Comics are generally divided into ages. The most commonly used of these are Golden, Silver, and Bronze though some people add the terms Platinum and Iron Age.
Platinum Age (1842-1938)
American comic books predate the appearance of superheroes by nearly a century. At first they were simply reprints of previously published newspaper strips (such as The Adventures of Obadiah Oldbuck in 1842) but by the dawn of the 20th century started telling original stories but monthly publication was not seen until 1922. The only real relevance to the Golden Age is this was when the short story The Reign of the Superman (1933) was published which would form the basis for the Superman character.
Golden Age (1938- c. 1951)
- See wikipedia's page on Golden Age of Comic Books for more information.
The Golden Age of Comic Books was a period in the history of American comic books, generally thought of as lasting from 1938 until the late 40’s or mid 50’s. The end of the era is generally viewed as the shift from superhero to other genres such as Horror and Western. During this era, comic books became more popular, with the concept of superhero created and firmly established.
Silver Age (c. 1956 – c. 1970)
- See wikipedia's page on Silver Age of Comic Books for more information.
The Silver Age is the informal term applied to a specific period of comic book publishing history. It was a period of artistic advancement and commercial success, specifically for those in the superhero genre. It is generally understood as beginning in the early to mid 50’s and ending in 1970.
Many comic book historians cite its beginning with the introduction of the Flash in Showcase, Vol. 1 #4 in October, 1956. However, there are several other characters commonly associated with the Silver Age that actually predate the Flash. Science-fiction adventurer Captain Comet debuted in the pages of Strange Adventures in August-September 1950, and the Martian Manhunter made his first appearance in November of 1955 (a full year before the Flash) in Detective Comics, Vol. 1 #225 November, 1955.
Bronze Age (c. 1970 – c. 1985)
- See wikipedia's page on Bronze Age of Comic Books for more information.
The Bronze Age is the informal term applied to a specific period of comic book publishing history. Originally used to denote the Horror comic revival seen in the 1960s but is used in regard to superhero books from c. 1970 to 1985-86 crossover maxi-series, Crisis on Infinite Earths. The Bronze Age retained many of the conventions of the Silver Age, including Earth-One, with brightly colored superhero titles remaining the mainstay of the industry. However darker plot elements and more mature storylines featuring real-world issues, such as drug use, began to appear during the period.
Many characters and events from the Bronze Age are said to be germain to the continuity of Earth-One.
Iron/Modern Age (c. 1985 - present)
The Modern Age is the informal term applied to a specific period of comic book publishing history. Following the Bronze Age era, DC's Modern Age is largely recognized as beginning with the 1985-86 crossover maxi-series, Crisis on Infinite Earths. Crisis yielded not only the end of an era, but also the an omniversal reboot of the internal history of most of their major projects. In this period, comic book characters generally became darker and more psychologically complex, creators became better-known and active in changing the industry, independent comics flourished, and larger publishing houses became more commercialized
Most of the Modern Age continuity occurred on New Earth which was replaced by Prime Earth in the aftermath of Flash: Flashpoint Flashpoint (2011)
Some people follow the Greek tradition of ages and call the Modern Age the Iron Age which not only implies that it is "inferior" to the Bronze age (due to gimmick covers/stories, stories written for trades, and other factors) but also to accent the focus on grim and gritty stories.
Iron Age also (likely unintentionally) makes reference to Nebuchadnezzar's statue of Gold, Silver, Bronze, and Iron-Clay. With DC the Iron-Clay analogy fits very well as it hasn't really had a stable main Earth since Crisis with New Earth getting at least three "soft" reboots (Zero Hour, JLA/Avengers, and Infinite Crisis) and Prime Earth getting one (the merging of the New Earth and Prime Earth Supermen as seen in Action Comics #976 which resulted in "A new, existence-wide, single reality, rebuilt from two.")
- The era was kickstarted by the publishing of Action Comics #1 in June, 1938, which featured the first appearance of Superman and the superhero. Superman became extremely popular. Soon, superheroes dominate the pages of comic books from both DC Comics, Marvel Comics, and Fawcett Comics.
- Go to the DC Database for more on Showcase, Vol. 1 #4 (October, 1956).
- Go to Wikipedia.org for more on Strange Adventures (August-September 1950).
- Go to the DC Database for more on Detective Comics, Vol. 1 #225 (October, 1956).
- Dark, gritty and easily malleable