Copper Age of Comics (1986-1992)
1986 was a watershed year in comic history and is widely regarded as the dawn of the Copper Age. The Bronze Age saw an explosion of more sophisticated work, narratively and artistically - this trend of progressively darker, edgier material continued into the 80s and 90s. Also characteristic of the Copper era is the rise of the independent market, saturation of comic book speculators, and the domination of X-Men titles.
Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns, Alan Moore's Watchmen, and the DCU Crisis on Infinite Earths - all in publication in 1986, were epic in scope and complex work that delivered direct inspiration for what was to come in the superhero genre. This led to the so-called "British invasion", most notable works being Neil Gaiman's Sandman and Grant Morrison's Animal Man and Doom Patrol. By way of deconstructing iconic characters and resetting an entire universe, the comic medium gained respect by a larger audiences - the hip factor kicked in.
Creator-owned, independent publishers like Dark Horse, Pacific and Valiant Comics benefited from direct sales local comic shops, allowing them to circumvent the Comic Code and offer unrestricted mature content. From this development, we get the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Usagi Yojimbo, and Groo. We also begin to see a rise in speculators, snatching up #1 issues in hopes of the next big thing, but reality saw differently. Read more...
In the 70s, Chris Claremont revitalized the X-Men, garnering critical acclaim and awards along the way. With the enormous success of the title, spin-offs were released throughout the 80s: The New Mutants, Alpha Flight, Power Pack, X-Factor, Excalibur and X-Force.
By the early 90s, artists Todd McFarlane, Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld achieved rock-star status for their work on Spider-Man, X-Men and New Mutants / X-Force, respectively. Leveraging their massive success, they exited Marvel and founded Image Comics, a creator-owned publishing with four other artists. This event would take us into what is now typically considered the Modern Age of comics.