[[quoteright:136:http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/theironage_4161.png]]
[[caption-width-right:136:The birth of a new generation, to an all-new world.]]

->''"You'll Believe A Man Can Fly!"''
-->-- Superman Tagline

TheIronAgeOfComicBooks is a different interpretation of comic history that sees the TheDarkAgeOfComicBooks and TheModernAgeOfComicBooks as one period. This age can be defined with its {{Retcon}}s, {{Reboot}}s, {{Retool}}s and {{Alternate Universe}}s that were deemed necessary after about fifty years of accumulated continuity threatening to create a ContinuityLockOut to new readers.

TheDCU released CrisisOnInfiniteEarths in 1985, a CrisisCrossover that created the PostCrisis universe that removed [[TheSilverAgeOfComicBooks the Silver Age's]] [[ShooOutTheClowns excesses]], in an attempt to make the stories more serious and plausible now given the opportunity to do so. JimShooter tried to mirror a move to realistic seriousness in MarvelComics with TheNewUniverse imprint, but this did not have good critical reaction at the time and thus Marvel would have to try again later, but they did put in their effort, the NewMutants, as a part of the cultural atmosphere of the time, but this was not nearly as ground breaking of an effort as TheNewUniverse was.

This zeitgeist of attempted plausibility and new found seriousness in superhero comic books is reflected in Creator/AlanMoore's [[{{Deconstruction}} Watchmen]] and FrankMiller's Comicbook/BatmanTheDarkKnightReturns, both released in 1986. As well, the DC imprint VertigoComics also followed suit in tone, coming to its zenith with ComicBook/TheSandman in 1989. The turn to seriousness, especially in Comicbook/BatmanTheDarkKnightReturns also inspired the efforts of the Film/{{Batman}} film in 1989 and WesternAnimation/BatmanTheAnimatedSeries in 1992.

Perhaps because of the new blank slate attitude that prevailed PostCrisis, new comic book companies remerged, like Creator/DarkHorseComics in 1986 and ValiantComics in 1989. They published such acclaimed works as ComicBook/{{Hellboy}} and SinCity, as well as releasing works like Manga/{{Akira}}, perhaps because this tone of serious and plausible now matched Japan's similar sense of serious and plausible, not to mention [[JapanTakesOverTheWorld the economic success of Japan at the time as well.]] Other new companies include ImageComics founded in 1992, which was a major TropeCodifier for the NinetiesAntiHero, in {{Spawn}} and most of Rob Liefeld's work. However these excesses quickly collapsed somewhere around 1996 due in part to the TheGreatComicsCrashOf1996.

Also cutting down on the excesses from inside the pages of a comic book was ComicBook/KingdomCome in 1996, which reminded writers and artists of the time that the goal was to be seriously realistic, not cynically gritty. Afterwards, {{Transmetropolitan}} was published in 1997, a celebrated work of plausible scientific rigor as well as reflecting the general tone of the period without dipping too far into the grittiness so as to be ridiculous.

Speaking of ridiculous, MarvelComics was beginning to struggle majorly with its properties, especially SpiderMan, who was knee deep in the ContinuitySnarl that was the Clone Saga. Perhaps trying to find wiggle room continuity-wise and to provide sources of much needed revenue, Marvel created such shows as SpiderManTheAnimatedSeries, the [[WesternAnimation/{{X-Men}} Astonishing X-Men]] animated series, the IncredibleHulk animated series, the WesternAnimation/FantasticFour animated series and the IronMan animated series. Perhaps encouraged with the success of these works set in a alternate continuity and the potential new audience that was fostered by it, they gave the new universe thing a try again in 2000 with UltimateMarvel, and sales returned once again.

This effort with animation from both DC and Marvel helped spawn the new flow of superhero blockbusters, including the SpiderMan films, Film/TheDarkKnightSaga, and Film/{{Watchmen}} among others. The Iron Age carries probably some of the greatest public awareness of superheroes than any other age due to the nice fresh starts, many a animated series, and successful blockbusters all getting the word out about this medium, fostering a new generation of ComicBook fans.

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!!Notable series of the Iron Age:

* CrisisOnInfiniteEarths: The CrisisCrossover that started them all, and helped kick start the Iron Age.
* ComicBook/{{Watchmen}}: Though not affecting continuity, it definitely influenced the tone of comic books for years to come.
* Comicbook/BatmanTheDarkKnightReturns: Not only did this effect comic books, but helped to shape a new, serious, plausible Franchise/{{Batman}} that was the basis of many film series' and animated series'.
* ''ComicBook/{{Hellboy}}'' Debuted in 1994. [[LegionsOfHell A demon]] [[TheEndOfTheWorldAsWeKnowIt who is destined to bring about the apocalypse]] fights Nazis and Lovecraftian abominations with [[{{BFG}} a huge gun]] and the title character himself is a huge mass of psychological issues. The premise itself is very DarkAge, but the series actually isn't GrimDark. Hellboy is shown to give very good advice, and enjoys pancakes.
* ComicBook/{{Venom}} went from being an evil version of Spider-Man, to an AntiHero, to a NinetiesAntiHero with his own book, before his symbiote split and bonded to an AxeCrazy SerialKiller, creating Carnage, an evil(er) version of Venom.
* ''{{Spawn}}'' (The scion of {{Image}} and the model for its many imitators)
* ''ThePunisher'' (This pre-existing ultra-violent AntiHero VigilanteMan's stock went way, way up)
* ''Franchise/{{Batman}}: [[ComicBook/BatmanYearOne Year One]]'' (Went hand-in-hand with ''Comicbook/BatmanTheDarkKnightReturns'' in defining Frank Miller's vision of the Caped Crusader)
** Other Dark Age ''Franchise/{{Batman}}'' stories include ''Comicbook/TheKillingJoke'', ''A Death in the Family'', and ''{{Knightfall}}''. The first modern Film/{{Batman}} movie also came out during this era.
* ''{{Wolverine}}'', like the Punisher and Batman, was a preexisting hero who attained new heights of popularity because he fit the grim and gritty trend; his regular series began in 1988, and WolverinePublicity spread like Kudzu.
* {{Lobo}}, though a character and not a series, was created as a parody of [[NinetiesAntiHero this kind of hero]], and quickly [[MisaimedFandom gained popularity]] ''[[MisaimedFandom as]]'' [[MisaimedFandom one]].
* ''ComicBook/MarshalLaw'' was also a parody of this era's excesses, although it actually [[UnbuiltTrope anticipated many of them]].
* ''Comicbook/{{Witchblade}}'', one of the few long-lasting books of that time period, which spawned a [[Series/{{Witchblade}} TV show]], [[Anime/{{Witchblade}} anime]], and manga, with an upcoming movie.
* ''JudgeDredd'' was another example of Misaimed Fandom on a pre-existing character. Unfortunately, the US fans and Hollywood missed what was blatant to the original 2000 AD readers: that Dredd was a rare satirical character played straight instead of for humor.
* ''{{Supreme}}'' started out as a straight example about "What if Superman was a huge jerk", but when Alan Moore came on, this trend was parodied with "Grim 80s Supreme" as one of the previous incarnations living in the Supremacy. Later they would introduce his archenemy Grim 80s Demented Tittering Transvestite Serial Killer Darius Dax (Dax is normally Lex Luthor with hair, so you can tell how big a stretch that characterization is) and Grim 80s Traumatized Diana Dane.
** The Malibu Comics flagship title ''Prime'' was created with the same purpose in mind, and also ended up being a deconstruction of the era once that company folded and sold all their assets to Marvel.
* ''DeathMate'', the crossover that is often blamed for [[TheGreatComicsCrashOf1996 the comics crash.]]
* ''ZeroHour'': A 1994 CrisisCrossover from DCComics. Relatively tame by this page's standards, it was nonetheless about a SilverAge hero's descent into madness, forcing his friends to fight and apparently kill him. Also featured the deaths of many surviving GoldenAge JusticeSocietyOfAmerica characters in a brutally quick and dismissive fashion.
* ''ComicBook/TheSandman'' Began in 1989, ended in 1996. One of the most successful and critically acclaimed comic series of TheNineties.
* ''TransformersGeneration2'' actually took this time in its stride, further deepening the series mythos and taking full advantage of AnyoneCanDie. It mostly failed due to the unrealistic sales expectations being placed upon the series. (It actually sold ''better'' than some titles that are considered quite successful.)
* ''Comicbook/{{Starman}}'', which started out as a spinoff of ''ZeroHour'' but surpassed its originator in terms of quality. A thorough exploration of the LegacyCharacter concept that delved into DC's rich history like few comics before it and helped lead the way to the ModernAge.
* Perhaps the best remembered CrisisCrossover of TheNineties, the ''ComicBook/AgeOfApocalypse'' event which had all X-men comics put on hold for several months so as to explore a dystopian alternate timeline where the X-men never existed.
** Possibly a {{Deconstruction}}, because world fared [[ApocalypseHow exactly as well]] as you'd expect it to do under the rule of a superpowered psychopath. Also, [=AoA=] ''did'' make the difference between heroes and villains pretty clear.
* ''Comicbook/TheCrow'', first published in 1989, is about a brooding pretty boy goth who comes back from the dead to take revenge on the gang that murdered him and his girlfriend by killing them in brutal and symbolic ways. It spawned [[TheCrowStairwayToHeaven a TV Show]] and [[Franchise/TheCrow a few movies]], briefly becoming a Gothic icon.
* XForce, the ComicBook/{{X-Men}} spin off that gave the world Cable, Deadpool, and, for better or worse, launched the career of RobLiefeld.
* ComicBook/KingdomCome: a harsh {{Deconstruction}} of the Dark Age and the NinetiesAntiHero archetype. As good a starting point for the modern age as any other, set into motion many of trends such as {{Reconstruction}}, LighterAndSofter, and GenreThrowback, to earlier ages, and comics that you need to purchase entire companion books in order to understand every reference. It was also a key factor in the declining popularity of the NinetiesAntiHero in favor of more traditional Silver Age archetypes.
* Grant Morrison's ''[[JusticeLeagueOfAmerica JLA]]'', which brought back the bright, shiny heroes in huge, epic plots. Began in 1997, one year after ComicBook/KingdomCome, and helped to [[TropeCodifier Codify]] many of the concepts and trends introduced by ComicBook/KingdomCome, and did more to [[{{Reconstruction}} Reconstruct]] the Main DCU than any other series.
** Also by Morrison, ''[[ComicBook/AllStarDCComics All-Star]] [[ComicBook/AllStarSuperman Superman]],'' an AlternateUniverse take on {{Superman}} that uses various Silver Age tropes to tell the story of a Superman who is nearing the end of his life. Also notable for the scene in which [[CrowningMomentOfAwesome Superman punches out the Tyrant Sun.]]
* UltimateMarvel, featuring updated versions of all the various Marvel characters without years of continuity, and with artists and writers being given free rein to change the characters in any way they wanted, or retell classic storylines in new ways (such as Carnage being responsible for the death of Gwen Stacy for example).
* ''ComicBook/{{Invincible}}'', probably the most successful indie hero of recent years. It starts with SilverAge four-color heroics, subverts them with PlotTwist reveals, reconstructs them in a post-modern setting, as well as having a great deal of incredibly graphic violence showing the effects of superheroes not holding back against their opponents.
* ''Comicbook/CivilWar'', which combined a long-term change to the status quo of the MarvelUniverse with an attempt at large-scale political commentary.
* The entire Marvel Comics Siege [[MetaPlot macro crisis]] was a DeconstructorFleet of the entire Marvel Comics universe, the ReedRichardsIsUseless trope, and the idea of the superhero in general:
** It starts with Avengers Dissembled showing what happens when you entrust the world to a set few ultra powerful humans, followed by House of M showing what happens when the super humans take over.
** Civil War addressed the stupidity of having the government let walking A-bombs blow themselves up in New York every day, while simultaneously showing how said government control plans would fail. This is shown in the ''deliberate'' {{Flanderization}} of Captain America and Iron Man showing how both sides are pretty stupid. This was also exposited in the what-if story arc when both sides find a balance and thus achieve peace.
** Dark Reign then deconstructed the entire "Lone Cop saves the world and gets promoted" genre by showing exactly what would happen if said psychopaths were really appointed to such positions of power, whilst Thor, Reed Richards and Iron Man's tenures as God, Guardian and Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. in each of their individual story arcs show how each quest to "fix" the world leads to disaster.
** Then the New Captain America saga had a deconstruction of the Sidekick.
** The idea of power and potential is again brought up in The Hood's recent story, showing what happens if all the D-listers in the universe eventually got together and actually ''applied'' their powers, while the Current Mighty Avengers show how these super teams affect the political climate.
** The Illuminati is in itself a deconstruction of large hero collaborations (and how they lead to failure i.e. the Secret invasion) and its counterpart "The Cabal" showed just how incapable a society of villains would be at functioning. All this is paralleled by the Annihilation series depicting exactly what kind of galaxy is filled with empires that invade and blow stuff up on a daily basis and exactly how disillusioned it makes characters. Seeing [[spoiler: Black Bolt]] turn to insanity was just further reconfirmation of what a world Cosmic Marvel is.
** The Nova Corps pretty much deconstructed all Space Cop tropes with its nigh-omnipotent band of non-sanctioned super soldiers and exactly how that would affect any political situation.
** The Decimation arcs in X-Men show exactly how humans would react to mutants if the odds were evened.
** The Secret arcs show what exactly being a ''real'' spy means and all the details it entails.
** And finally, Siege shows the reconstruction, revealing that after all this, heroes are still heroes no matter what.
* ''ComicBook/FiftyTwo'' from DCComics, which was the first full-length narrative comic to ship on a weekly basis for ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin