Modern Age of Comics (1993-present)
The least defined of all the ages, the Modern age (or the "Dark Age" or the "Iron Age") is still in progress to this day. So far in this period, we have seen the industry nearly collapse, the death of Superman, characters rebooted, blockbuster movie adaptations, and the medium go digital.
Like the preceding ages, there is much debate over when it began. We will mark the dawn of this era with the founding of Image Comics and the rise of the new speculator market. In the early 90s, Spider-Man #1, X-Men #1, and X-Force #1 made record sales, selling well over millions of copies. The artists behind these titles, Todd McFarlane, Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld decided to break their ties with Marvel and found Image Comics, a publishing company where creators own and control their property. The artists gained unprecedented rock-star status whose titles Spawn, Savage Dragon, and WildC.A.T.s were released with much success and countless variants. Speculators came in droves and soon the market was glutted with massive print runs and new series, not just by Image, but also Marvel and DC. To increase sales, DC fell victim to such gimmicks as the death of Superman and Bane breaking Batman's back. Sales plummeted, comic shops closed and in 1996, the Mighty Marvel declared bankruptcy. Read more...
Toward the end of the 90s, Marvel rebounded and introduced the Ultimate series for many of their flagship titles, reinventing characters and retelling their origins. With new writers and artists, the MCU got a reboot to the acclaim of many fans. Marvel enters mainstream attracting a new and larger audience by adapting their properties to film, starting with Blade in 1998. X-Men, Spider-Man and Hulk would follow, but the Marvel Cinema Universe was not fully set in motion until Iron Man in 2007. DC and Warner Bros. offered a more grim and grittier style with Christopher Nolan's Batman, Zack Snyder's Man of Steel and the Justice League. Comic-based films continue to set box-office records.
To a large extent, the impact of the massive mainstream exposure of comics can be measured by the incredible demand it has fueled for key and important comic books and their corresponding record-breaking sales figures. Consider Action Comics #1, a mid to high grade copy in the 1980s sold within the range of $85-150K. In 2014, the highest graded copy sold for $3.2 million and mid-grades are about to embark the $1 million mark.
In the last 25 years, some of the best sophisticated and exciting work have come to grace the comic medium. Notable titles are Walking Dead, Preacher, Saga, Fables, Hellboy, Y the Last Man, Kick-Ass, Bendis' Daredevil, and New 52 Batman.