If you read part one of this trilogy you will remember we went over how comic book Ages are defined. We also went over how metals are used for naming purposes. So let us now introduce…
A new Age begins… The Copper Age (1983-2008)
I. NEW COMPANIES ARE BORN
The Copper Age begins with the year 1983. This was a year of innovation that started with the formation of Mirage Studios who would one day bring us TMNT #1. Mirage Studios grew from a simple comic book to a multimedia property line company quickly, making other companies take notice. Copycats would flood the market with similar characters and the black and white craze was born.
Later in the Age, we would be introduced to Image Comics. Image was founded as a company that allowed creators to retain not only creative control but ownership of their creations. Characters such as Spawn introduced in Spawn #1 and other titles made this small company soon one of the big three in comics. Creator-owned properties soon flooded the market with innovative characters being introduced to a new generation of readers. Popular artists and writers had a new opportunity that never existed before and they quickly made DC Comics and Marvel Comics take notice.
II. MEGA CROSS-OVERS
To sell more books mega-events were created in this era by Marvel and DC. Readers were introduced to comic book stories that had lasting effects on heroes that you dare not miss. Limited series and tie-in issues from the character’s regular titles had to be purchased out of fear of missing a key plot development. The Secret Wars mini-series created a future villain/hero through the introduction of Spider-Man’s black costume in Secret Wars #8 that would be so popular he would one day leap from the pages to the silver screen. Crisis On Infinite Earths saw the death of many beloved characters including Barry Allen’s Flash and Supergirl in an attempt to clean up story inconsistencies created from decades of disjointed storytelling. Another cross-over event that would ripple through the comic industry decades later was Marvel’s Infinity Gauntlet. These annual events affected the carefully crafted universes of both DC Comics and Marvel Comics and became must-reads for many fans. Stories and characters drove sales and then everything changed.
III. VARIANTS, DIE CUT, AND CHROMIUM COVERS OH MY!
Three major comic companies were too much of a drain on the industry talent pool. What started as the era of artistic innovation and creative storytelling lost its way towards the end of the Age. Comic companies were finding it harder and harder to feed the growing demands of the consumer. To meet the tastes of the market place comics started to produce different covers to force the consumer to spend more money. Variant editions started to flood the market with multiple covers of the same issue being introduced to the readers. Fear of missing out on the hot cover of the run forced consumers to buy every version released. The Gen 13 #1 covers was a big event in that Age.
Then came the Chromium shiny covers that had the fans buying issues in bulk as if they were finding gold. Soon gimmick covers like the die-cut Wolverine claws or the folding covers that revealed story plots underneath were introduced. Nothing was too “out there” for the publisher if it made the fans buy the book. Even putting a jewel on the cover that would cause storage problems for the collectors was produced in an attempt to cash in on these fads. Sadly, before a publisher could produce a variant, die-cut, chromium, bullet-riddled cover the consumer started to lose interest in gimmicks and wanted more.
The End of an Age…and an Era
Comic fans had loved to describe the Ages with precious metals as a sign of the quality of work and innovation. The Copper Age marks the end of not only an Age but the end of an era. Consumers’ tastes had started to change. Comic fans’ interests were drawn to other areas and the industry was impacted in ways we had never seen before. Before competition meant between the comic companies but now there were outside forces that sought the consumer’s attention. The comic book industry needed to evolve or die. The industry could not survive as it had existed in previous Ages. Changes need to happen and they did. Things were about to change in ways that would alter the comic book industry like nothing we had seen before and might never see again. The man responsible for these changes… Robert Downey Jr.
Next….. The Iron Age!