Monday, October 24, 2011

Reasons the 90's Almost Killed Comics (Part 2)

Last week we looked at the first of my list of why the 90's are the "Dark Ages" of comics. Here we go with some more:

1. Feral Wolverine

I have to admit that stealing the adamantium from Wolverine by having Magneto rip it from his bones was a pretty cool idea. I give them points for being daring as far as that goes. And letting him have bone claws was pretty cool as well because that meant his claws were actually a part of his mutant abilities and it was a shocker to see them pop out.

And then Marvel got greedy.

For some strange reason the Marvel writers decided to take things to the extreme by having him slowly turn into an animal. The decision to make him an actual wolverine that had mutated apparently raised its ugly head again and they brought him down. He eventually went to wearing a bandana and even a ninja mask before it was all said and done.

2. Jackets and Pouches Everywhere

I can appreciate how comics try to stay relevant to the times with some changes. In the 90's, things went crazy. The X-Men were the epitome of crazy as far as costumes went.

I don't know if Xavier kept it freezing in the mansion or of they were just cold-natured, but for some reason jackets were in style. Gambit wore his well and it was cool. Everyone else just ripped him off.

Dazzler (a hero who shouldn't be in any comic) wore a jacket. Rogue wore a jacket. Jubilee wore a coat. Cyclops had more pouches than Batman's utility belt. But let's not leave out the Avengers, who loved their jackets too.

Black Knight wore one over his armor. Sersi wore one (sleeves pushed up, of course) over her costume. Crystal, the Wasp, Wonder Man, Firestar, Jusice and even Black Widow sported jackets during the 90's. I don't know why it became the norm for Marvel heroes, but they definitely weren't afraid to put them out there.

Eventually jackets phased out for a while and spandex made a return, but the damage had been done. At least Spider-Man never wore a jacket...unless you count the Scarlet Spider's hoodie.

And don't get me started on DC's Vibe. That costume just has no explanation. 

3. Bloodwynd

The 90's gave us a number of weird heroes, but we can't skip Bloodwynd. I'm the first to admit I wasn't a huge Justice League fan, but when I saw him show up in their confrontation with Doomsday (just before he killed Superman) my first thought was "When did Spawn join the JLA?" This character was an unabashed ripoff of Spawn and I have no idea how they avoided a massive lawsuit.

Just as quickly as he appeared, he was gone. I don't know that he's made any major impressions in the DC universe in over a decade. As a matter of fact, I doubt he made it through the recent reboot alive.

I have no idea if you should blame the writers for not knowing what to do with the guy, or the character itself, but Bloodwynd was a ripoff that stumbled out of the gate. But hey, at least he wasn't wearing a jacket.

4. Destroying Major Heroes...Then Bringing Them Back

The purpose of a reboot is to give us something new. Maybe sales are flagging on a title and they need to give the old horse a shot in the arm. Maybe new writers come in with new ideas. Or maybe a hero has just outlived their usefulness. For whatever reason, reboots are a hit-and-miss affair.

The 90's were brutal to the major heroes. Last week I talked about how Marvel tried to replace Spider-Man, but DC went ape-crazy in the 90's with wiping out their crew...though most of those deaths were short-lived.

So what did they do in the 90's? Well, they killed Superman (for a few issues). They broke Batman's back and replaced him with Azrael, who eventually went crazy and had to be put down by a healed-up Bruce Wayne. They turned Green Lantern into a crazed homicidal maniac who killed Sinestro with his bare hands...along with several members of the Green Lantern Corps. Then eventually he became Parallax, died saving the universe, became the Spectre, and then came back as Green Lantern again.

Many publishers would stop there, but they didn't. They had Aquaman lose his hand to piranhas and decide getting a harpoon/hook thing in there was a bright idea. They also gave him a new long hair and beard look that was supposed to make him "edgy". He stayed like this for a while, then they gave him a magic "water hand".

They killed Green Arrow with a bomb, until Parallax brought him back just before he died himself. They killed Hawkman and brought him back again thanks to his reincarnation powers. They didn't kill Martian Manhunter, who didn't deserve the pass but they made up for it big time by killing him off in the mid-2000's.

And hey, Marvel had their fun too. Besides replacing (and then bringing back) Spider-Man, they went brutal on their guys. Wolverine lost his adamantium through having it ripped from his very pores. The Fantastic Four and the Avengers were thrown to a new universe for a 12 issue "Reborn" reboot. They destroyed the Avengers again and gave us such classic "extreme" teams as "Force Works" (remember them?). Then Marvel had an "extreme fest" by giving us so many X-Men titles to follow that it was impossible to understand where any hero was supposed to be at any time. X-Treme, X-Men, X-Factor, X-Force, X-Man, and so many other titles brought to you by the letter "X".

The thing that annoyed me about it in the 90's was how short-lived it all was for the most part. In some cases it lasted for a couple of years, while in others the changes were mere months before you could see things reverting back (Superman was foreshadowed as back in the game almost immediately). On the other hand, it was a good thing those changes were short. Most of them were horrible choices.


Chris said...

You forgot them replacing Tony Stark with a younger teenage Tony Stark. Breaking Captain America's back, then having him come back as Super-Cap in Stark designed armor. Then later Cap loses his shield, so they replace that with some sort of energy-light-saber shield. Not to mention Daredevil's razor armor, etc. etc.

Then again, there were some AWESOME reboots in the 90' wasn't all bad. Grant Morrison's JLA and James Robinson's (later Dave Goyer/Geoff Johns') JSA still stand as some of the best Justice League/Society stories ever written. IMO, I'd go as far as to say they're some of the best JLA/JSA stories ever written.

Despite what many feel and all the 90's conventions involved (a jillion titles, chromium covers, etc.), I also thought Age of Apocalypse and birth of Generation X were also some of the most creative x-storylines written. Emmer Frost wouldn't be as cool a character today if it weren't for Generation X.

Either way...I agree. The 90's were definitely the "dark ages" of comics. I was just reading Grant Morrison's "Flash: Emergency Stop" trade and he starts writing pretty meta about how the 90's are some of the worst times in comics and how a new heroic age will soon follow...He had some pretty good foresight, eh?

William said...

I was still barely reading the Justice League around the time of the "Death" of Superman, and if you are wondering whatever happened to Bloodwynd and why he disappeared and hasn't been seen since? It's because it turns out that he was actually the Martian Manhunter in disguise. It was revealed in one of those 90's big shocking "bet you didn't see this coming" moments that they were so fond of then. I forget the reason that Martian Manhunter was posing as Bloodwynd, but I'm sure the explanation was stupid. (Love the way they used a "Y" in his name too).

Rick said...

Somethings I remember about the 90's that I didn't like.
Armor. Everyone seemed to have armor. Espically at Marvel. Then some of them became Vampires or werewolfs. They threw everything at the readers hoping something would stick. Instead it nearly killed the industry. Till they went back to something that resembled close to the basics.

Bubbashelby said...

You know Boodwynd was Martian Manhunter in disguise, right?

And yes, the nineties: Ugh.

Don Hudson said...

I think the jackets and pouches were quite useful.

Kooz said...

Come on, the 90s were a golden age! Comics have not been anywhere near as popular since. The problem is the popularity went to everyone's heads. Remember all the foil or glow-in-the-dark covers? All the comics that came with trading cards or came in sealed opaque bags? It got gimmicky, and died a sad, but quick, death. My comic collecting started in the 90s, and I still have fond memories of a few titles (see my top 5 favorite comics growing up: Anyhow, I'm really enjoying your blog!

Gernot said...

About the jackets: How cold did Reed Richards have to leave the Baxter Building for the Human Torch to need a jacket? Geez! ;)

Edward said...

There were certainly dumb things that happened in the 90s, but comics are known for having dumb things in general.

The costumes were almost all best in the 90s - even if they would be ridiculous to wear in real life.

Some of the X-titles were lame, but the staples of X-Men, Uncanny X-men, Wolverine, X-Factor and X-force were solid. Generation-X was a great newcomer.

What really killed comics today is a combination of the awful writing and awful art - I don't know what happened but they completely lost the Jim Lee/Kubert/Madureira vein of talent and replaced it with what can only be described as garbage.

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