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[[caption-width-right:349:What the Bronze Age looked like. (For the essence of the Bronze Age "Relevance," see the image at VerySpecialEpisode.)]]

TheSilverAgeOfComicBooks was known for [[LighterAndSofter goofy, lighthearted and rather fantastic plots]], BlackAndWhiteMorality, and a general absence of mature themes. [[KryptoniteIsEverywhere Multicolored Kryptonite]], [[NonHumanSidekick dog sidekicks]], [[EverythingsBetterWithMonkeys telepathic gorillas]], and NewPowersAsThePlotDemands were all characteristic tropes. And then... well, TheSixties happened. And TheSeventies. Comics were swept up in the same social revolution fervor and post-Vietnam post-Watergate disillusionment as the rest of the USA. UsefulNotes/TheComicsCode gradually loosened, letting [[GrayAndGrayMorality morally ambiguous]] stories appear more often. Character conflict as a plot device became the rule, and horror comics reappeared on the shelves. Some comics dispensed with the stamp of the Code altogether.

Sources differ on when TheBronzeAgeOfComicBooks started and [[TheSilverAgeOfComicBooks the Silver Age]] ended. The most inclusive definition is that it started in 1970, when Jack Kirby left [[MarvelComics Marvel]] to work for [[DCComics DC]], bringing with him the characterization-based style that had become Marvel's trademark, and created his ambitious, if short-lived, FourthWorld titles. The same year saw the retirement of Mort Weisinger, Silver Age editor of the Comicbook/{{Superman}} titles. ''Amazing Comicbook/{{Spider-Man}}'' #96 and #97 were the first to abandon UsefulNotes/TheComicsCode entirely; these issues ran a US Government requested story with a strong anti-drug message, but the Code at the time didn't allow any references to drugs at all. Considering who asked for the story, StanLee decided to defy the censors and had the story published anyway. The issues sold well even with[[note]]Or perhaps ''because of''[[/note]] the controversy, and the gates were opened.

With the looser constraints of the Comics Code's 1971 revision, comics were free to address [[DarkerAndEdgier more mature issues]]. Creators were eager to prove to skeptical audiences that despite the Silver Age silliness that had become synonymous with the medium, comics could tell stories that were compelling to older readers. The Bronze Age is thus known for the first attempts to bring realism and adult issues to SuperHero comic books, themes which would later overtake the genre entirely in TheDarkAgeOfComicBooks. [[FanService Overt sexuality]] appeared; necklines came down and hemlines came up. The BreastPlate started to appear on female characters such as Red Sonja, while males like ConanTheBarbarian ran around with no shirt on. Religion also became available as a subject of discussion. TheLegionsOfHell started showing up, and religion-themed horror comics became popular. Perhaps most prominently, contemporary political issues appeared in comics for the first time since [[TheGoldenAgeOfComicBooks the Golden Age]]. For instance, CaptainAmerica went up against the Secret Empire, a conspiracy to take over the United States government whose leader was finally unmasked as a thinly veiled version of then-President RichardNixon, who then committed suicide in front of the superhero. This shook Cap so badly that he temporarily abandoned his hero identity, taking on the name, Nomad. Eventually, though, [[ToBeLawfulOrGood Cap realized he could champion the ideals of America without necessarily always supporting the government]], and returned to the red-white-and-blue.

Of course, the traditional Silver Age goofiness never entirely disappeared, leading to occasional moments of MoodWhiplash like {{Wolverine}} having a conversation with a leprechaun.

Non-white {{Super Hero}}es finally started to appear, although many were CaptainEthnic stereotypes lifted from the pop culture of the time -- big, tough [[ScaryBlackMan Scary Black Men]] with [[{{Blaxploitation}} afros and Jive Turkey dialogue]], [[AllAsiansKnowMartialArts Asian martial artists]] who spouted Confucian homilies[[note]]a notable subversion here being IronFist, who fits the bill in everything but one detail: he is not Asian[[/note]], and so on. But some writers managed to transcend these cliches, bringing the first hints of true diversity to the genre. Prominent characters such as {{Storm}} of the Comicbook/{{X-Men}}, Cyborg of the Comicbook/TeenTitans, and GreenLantern John Stewart were all created with this honest effort in mind. Similarly, more super''heroines'' began to show up on the scene, and established female superheroes became more confident, assertive and independent, taking a more active and prominent role in stories than they had in the Silver Age. The Invisible Girl realized she'd been [[DistressedDamsel holding herself back]] and renamed herself [[Comicbook/FantasticFour The Invisible Woman]], became more aggressive and resourceful about using her powers, and took over as leader of the Fantastic Four; Hawkgirl similarly became Hawkwoman and finally joined the JusticeLeagueOfAmerica. Perhaps this new emphasis on diversity explains why the Comicbook/{{X-Men}}, who had been around but relatively unsuccessful in the Silver Age, rocketed to prominence under writer Creator/ChrisClaremont and artists Dave Cockrum and Creator/JohnByrne. The core group underwent a {{Revival}} as a MultinationalTeam, and the books used the theme of anti-mutant prejudice to drive plotlines, allowing it to serve as a convenient metaphor for contemporary issues like racism and homophobia.

With contemporary relevance a major priority, existing characters experienced major changes as writers tried to "update" them for the times. Superman briefly lost his vulnerability to Kryptonite and quit his job at the ''Daily Planet'' to work as a TV Reporter. Wonder Woman was [[DorkAge infamously]] stripped of her powers and made to learn karate. While many of these changes were later undone, some, such as Batman becoming more gothic in tone, remain in place to this day. The Bronze Age was also the era when the FadSuper became most prominent. This was the era of superheroes who fought crime using football, transport trucks, and disco, all stemming from creators struggling to come up with new ideas for superheroes with varying degrees of success. While some characters created this way, such as Marvel's Comicbook/GhostRider, would develop cult followings, most would simply be swept under the rug and forgotten.

This was the time when many now-classic comic stories appeared -- epic story arcs that covered multiple issues, a radical departure from the self-contained stories of the [[TheSilverAgeOfComicBooks Silver]] and [[TheGoldenAgeOfComicBooks Golden]] Ages, which usually had the [[ResetButton status quo comfortably restored]] at the end of each issue. TheDarkPhoenixSaga deserves special mention as an epic storyline that not only put a female character in the TragicHero role, but ended with a major, well-established superhero KilledOffForReal -- and, just as unprecedented, her death was not immediately forgotten, but continued to affect the characters who had known her. The Bronze Age also saw Comicbook/{{Spider-Man}}'s girlfriend Gwen Stacy killed, an unprecedented move that sent shockwaves throughout the industry. It was the first time a superhero had failed in the attempt to save the life of his own LoveInterest, and as with the Phoenix Saga, characters who had known Gwen grieved over the course of multiple issues rather than immediately moving on. Perhaps more than any other single event, Gwen's death was a big red sign that the innocence of the Silver Age was over.

On the DC side, it was during this time that GreenLantern and GreenArrow teamed up for a groundbreaking socially conscious series where they [[VerySpecialEpisode tackled real-world problems facing society, such as racism, poverty, corruption, and drug abuse]]. Franchise/{{Batman}} began to return to his roots as a brooding, tortured vigilante, and his enemies (especially SelfDemonstrating/TheJoker) were allowed to kill again. They took full advantage of the privilege, as did other villains, who proved they would even kill main characters when the Reverse Flash murdered Iris West, wife of TheFlash, six years after the death of Gwen Stacy.

Not only the content but the format of comics was being experimented with. Comics creators were ready to take chances for the first time since the creation of UsefulNotes/TheComicsCode in the late 1950s. The first "{{graphic novel}}s" showed up, complete book-sized stories in a single volume. Black-and-white, non-Code-approved magazines appeared on the newsstands. Satirical comics, political comics, comics that pushed the envelope of art, many different gimmicks were thrown at the wall to see what would stick. At DC, this meant a boom of new titles, and larger comics with more pages dedicated to story, in what was called the "DC Explosion". Over 50 new titles were created. Unfortunately, most of these were later canceled in the infamous "DC Implosion" of 1978. With that debacle, the new management of DC picked up the pieces with more sensible moves like the LimitedSeries publishing concept, which allowed comics that could tell stories in deliberately short runs that don't have to trap the talent into unsustainable indefinite runs. In addition, the magazine, ''Heavy Metal'', introduced North American readers to translated continental European fantasy comics, which had an alluring content freedom and narrative daring undreamed of for native talents.

Some people consider this the time period when comics started getting more insular, creating today's view of the geekish, obsessed comic book fan. Certainly, the average age of readers increased, as the "adult" aspects grew more and more prominent in the books of the day. Eventually, this trend would take over the genre so completely it culminated in a new era, the [[TheDarkAgeOfComicBooks Dark Age]].

The Bronze Age's end is debated, including whether it has ended at all. One suggested turning point is 1986, when DC's ''CrisisOnInfiniteEarths'' concluded and ushered in a wholesale revision of the DC Universe, making the company a legitimate challenger to Marvel once more. In addition, the company published the seminal and highly influential miniseries ''ComicBook/{{Watchmen}}'' and ''Comicbook/BatmanTheDarkKnightReturns'', which introduced a new and darker take on the superhero genre. However, some works with DarkAge sensibilities such as Creator/AlanMoore's ''ComicBook/VForVendetta'' (1982), and FrankMiller's ''ComicBook/{{Ronin}}'' (1983) had debuted a few years previously. Even Marvel's ComicBook/ThePunisher, one of the key figures of the TheDarkAgeOfComicBooks, debuted as early as 1974!

The Bronze Age is underrepresented in the area of trade paperback and hardcover reprint collections. The Age ended just about the time such collections started happening ''at all,'' and they tended to be of ''recent'' material -- i.e., DarkAge material. When publishers started seriously collecting their earlier work in archival collections, they began at "the beginning", in the Gold and Silver Ages. Said collection series tended to peter out in sales before reaching the BronzeAge. (Notable exceptions are the X-Men and the Teen Titans, the two hottest books of the era.) In the case of DC, there are additional issues with clauses in creator contracts during the era which render collected reprint publication less financially rewarding for the company than earlier and later. Ergo, there are entire contiguous ''decades'' of mainstream comics which remain unavailable except in back-issue bins. Marvel has begun addressing this absence with its "Epic Collection" trade paperback line - an archival series released out-of-order, which has thus far prioritized Bronze Age material that has never been in print before.

!!Notable series of the Bronze Age:
* Jack Kirby's Fourth World cycle consisting of ''MisterMiracle'', ''TheNewGods'', ''ForeverPeople'', and ''JimmyOlsen''. (Kirby had just defected from Marvel. Indeed, a [[TakeThat thinly-veiled attack on]] StanLee appears in one of these books.) This introduced such popular characters as the BigBad {{Darkseid}}. He intended the story to work, after release, in what we would now call a graphic novel-style trade paperback format. Unfortunately, Kirby was ahead of his time and DC editor in chief, Carmine Infantino, pulled the plug when sales apparently didn't match the hype, although the characters soon became mainstays of TheDCU.
* The [[{{Satire}} satirical]] ''Comicbook/HowardTheDuck'' by Steve Gerber briefly outsold everything else in the DC/Marvel axis during a few years in the mid-to-late '70's. Had an infamous [[Film/HowardTheDuck film adaptation]] in 1986.
* ''GreenLantern''/''GreenArrow'' (tons of "relevant" storylines and political satire)
* ''LukeCageHeroForHire'' (first black SuperHero with his own series)
* ''Comicbook/{{X-Men}}'', which eventually became so popular it nearly took over the MarvelUniverse. The Bronze Age X-Men was defined by Creator/ChrisClaremont's long run as writer, which brought such classic storylines as the Phoenix Saga.
* ''[[Comicbook/TeenTitans The New Teen Titans]]'' became DC's answer to ''X-Men'', and was so successful a rework of a formerly failed property that it inspired the company to have the book's creative team do the same for the whole [[TheDCU DC Universe]] during and after ''CrisisOnInfiniteEarths''.
* The Superman story ''ComicBook/WhateverHappenedToTheManOfTomorrow'' by Creator/AlanMoore, released simultaneously in Superman and Action Comics in 1986, during the one month gap between the end of ''CrisisOnInfiniteEarths'' and the beginning of the ''[[Comicbook/TheManOfSteel Man of Steel]]'' reboot. It serves as a finale to the storyline of PreCrisis Superman, taking every element of Silver Age and Bronze Age Superman that was removed PostCrisis, and follows it to a dark, sad, (semi-)logical conclusion. This could easily be considered the last BronzeAge story, and a eulogy for the Silver Age as embodied in Superman.
* Britain's ''ComicBook/TwoThousandAD'', a weekly SciFi [[AnthologyComic anthology]] debuted in 1977. It would go on to launch the careers of many influential British comic writers and artists during the early [[TheEighties 80s]], including comics legend Creator/AlanMoore. Its most popular strip, ''ComicBook/JudgeDredd'', marks one of the earliest attempts at bringing moral ambiguity to the medium, and explored CyberPunk a full 7 years before ''Literature/{{Neuromancer}}'' was written. It also more or less ''created'' the British comic industry, and is to this day the most successful British comic series of all time.
* ''ComicBook/SwampThing'', both the original version (debuting in DC's horror series ''The House of Secrets'' in 1971), and the earliest part of [[Creator/AlanMoore Moore's]] celebrated run (beginning in 1984) came out during this period. As did TheMovie in 1983. Under Moore it became deeply political, dealing with themes such as race, feminism, environmentalism, and animal rights.
* ''ComicBook/{{Camelot 3000}}'', one of the first major direct market projects, and DC's first maxi-series. Also notable for its GenreBusting, political commentary, and for pushing the envelope in terms of adult content and themes.
* ''ComicBook/{{Miracleman}}''. The first uncompromising {{Deconstruction}}s of the superhero genre, by Creator/AlanMoore, of course. Once described as "Superman, but told as a horror story." Without Miracleman, there might not have been a ''ComicBook/{{Watchmen}}''.
* ''ComicBook/SecretWars''. Marvel got wind of DC's planned ComicBook/CrisisOnInfiniteEarths, and decided to release its own big crossover event to beat them to the punch. While it would never have the same far-reaching impact as ''Crisis'', it was still the first CrisisCrossover, and thus worthy of mention.
* ''[[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heavy_Metal_(magazine) Heavy Metal]]'', for more artsy, experimental and, frequently, sexual and violent content. It originated in France as ''Metal Hurlant''. The US version mixed European and original content.
* Marvel's ''ConanTheBarbarian'', as well as spin-off title ''The Savage Sword of Conan the Barbarian'' (usually just called "Savage Sword" for short), both the biggest [[HeroicFantasy sword and sorcery]] ComicBooks [[note]] but not the ''first'' sword and sorcery comic; that honour goes to little-known horror title ''Chamber of Darkness'' - specifically, the fourth issue, which starred Conan {{Expy}} Starr the Slayer, and came out [[OlderThanYouThink a whole six months before Conan the Barbarian #1]]. [[AndKnowingIsHalfTheBattle And now you know!]] [[/note]]
* ''SquadronSupreme'', a Marvel maxiseries by Mark Gruenwald, explored the ideas of superheroes taking over the world to create a utopia in a realistic manner, i.e. everything goes wrong by the end of the series. It was arguably the first serious exploration of "superheroes in the real world" in American comics, predating such works as ''ComicBook/{{Watchmen}}'' and ''ComicBook/KingdomCome''.
* ComicBook/JonahHex, the last great ComicBook {{Western}} character, was created during this period.
* ''The World of Krypton'', the first major limited series title, which gave the mainstream comics market a new publishing flexibility.
* FrankMiller's Daredevil, which dealt with a number of adult themes like the loss of loved ones, pornography, drug abuse, etc was a massive hit during this era.

Usually accepted as lasting from JackKirby's move to DC, to the publication of ''ComicBook/{{Watchmen}}'' and ''ComicBook/TheDarkKnightReturns'' (1970-1986). Alternatively starting when comics began costing 15 cents (1969) or Spider-Man #100 (1971).