What we think of as the modern comic book first appeared in 1933. Since then comics history has been carved up into a sequence of different eras called “Ages”. Most comics historians have slightly different definitions of these Ages, but here are mine:

Golden Age (1938 – 1949)

While comics had been around for half a decade prior to the first appearance of Superman in Action Comics 1, any Golden Age has to start with the big blue boy scout. It ended with the fall of super-hero comics and the rise of horror, crime and romance titles.

Atomic Age (1950 – 1955)

Basically, the time when EC Comics were the best things being published. Comics copied the then-current penchant for sci-fi horror movies.

Silver Age (1956 – 1968)

Starts with the revival of the Flash in Showcase 4, engineered by Julie Schwartz. That ultimately led to the return of the super-hero as a viable comics genre, and gave a new lease of life to the company we now know as Marvel comics. I’d place the end of the Silver Age as being the publication of Captain Marvel (Mar-Vell), the last of the major Stan Lee co-creations of the 60s. Marvel entered self-parody with Not Brand Echh, and Carmine Infantino ascended to Editorial Director at DC. Both Marvel and DC were sold to large conglomerates.

Bronze Age (1970 – 1980-ish)

Jack Kirby left Marvel to create the Fourth World material for DC. Marvel started publishing Conan the Barbarian, ushering in a new kind of comic that proved very influential. Possibly the Age might end with Jack Kirby’s departure from comics in 1978. I don’t think of any 80s comics as being Bronze Age, though 1985’s Crisis on Infinite Earths was clearly the end of some kind of era.

Dark Age (1986 – 1991)

Following the mainstream success of Dark Knight and Watchmen, publishers suddenly decided that giving previously light-hearted characters a grim ‘n’ gritty makeover was a good idea.

Im Age (1992 – 1996)

A time when comics publishers were far more concerned with image over content. The artist became superstar and storytelling took a nosedive. Comics were released with multiple covers and ludicrous gimmicks such as glow-in-the-dark and die cut panels. The Age came crashing down when Marvel bought Heroes World and attempted to distribute its own comics resulting in failure, near-bankruptcy, and the collapse of the direct market.

Modern Age
(1997 – )

Pretty much where we are now.