Part of being a comic book lover is arguing about subtleties with characters, movies, and stories. One of those discussions is, when does the Copper Age start and end?
I’d like to look at this from 3 different perspectives and then blend them together at the end.
The DC perspective –
Some argue that Crisis on Infinite Earths #1 is the kind of dramatic event that should warrant a change of age. In that twelve part series, Wolfman and Perez reworked the DC multiverse starting in April 1985. It was an attempt to clarify the layers and worlds in DC.
Tales of the Teen Titans 44 from July 1984 had Dick Grayson become Nightwing for the first time. Once again Wolfman and Perez were the writer/artist combo. Is that a big enough event? It’s important but not an age-defining event.
Batman 357 was released in March 1983 and features the first appearance of Jason Todd and Killer Croc. Jason Todd, who becomes Robin, is a key figure in Batman, especially in the Copper Age. (Think Batman 428 and his death) Killer Croc moves from unknown character to an important part of Batman’s rogue gallery.
So considering the DC perspective 1985 is most likely while 1983 is a contender.
The end of the copper age strictly from a DC perspective is the Death of Superman in Superman #75 on Jan. 1993. That event garnered media attention and hype around the world.
Copper Age DC only 1985 to 1993
The Marvel Perspective –
What were the big events that could signal the beginning of a new era? For Marvel, Secret Wars which took place mostly in 1984 was an enormous spectacle. Spider-Man comes home with a new costume that turns out to be an alien which turns into one of his greatest villains, Venom.
1982 was another big year for Marvel with the second appearance of Rocket Raccoon in Hulk 271 and Elektra dying in Daredevil 181. The Wolverine mini-series and G I. Joe #1 came out in the same year. Wolverine is one of the primary figures in the Copper age with several guest appearances, usually fights, in comics of the time. Are those four things enough?
From a Marvel only perspective, 1984 is the most likely and 1982 is second.
The end of the copper age needs to include Carnage, whose first appearance was April 1992, because he is tied to Venom. The 14 part Maximum Carnage series was one of the big events of 1993.
Copper Age Marvel only 1984 – 1993
The Alternative Press Perspective
It’s impossible to have a serious discussion about the Copper Age without mentioning the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. They started in a garage and grew into a marketing phenomenon with television shows, comics, toys, and a million other things. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 came out in May 1984.
1984 also included the first appearance of Usagi Yojimbo and Flaming Carrot. Considered together, 1984 is the clear winner.
The ending is a bit more difficult because some view the arrival of Image Comics in April 1992 with Youngblood #1 as the end of the Copper Age. Adding to that, Valiant Comics released Harbinger #1 in January 1992. But aren’t both of those companies just a continuation of the alternative press movement? They were bigger and flashier but in essence, they were DC and Marvel alternatives. Image and Valiant are like the crescendo to the Copper Age. Consider the similarities of Todd McFarlane’s Spider-Man #1 and his Image Spawn #1 or Jim Lee’s X-men #1 and his Image WildC.A.T.S. #1. The arrival of Image Comics isn’t a dividing point for fans, it’s a continuation.
The Turtles who dominate the top spots in the Copper Age started in 1984 and ended their first series in August 1993.
Copper Age Alternative only 1984 – 1992 or 1993
When you combine the publishers together it becomes clear that the Copper Age should be 1984 to 1993. Looking around the internet you can find four or five versions of when the Copper Age starts and ends. 1993 is never chosen as the ending point and yet Superman’s Death, Carnage’s big event, and TMNT’s end all happen there. 1993 was also when the comic book investor bubble burst. The speculators who had been driving up prices on key issues were left with empty pockets and full long boxes. 1993 makes sense because it was the end of an era of constant increases.
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