Bronze Age Of Comic Books
The Bronze Age Of Comic Books is a period of time from the mid-1970s until around 1985, during which a number of notable comic books were created and published.
An Introduction to the Bronze Age
There is no single event that comic experts agree signified the start of the Bronze Age, though at the same time there was a marked change in the overall tone of many popular books in the early 70s that many consider to herald the start.
In general, Bronze Age comics are noted for their darker tone and for addressing some particularly gritty and (some might say) risqué storylines. For example, several comics by two of the largest publishing houses, DC Comics and Marvel, began to run storylines highlighting themes such as drug abuse. Such storylines had previously been banned by the Comics Code Authority.
During this period, comics also presented readers with moral debate and social commentary, with several minority superheroes being introduced and groups such as Marvel’s X-Men facing racial discrimination. The Bronze Age also saw a rise in the popularity of non-superhero comics, such as Conan the Barbarian, Swamp Thing and even Scrooge McDuck.
As with its start, there is no commonly accepted end-point for the Bronze Age, though most consider 1985s ‘Crisis on Infinite Earths’ from DC and ‘Secret Wars’ from Marvel to be major turning points in series continuity from both houses, signifying the start of the Modern Age.
Guide to Collecting
Bronze Age comics are a good option for a new collector, as the prices of many Golden and Silver Age comics now make them unattainable for many people.
They are likely to become more popular, rare and valuable as time goes on, as more members of the generations that grew up reading them become nostalgic and start building collections. The time is ripe for collecting them before this happens and prices are driven up.
There are many titles that already regularly appear at auction, and some that can fetch fairly sizable values when in good condition.
Comic book collectors who are interested in Bronze Age comics have a large selection of notable titles to choose from. It is therefore sensible to concentrate a collection further, on one publisher, series, writer, illustrator, or character to give a collection focus and an attainable goal.
Some Bronze Age comics have been vastly influential, particularly on the darker and more psychologically complex mood of the Modern Age that followed. These influential works are likely to be quite valuable in the future, having had such a strong effect on the history of comic book creation and direction.
As well as new runs of popular Golden and Silver age titles, there are many fascinating more obscure titles that arose in the Bronze Age. Some titles were short lived, printed in small runs, and therefore quite rare. If they become sought after in the future they are likely to rise in value.
Bronze Age comics can be found sometimes at auction, at comic book fairs and conventions, through dealers, in some comic book stores, and via eBay.
Original artwork for Bronze Age comics is also a popular area for collectors, some original pieces fetching extremely high prices at auction.
Valuations and Notable Auctions
For valuations of Bronze Age (or any other) comics, an ideal site to visit is Comics Price Guide, which is where all valuations in this article are taken from. Please note that valuations are for near-mint editions.
One of the most sought-after non-superhero Bronze Age comics is Whitman’s ‘Uncle Scrooge’ #179 (Sep, ’80). The main reason for its popularity is its rarity; there are thought to only be 50 copies in existence. The issue is valued at $400, however a copy was sold through Heritage Auctions (HA) on 25/02/2010 for $1,314.50. Interestingly, another popular Bronze Age comic, Marvel’s ‘Iron Fist’ #14 (Aug ’77), also sold through HA for the same price on 15/11/2007. This issue is valued at $560. In a similar price range is DC Comics’ ‘DC 100 Page Super Spectacular’ #5 (’71), a collection of love stories valued at $2,000, sold on HA for $1,553.50 on 10/08/2006.
Selling for almost twice this amount in an auction on HA on 26/02/2009 is DC Comics’ ‘All Star Western’ #10 (Nov/Dec ’71), featuring the first appearance of the character Jonah Hex. The item sold for $3,346, despite being valued at $1,800. Also from DC Comics is ‘House of Secrets’ #92 (July ’71), featuring the first appearance of Swamp Thing. This issue is valued at $2,400 and sold through HA for $4,140 on 15/07/2003.
A comic that is considered to be among the most sought-after (though for which no valuation could be found) is Marvel’s ‘Giant-Size X-Men’ #1 (May ’75). This was a one-shot publication intended to introduce a new team to a flagging title. There have been several auctions of this issue, but a stand-out sale price was through HA on 13/05/2006, where a copy sold for $4,481.25. Intended to follow on from this in series continuity was ‘Uncanny X-Men’ #94 (Aug ’75), where readers saw the new team in action for the first time. This issue is valued at $2,800 and a copy sold (rather uniquely) on eBay in 2004 for $4,450.
Another publication for which no valuation is available is Aardvark-Vanaheim’s ‘Cerebus’ #1. In terms of Bronze Age auction sales; this issue has one of the highest sale prices, with a copy selling through HA for $7,767.50 on 25/02/2010.
Among the highest sale prices for Bronze Age titles, few have brought in more than Marvel’s ‘Amazing Spider-Man’ #129 (Feb ’74), which is popular for featuring the very first appearance of The Punisher and is valued at just $2,000. On 28/02/2008, a copy of this issue far surpassed this valuation and sold on HA for a staggering $14,340.
Record Breaking Sales
The comics listed above do not bring in a fraction of the sale prices of some of the more notable Silver and Golden Age comic books, but this does not make them any less sought-after. If one were to enquire as to the highest value ever paid for a Bronze Age title, they would discover that there are three books that have fought for the top spot. Perhaps even more surprising is that two of these titles have amongst the lowest valuations of any mentioned.
In third place for highest sale price is Marvel’s ‘Star Wars’ #1 (Jul ’77). This title in near-mint condition is only valued at $100 and it is possible to obtain a copy through auction for not much more than this. However, in June 2011, Comic Link held an auction in which a copy of this title was bought for $21,805.
Another Marvel comic that vastly exceeded its valuation price was ‘The Incredible Hulk’, Vol. 2, #181 (Nov ’74). This issue featured the very first full-length appearance of fan-favourite Wolverine and despite its $3,600 valuation a copy was bought on HA for $26,290 on 21/05/2009.
But, holding the top spot for the highest valued Bronze Age comic (twice in fairly quick succession), is the DC Comics title that is considered by many fans and collectors alike to have been the very first publication in the Bronze Age. This was ‘Green Lantern’ #76 (Apr ’70), which is only valued at $160. In June 2009, Comic Connect was host to an auction for this issue that broke the record for highest value Bronze Age comic when a copy was sold for $30,500. Then later, on 18/11/2010, the comic broke the record once again on Heritage Auctions, where this time a copy was bought for a staggering $37,343.75, making it (at the time of writing) the most expensive Bronze Age comic ever sold at auction.
The Bronze Age of Comics is noted for the dark and gritty tone of its storylines. Fans and collectors alike praise the books of this era for tackling social issues that other media would not touch upon. Whilst the comics from this time may not carry the value of some of their Silver and Golden Age predecessors, this makes them no less desirable to the comic book collecting community.