Posted in From the Ashes of Another Blog

And I think this is the last one 90’s

Last one, I swear

90’s Characters: Ben Reilly

 

There are many reviled comics, comic events, costumes and characters from the 1990’s that in my mind get an unreasonable about of fan flak for what is essentially buyer’s remorse. What was popular and successful then, is retroactively bad, based on looking back at it, a sort of reverse nostalgia. One victim of this was the clone saga. The Clone Saga ran from Web of Spider-Man #117 to Spider-Man #75 covering a number of years and so many ongoing plots. This sold well and has a special place in my heart. The main reason for this, is that it gave us a new hero, Ben Reilly.

First appearing in Amazing Spider-Man #149 back in 1975, this clone of Spider-Man was part of a plot by longtime Spidey villain, the Jackal. The Jackal blamed Spider-Man for the death of Gwen Stacy and organised this long distance revenge. At the end of the issue, the clone was dead as was the Jackal and to be honest for about 20 years no one thought anything about it. Then came the 90’s and it seemed like the spider-titles had lost some of their mojo and a new idea was needed to give the at this point 4 comics per month a shot in the arm. So in Spectacular Spider-Man #216 a mystery man checking up on a hospitalised Aunt May by Spider-Man was revealed to be another Spider-Man.

This stranger was revealed to be the clone thought dead all that time ago (ret-conned to 5 years) who had left New York and changed his name to Ben Reilly (After his beloved uncle and his aunt’s maiden name) and had wandered the US, only to return when he learned of May’s illness. After an adventure, when he realised that he still had a heroic mentality, he stuck around and became a second Spider-themed hero. In need of a costume, he got some spandex and for a logo, picked up a blue spider hoody, tore off the sleeves and was named by the local papers as the Scarlet Spider. Now I actually like the thrown together look of this costume and feel it’s ‘hated’ status is entirely unfair. But it seems I am in the minority there.

He did alright at it and stuck around. He added new tricks such as impact webbing and stingers and was a major part of the Clone Saga, even to the point where he was revealed to be the original and the Spider-Man hanging around the Marvel Universe since Amazing Spider-Man #150 was actually the clone. Peter starting having power problems and quit the job and decided to move away to Portland with his wife. Ben took the mantle of Spider-Man and became the new Spidey, with a new costume.

The reason I enjoyed Ben so much as a character was that he was something of a blank slate, with all the positives of being Spider-Man, but with less continuity and less obvious reactions and choices. He could do what Peter did, but then again, he might not. It was a mix of road not taken and alternate history while not actually affecting the title character. His tenure as Spider-Man was as good as anything in that era was and he made an indelible impression on me. Even one of my favourite Superman artists Dan Jurgens, did a brief run on the new title Sensational Spider-Man.

Time wore on and the return of the original Spider-Man was mandated and in an almost throw-away move, Ben was killed and revealed to be the clone after all. Spider-Man was back and everyone tried to forget that Ben Reilly even existed, his time on the comics so connected him to the Clone Saga that the more bloated sides of that series rubbed on on him, so he was thrown out with all of that stuff. But to me, I lost a favourite character. Now after a recent clone-related story, we have the start of a new Scarlet Spider series with Ben Reilly in the lead. I’m optimistic, but wanted to write this, before Marvel’s poor recent showing of handling my favourite characters makes me cynical again.

Comments, insults and incoherent screams are welcome.

Posted in From the Ashes of Another Blog

Yet More 90’s

90’s Characters: Kyle Rayner

When I started really getting into comics in the 90’s I was mostly a Marvel fan, DC was less accessible to me, the characters were older and while I had a lot of fondness for the Hal Jordan Green Lantern, none of them spoke to me with the same intensity as say the X-Men did. But one day, in the local comic shop, I found a jumping on point.

Green Lantern #51 was the in costume debut of Kyle Rayner, he had previously appeared in Green Lantern #48 as well as the last two pages of #50 and after the fall of the Green Lantern Corps, he was the wielder of the only functioning Green Lantern ring in the universe. He was a struggling graphic artist with little responsibility and less of a idea of who he was. This wasn’t a honest and fearless test pilot who coasted through life, this was someone who was in the right place and the right time and struggled with what to do with all this power and no guidance.

This was a guy who didn’t get the “Hal Jordan of Earth, you have the power to overcome great fear…” welcome. Kyle got the “You will have to do.” But because of that, he became something greater, he became relatable. He had trouble with his job, he had doubts and uncertainties and more than a little inferiority regarding other heroes. This was a guy who was far from fearless, but had a gung-ho sense of adventure.

The was a hero learning on the job and since he was new to being a lantern and I was new to a more modern DC, he became ‘my’ Green Lantern. I followed him from his early appearances and the start of the ‘fridging’ phenomena to his joining the New Titans and his graduation to the JLA. This was a hero who was able to change, to grow and that appealed to me.

Gone was the silver age heroes with their perfect judgement and stock personalities, this was a guy in over his head and happy to admit that. He became friends with Flash and Green Arrow and fell in love, lost that love, fell in love again, lost her too, fell in love a 3rd time and that ended as well.

Also, he was an artist, which made the constructs he made with the ring interesting and imaginative. No green boxing gloves here, this was high concept art and manga inspired awesomeness. He carried the torch of the Green Lantern Corps and when he could, he re-lit the flame.

Whilst he survived the 90’s, that was where his legend began and he’s since become one of several Green Lanterns, which is one of several corps. Whilst like many I grew up with Hal Jordan, my fondest memories of Green Lantern, is when it was a struggling artist called Kyle, who was stumbling out drunk at the right time to be put on the path to be one of DC’s greatest heroes and one of my personal favourites.

Comments are welcome, who was ‘your’ Green Lantern?

Posted in From the Ashes of Another Blog

Even More from the 90s

5 Hidden Gems of the 1990s

The Hidden Gem

This is the holy grail of the comic reader, that unexpected bit of excellence that adds to your reading experience. These are often found in the cheap bins, or as part of a job lot of comics that you didn’t buy with these in mind, but are nice little bonuses.

Below are five of these sort of series that flew under the radar for many, but will always have a special place in my heart.

Angel and the Ape (1991)

Written and drawn by Phil Foglio, this was a comedy/action series with a fantastic premise Angel O’Day is a detective and her business partner is aspiring comic artist Sam Simeon, thing is Sam is a talking Gorilla. A hilarious concept that is enjoyable explored in this series that most people forget even exists.

Justice Society of America (1992)

This was the second series by Len Strazewski on the old JSA, this time with art by the late Mike Parobeck. This was the post crisis showcase for the Golden Age team. A little older and a lot wiser than their prime, this series showed the team having adventures, trying to find their place in the world before battling an old enemy and proving why they were the original genuine article. I was not a fan of Hourman, Wildcat, the Atom or many of the others before this series, but damn I was afterwards. An utter joy of a read.

Cable: Blood & Metal (1992)

Written by Fabian Nicieza with pencils by John Romita Jr, this was a two issue mini taking place between 1992’s X-Force 15 and the X-Cutioner’s Song crossover later that year. Showcasing Cable and his search for answers regarding his old enemy Stryfe and facing up to his mistakes in that regard added insight and depth to a cardboard cut-out character in many respects. The John Romita Jr art was blocky, but showed the action well and I have a soft spot for this series, despite the many shortcomings it has.

Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt (1992)

Written and drawn by Michael T Collins, this was the interesting 12 issue story of Thunderbolt, an old Charlton comics hero, who took 5 years off after a severe beating left him suffering severe post traumatic stress disorder, but is pulled back into the costume life when in London. Becoming a London based hero is an interesting take and the plotlines and characters weave and interconnect smoothly and intelligently. The characters are likeable and relateable and I will enjoy any comic that has the word berk used appropriately.

Nocturne (1995)

This four part series by Dan Abnett and Jose Fonteriz followed a film maker researching the fictional character Night Raven, only to learn he wasn’t quite so fictional and is dragged into his world of crime, exotic villains and film noir-esque action. The art was clean with a moody edge and it is such a shame that more wasn’t done with such an interesting concept.

I could easily find 5 more of these, maybe I will, but with little to no researching was able to find 5 little gems like these.