The Bronze Age


1972 Beginning of the “Bronze Age” (or “Third Age”)
» With an influx of horror and crime comics comes an influx of comics tackling more adult, social issues.

1974
» Marvel Comics introduces a vigilante anti-hero in the form of The Punisher (Frank Castle). The character makes his first appearance in Spider-Man #129 as an antagonist of Spider-Man. A Vietnam veteran, The Punisher seeks to execute all criminals after his family is murdered by mobsters. Similar to the 1970 adaptation of Conan, The Punisher represents change in the type of heroes appearing in comic books. Unlike the standard merciful hero, The Punisher is bloodthirsty and does not hesitate to kill his opponents.

1976
» Marvel Comics begins publishing Marvel Classics Comics - a series of adaptations of classic literary works.
» Harvey Pekar publishes his first issue of American Splendor, illustrated by his friend R. Crumb.

1977
» Marvel Comics publishes what it bills as the first feminist heroine: Ms. Marvel. Appearing in Ms. Marvel #1, she is given the subtitle “This Female Fights Back!” Prior to 1977, she appeared in 1968's Marvel Super-Heroes #13 as Carol Danvers - a member of the U.S. Air Force who was devoid of super powers.
» Also in this year, National Lampoon publishes Heavy Metal, a European-style comic magazine which consists of modern European comic artists.

1978: The Graphic Novel
» Empire: A Visual Novel by Samuel R. Delany and illustrated by Howard Chaykin, is published by major book publisher Berkley Books and is sold in bookstores as well as traditional outlets.
» Marvel Comics publishes The Silver Surfer by Stan Lee (follow Stan Lee on Twitter: @TheRealStanLee) and Jack Kirby.
» Francis Mouly and Art Spiegelman begin publishing Raw. (Visit Art Spiegelman  on Facebook.)
» Will Eisner publishes his graphic novel A Contract With God and Other Tenement Stories.

1981
» The Hernandez Brothers publish the first issue of Love and Rockets.

1982: The Comic Book Store
» A rise in speciality distribution outlets - “comic book stores” - directed at collectors, allows a direct market to develop for even relatively small, short run, independant comic books, thus creating a boom of alternative comic books and small publishers.
» EC publishes Sabre by Don McGregor and Paul Gulacy.

1983
» Kitchen Sink Press appears on the scene with Will Eisner’s The Spirit.

1985
» Marvel publishes the first “user's guide” with the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe.

1986
» DC Comics revives both Superman in The Man of Steel and Batman in Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns.
» DC Comics launches Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibson.
» Marvel Comics publishes a retelling of the Vietnam War in The ‘Nam.
» Art Spiegelman publishes Volume I of Maus (“My Father Bleeds History”).

1987
» First Publishing gets the rights to publish Japanese “manga” comic Lone Wolf and Cub, beginning an influx of manga onto the American comic book scene.


1988
» The first issues of Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman goes on sale.

1991
» Art Spiegelman publishes Volume II of Maus (“And Here My Troubles Began”).

1992
» Art Spiegelman’s Maus wins the Pulitzer Prize.

1997
» Daniel Clowes’ series Ghost World, originally published as part of his comic book series Eightball, is published as a collection.

Late 90s - Present: The Current Age
» Big budget Hollywood blockbusters revive interest in classic superheroes. Superhero comics become increasingly dark. There is a boom in post-apocalyptic narratives, and a revival of interest in vampire, and zombie stories.
» Large hardcover volumes of comic books “graphic novels” sell well at comic book stores, bookstores, and online. “alternative comics” thrive due to online publishing and specialty bookstores. comics make their way into classrooms, and increasing critical literature on comic books and graphic novels flood the academic publishing sphere.

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Sources:

Benton, Mike. (1989). The comic book in America: An illustrated history. Dallas, TX: Taylor Publishing Co.

Oropeza, B.J. (Ed.) (2005). The gospel according to superheroes: Religion and popular
culture
. New York, NY: Peter Lang.

Tychinski, S. (2004). A brief history of the graphic novel. Graphic Novels. Retrieved from
http://web.archive.org/web/20080603041720/http://www.graphicnovels.brodart.com/history.htm

Zanettin, F. (Ed.). (2008). Comics in translation. Manchester, UK: St. Jerome Publishing.