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.

Posted in From the Ashes of Another Blog

More from the 90’s

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.

New Characters:

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.

Classic stories:

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

Knightfall/Knightquest/Knightsend

Marvels

Kingdom Come

Zero Hour

Age of Apocalypse

The Clone Saga (Yes, I know, but there was some good stuff in there, hidden amongst the crap)

X-Cutioner’s Song

Unity

DC One Million

And many more besides

In Closing:

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

Posted in From the Ashes of Another Blog

90’s Comics Events: Armageddon 2001

Another one of the 90’s comics forever posts

90’s Events: Armageddon 2001

One of the things that the 90’s did was the big blockbuster event crossovers, the first ones weren’t in the 90’s, the usual genesis of these was DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths and Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars, but the 90’s had many more of them and to my mind, some of the best.

One of the better ones from DC’s annuals was this 1991 gem, Armageddon 2001.

The annuals for Marvel and DC comics had little in the way of relevance to the main titles, often written or drawn by fill in, or guest artists and could often be skipped by people collecting the main series. The way round this was either to give the annuals an interesting or relevant theme, or tie them in either to the main title’s story or something bigger. In 1988 and 1989, Marvel tied their annuals together in the sprawling crossovers Atlantis Attacks and the Evolutionary War. In 1991, it was DC’s turn. There were two bookend comics Armageddon 2001 1 + 2 and between them were the annuals from 1991. If you were reading all the annuals, you could follow along, if not, you got an interesting story about potential futures.

This was the perfect halfway point, did you get the most out of it if you read them all? Yes. Did missing one annual ruin the story? No.

The story kicked off in Armageddon 2001 #1 which was written by Archie Goodwin, with pencils by Dan Jurgens and tells the story of Matthew Ryder a man living in the future ruled by a man called Monarch, a former hero who 19 years earlier in 2001 slew all the super heroes and with no one to stop him conquered the world. Matthew is obsessed with those heroes and using Monarch’s plan to conquer time, gets himself thrown into the time-stream becoming the metahuman Waverider and appears in 1991, ten years before Monarch’s rise. Realising that Monarch was once a hero, Waverider plans to visit the heroes and see what their future looks like in ten years. Each annual was a different hero/team or a look into a different future, the list is below:-

Superman Annual 3

Batman Annual 15

Justice League America Annual 5

Action Comics Annual 3

Flash Annual 4

Hawkworld Annual 2

New Titans Annual 7

Detective Comics Annual 4

Adventures of Superman Annual 3

L.E.G.I.O.N. Annual 2

Hawk and Dove Annual 2

Justice League Europe Annual 2

The story ended in Armageddon 2001 #2 which a bang with a Denny O’Neil and Dan Jurgens story which wraps the whole thing up, this was a fantastically fun series with interesting ideas and some great individual stories, my personal favourites being the Superman annuals. There was even some pre-internet controversy with the name of the hero who would turn being leaked/found out and the story being changed at the last minute, but despite that, this was a fun little event which had a couple of different levels of involvement.

The series had a direct sequel in Armageddon: Alien Agenda which had characters from the series in a time travelling duel through history and also a tangential sequel in Armageddon: Inferno which was terrible on a number of levels, but returned the Justice Society of America into the Post-Crisis DC universe and so gets something of a pass as a result. Was it perfect? No, but a better event than many that followed, including Bloodlines and Eclipso. This was fun and every now and again, worth returning to. Can’t really as for more than that from a comic.

Posted in From the Ashes of Another Blog

90’s Comics events: Age of Apocalypse

As per my previous post, I have recovered some of the stuff I did on 90’s comics forever

This is one of the posts I was able to save

For a series (franchise) with a theme that fits into contemporary society’s topics of discrimination, oppression and extremism. X-Men and related series have had quite a heavy amount of sci fi concepts that exist outside of the standard super-hero fare. Alien civilisations, parallel worlds, time travel and world ending cataclysms were part of the natural course of events for Marvel’s merry mutants. In 1995, work started on an event, not a cross over, not a story a honest to whatever EVENT that took all those themes, aliens, time travel, parallel worlds, super science, super powers, oppression, bigotry and 90’s styles, threw them into a blender and then spent the next four months pouring it out into something that no one could have expected

Now we enter, the Age of Apocalypse

The story was that David Haller, the omega level mutant with dis associative identity disorder and the son of Charles Xavier (Who know’s which was more of a problem) decided to go back in time before his birth and prevent the biggest threat to his father’s goal of mutant/human peace and equality from existing. His plan was to kill Magneto, long before he ever became Magneto. So he travelled back in time. Finding out about this, several of the X-Men (Bishop, Psylocke, Storm and Iceman followed him back 20 years to stop him. They failed and Legion was able to attack pre-Magneto, but instead accidentally killed his best friend, who at this time was also Charles Xavier.

So to recap, Legion went back in time before his own birth, followed by the X-Men who went back before their founding and the person responsible for both was killed, before any of this happened.

The time paradox stuff aside, this undid everything the X-Men did. Since nature abhors a vaccum, something else had to happen.

What happened was for four month the current X-titles (Uncanny X-Men, X-Men, X-Factor, Excalibur, X-Force, Generation X, Wolverine and Cable) were temporarily cancelled in order to showcase what this Xavier free era would look like. With two book end issues (X-Men Alpha and X-Men Omega) this four month period launched 8 shortlived series that filled in the gaps. Apart from a couple of odd issues, this was it.

This four month 36 part event was the Age of Apocalypse. The main idea behind this was that with the battle in Israel being noticed by the immortal mutant En-Sabah-Nur (also known as Apocalypse) rose to power, with no real opposition ready to face him and within a decade had conquered the United States. Unbeknown to him Bishop had survived the change in timeline (he was already a time traveller) and contacted the X-Men (led by a Magneto who donned a costume to honour Xavier instead of his more mutant supremacist ideology) and plans became enacted to undo this Age of Apocalypse). This was a brave move by Marvel, but they knew that it would pay off as each title that was cancelled (or paused) was replaced with one of the AoA series and many kept the same creative teams and/or concepts

Uncanny X-Men became Astonishing X-Men

X-Men became Amazing X-Men

X-Factor became Factor-X

Excalibur became X-Calibre

X-Force became Gambit & the X-Ternals

Generation X became Generation Next

Wolverine became Weapon-X

Cable became X-Man

The quarterly X-Men Unlimited was also rebranded as X-Men Chronicles

This was a very 90’s series from the earnestness of it, the designs, the at times ridiculous elements and the cover enhanced insanity permeating the whole thing. This was everything that was wrong with the 90’s and yet everything that the 90’s did well. It’s been collected several times, it’s on Comixology and most likely Marvel Unlimited and is well worth a look.