many ways that was a reflection of how dark society had become and how hopeless things often felt during those years. But then things started to change (the seeds were laid with Kingdom Come).
|Infinite Crisis # 6 Death of Connor|
According to Wikipedia, the Modern Age of comics and the Dark Age are the same thing. I disagree. I think the term "Modern Age" will always be used to describe what is going on now in comics but the comics being made now (and for the past few years) are different from those signature events of the '80s and '90s. Personally I think the Dark Age ended with Infinite Crisis. That book was dramatically dark but ended with the heroes pledging never again. Since then events like 52, Final Crisis, Blackest Night, Brightest Day, and Flashpoint, while having dark moments, never seemed to fall into despair. The heroes strive to be good. This is shown in the return of Barry Allen, the salvation of Hal
and the reboot of Superman's origin in Superman:
Secret Origin. It’s the treatment of
Superman that I think is especially telling.
In both The Man of Steel and Birthright, Superman was treated very
differently than in the past. Much of
this was needed for the character to stay relevant (downgrading his abilities, focusing
on the Clark Kent part of his life/persona) but in the process Superman as the beacon
of hope was lost. That angel was hinted
at in Infinite Crisis and brought
back to the forefront in Superman: Secret
Origin and in the television show Smallville. Both interpretations of Superman show a hero
who, despite being from another planet, strives to be the best possible human
being he can be. This Clark Kent, while
far from perfect, is the kind of person that we should all aspire to be—good,
honest, fair, and someone who judges a person based solely on his/her
character/decisions/behavior and not things like color of skin, financial
So what will this Modern Age bring us? Well it’s already brought us the most complete reboot since COIE, a more diverse set of superheroes in the forefront, and an iconic openly gay superhero, but more than that I think it has brought back a sense of hope and wonder. Sure we may not have the ability to fly or a cave full of super cool toys in real life, but these stories and characters show us our potential. Just like the metaphors of mythology, folklore, and religion, comic books show us what we can become and right now, despite its failure to translate from a campaign slogan, we could all use some hope.
|Superman Secret Origin # 6 Great Savior|