1st 2 posts from the 90’s blog
90’s Comics: The origins of my addiction
I have been a comic fan for as long as I can remember, WHSmiths, newstands and corner shops were the only places to get them, so I wasn’t able to get any comics on too regular a basis.
Then came the 90’s.
I first went to a comic mart and picked up a few comics that took my fancy, amongst them X-Men #1-3 and Guardians of the Galaxy #17-19 from there I went to a comic shop and that was it then, I was irrevocably lost. I have been an avid collector since.
Here’s the point though, shortly after the 21st century dawned, it became common wisdom that the 90’s were a bad time for comics as a whole and a sense that it should be written off as a decade because of the trends and decisions of that era. I didn’t particularly agree with that particular wisdom. I wrote a 122 part blog to that effect a couple of years ago. Few read it, fewer agreed. There were many quality comics of that era, many moments in history worth celebrating. I know I am biased, I was never a music person, certainly never too popular/social and my romantic life was literally non-existent, but the comics were good.
I’m not going to be an apologist, some 90’s comics deserve your ire and the reputation they possess, some decisions made were just plain bad. But I liked the comics and characters I met in that era and will celebrate them here as well as talk about whatever I feel like.
Comments and feedback is always welcome, or arguments and abuse after all, this is the internet.
Then came this one
Best things about 90’s comics – Or, the case for the defense
The problem with comics from any era is that the industry and general pop culture trends influence the comics of that time. In the post watergate world of the 1970’s, comics tried so much harder to be ‘relevant’ and grim and gritty era of the 1980’s had it’s own problems, but the 90’s had these problems to spare.
Before we get the positives, lets get the negatives out of the way.
Character designs, art ranging from over powering to ridiculously bad and the increase of power held by the artists over the writers. There were so many excesses in that regard, they became their own company at one point.
Over inflation of the industry gimmicks and the sales led editorial decisions mean that most of the bad reputation that the 90’s have is entirely justified.
So much so, that the positives are almost completely ignored or forgotten. So here’s my top 5 things about 90’s comics in no real order.
New Publishers & Imprints
The mainstream comics industry had been, up until the 90’s and very much since, dominated by the BIG 2 Marvel and DC. Marvel was the newer success, but still had been a powerhouse of creative ideas for 30 years and DC own Batman and Superman, so they had their market cornered, but in the 90’s we got some new players. From Dark Horse’s rise to prominence and the formation of Image, Valiant, Malibu and others, there came a lot of variety and a lot of new comics to read. Whilst the Malibu/Ultraverse may have died a premature death, Valiant, Dark Horse and Image are still going strong and producing high quality and interesting work. Other companies such as IDW, Dynamite and Boom Studios are also putting out tonnes of comics and so many other smaller companies and the genesis of these things were the 1990’s.
Even within the established publishers, there were new imprints to check out. DC produced Vertigo, the all ages Impact as well as Milestone and even incorporated the Wildstorm part of Image. Marvel also experimented with Heroes Reborn and also incorporated Malibu’s Ultraverse.
More Jumping On Points:
One of the great crimes that comics commit is the being incomprehensible to the newer reader. There is a difficulty of knowing where to start. Whilst the current trend to renumber periodically should do that, it’s not really working in that respect. Case in point, I have bought the first three issues of Dan Slott/Mike Allred’s Silver Surfer series, twice! Meaning that within 2 years there were two series of Silver Surfer with the same creative team, same typeface and title style and the same basic concept. There were literally no discernible differences between the two series until you opened them up and checked the indicia. That’s not right. But both Marvel and DC had several restarts/jumping on points that helped me get into newer comics, either from the Zero issues that DC did; in the mid 90’s, to Heroes Reborn/Heroes Return from Marvel not too long after, to other companies doing 0 issues and spin offs that actually changed things. There were several times that I could dip my toe into new universes and feel that I could keep up, it’s not always so easy now.
Cable, Deadpool, Carnage, Harley Quinn, Spawn, Savage Dragon, Bloodshot, X-O Manowar, Hellboy and many other new characters came to prominence in this time as well as hundreds (if not thousands more that have faded away) and then there are the legacy or stand-in characters that injected new blood into fading titles. This was the decade of Eric Masterson as Thor/Thunderstrike, Ben Reilly as the Scarlet Spider/Spider-Man, Danny Ketch as Ghost Rider and on the other side of the BIG 2, Jean Paul Valley as Batman, Artemis as Wonder Woman, four different Supermen, the hitting the stride of Wally West as the best written Flash, Kyle Rayner as the fledgling Green Lantern, Connor Hawke as the new Green Arrow and new iterations of different teams, there was always something, or someone new to read about.
Interesting Ideas/New Takes
X-Factor as a government response team, the Avengers answering to the UN, Hulk as a genius and leader of the Pantheon, Superman killed in action and the X-Men betrayed by their mentor. These were just some of the new takes on established characters and series that came out in that time. Another is the Valiant universe, which was a super-hero-esque universe that really didn’t have any super heroes in the traditional sense in it. Then there was Marvel’s 2099 timeline with a bleak and corporate led future (nothing we can relate to today eh?) or Warren Ellis jumping in with both feet and re purposing Wildstorm’s Stormwatch property to do something interesting and exceptional, which led to the Authority and more widescreen visuals in comics.
We can all agree there was a lot, okay A LOT of bad stories in the 90’s, or good stories that were horifically derailed (I’m looking at you The Crossing) and there was a lot of filler in there, but there were so many gems.
The Death of Superman/Reign of the Superman
Age of Apocalypse
The Clone Saga (Yes, I know, but there was some good stuff in there, hidden amongst the crap)
DC One Million
And many more besides
Comics in the 90’s, suffered the excesses of their time, just like any others and the speculator boom, the constant cash grab stories, the gimmicks and the at times outright silliness of the industry. But I became a full collector in the 90’s and haven’t really stopped since. There was gold in the period and there was lots of fun and a sense that anything could happen. We’ve got that again now, with comics spreading a bit more into the mainstream, but for me, this was were it all started