Recently I showed that the most enduring characters from new mythological sources (such as comic books, video games, horror movies, etc.) have come from periods when the violence level was shooting up. The public wants a role model to emulate when the world looks like it's about to blow up, so we get better quality heroes. They also want a clearer picture of who's fucking things up, not just a vague sense that there are more bad guys than before, so we get better quality villains and scapegoats.
Even outside the "heroes against villains" framework, the entire culture is just more exciting when times are more violent, so characters that don't fit as good guys or bad guys will also endure longer if they were created in high-crime times.
Sure enough, over the four days or so that I saw people dressing up for Halloween weekend, there was hardly anyone imitating a character created since the 1992 peak in the crime rate. I saw some of the Scream masks for sale, so someone must be buying them, but it wasn't common enough for me to see anyone wearing them in real life. Hell, I saw more adolescents dressed up as Waldo from the late '80s kids books than I saw Scream masks. I did see a girl dressed up as a Pokemon character at a dance club on Saturday, though. And maybe some of the littler kids are dressing up as someone from the Toy Story or Harry Potter movies (though none that I saw).
But for the most part, all of the big characters created over the past 18 years haven't lasted. No more Power Rangers, Darth Maul, or anyone from those dopey Saw movies or Halo video games. Yet they're still dressing up as Transformers, Darth Vader and slave Leia, Freddy Kruger, and characters from the Mario Bros. and Legend of Zelda video games, all created 20 to 35 years ago. Then there's Spiderman, Iron Man, etc., who were created in the early-mid 1960s.
Moreover, there's hardly anyone from the previous falling-crime era of 1934 to 1958. No Creature from the Black Lagoon, that robot from The Day the Earth Stood Still, or Howdy Doody. Go back to the previous rising-crime era of at least 1900 to 1933, though, and you find them still being imitated today -- especially Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Mummy. These characters are older, but the particular way that we imagine them and dress up like them today dates back to their portrayals during the 1920s and early '30s.
There are also popular costumes for gangsters and flappers from the Roaring Twenties, hippie chicks and disco dancers, and punks and metalheads. At the supermarket I saw a 4 year-old boy dressed up like one of the guys from KISS. Yet there are no popular costumes for big band, bobby soxers, or beatniks.
Taken together, these patterns show that the popularity of certain older icons is not due to nostalgia but to their being higher quality. If it were nostalgia, then everything in the past would be carried on -- yet it's only the exciting stuff from high-crime times in the past that survives, while the boring stuff made during low-crime times in the past fades away.