Newsarama started a debate over what to call the period of the DC Universe from the Crisis on Infinite Earths to Flashpoint as the usual term, post-Crisis, is increasingly confusing.It got me thinking so I sketched out the different eras/versions of the DC Earth/Earths in the above flow chart (click it to enlarge, updated to include Wildstorm). The trouble with most of Newsarama’s suggestions is that they get into descriptions of in-universe trends and those may only be true for one particular phase of that entire Earth 0.1 to Earth 0.4 cycle. That block is 25-years long – as long as the Silver and Bronze Ages combined.
The classic publishing ages don’t really match step perfectly with the in-universe continuity either. For example, the Classic Earth-One continuity period covers both the Silver Age and the Bronze Age (the split between them being the wholesale replacement of DC’s old guard at the end of the Silver Age and the injection of a new wave of writers and artists). Earth-Two is often use as a short hand for the Golden Age material, but, in a strict sense, its a Silver/Bronze Age construction. Ditto for all the multitude of Classic Multiverse Earths. And all of this is what we generally lump together as pre-Crisis.
The post-Crisis on Infinite Earths DC Universe splits into five distinct incarnations with each separated from the last by a wholesale in-universe revision of the timeline. This happens in Zero-Hour, Infinite Crisis, Final Crisis, and in Flashpoint. The timeline is revised in Zero-Hour to fix the continuity mess created by merging five parallel Earth’s into one at the end of the Crisis on Infinite Earths. Infinite Crisis splits the single Zero-Hour Earth into a Multiverse of 52 Earths. Grant Morrison restarts the timeline in Final Crisis with, for once, little visible effect on continuity. And then Flashpoint rejigs everything again and and brings us the post-Flashpoint Earth of the New 52. If that’s confusing think about all the parallel Earths that vanish with the Crisis and reappear with the Infinite Crisis.
All that post-Crisis revision doesn’t really parallel with any particular publishing trend or age. The grim-and-gritty “Dark Age” is in vogue immediately after the Crisis and into the Image Comics dominated 1990s. A central thesis of Morrison’s Supergods is that, by the mid-to-late 1990s, there is a push back against the Dark Age and a new Heroic Age of sorts comes about in works like Waid and Ross’s Kingdom Come, Morrison’s JLA & All-Star Superman, and Busiek’s Astro-City. Its also arguable that we’re actually seeing a new Dark Age with mainstream comics dominated by the Authority, Ultimates, Hush – a sort of cinematic, widescreen, ultra-detailed approach – that’s certainly the look that the new JL appears to be following.
So names… the publishing ages don’t align well enough to be usable. Terms like post-Crisis, post-Zero Hour, etc are okay, but require a certain level of knowledge about when they terminate. A grandiose title might be something like the Crisis Cycle, like ‘ramas own Crisis Era, but it again requires you to know what a Crisis is. However, I suppose that could be said of many different terms. I think the most neutral choice might be to resort to archaeology where the age that follows the Bronze Age is the Iron Age or if you want to split it down the Dark/Iron Ages. Whether the post-Flashpoint world deserves its own Age remains to be seen.