Comics In The '90s: Did Anything Good Come Out?


#1

The '90s is widely viewed as one of the worst decades in comics. Main characters were killed off/replaced, there was a heavy emphasis on over the top violence, big events everywhere, cross overs… OK so maybe it isn’t that different from now. The '90s was when I got into comics and I confess to not knowing nearly enough about comics as others do.

So for all the crap that the 90s threw on us, did we get anything good?


#2

I think that era did a decent job trying to make cosmic heroes more popular


#3

I’m sure good things happened but overall it was a mess. It wasn’t so much storyline/title level as industry level. Here are a few things that happened in the 90s:

  1. Crazy price increases.
  2. The rise and then crash of the speculation market.
  3. Companies catering to speculators by creating alternate covers, glow in the dark covers, new and unneeded X-Men and Spider-Man series, etc - gouging fans.
  4. Image Comics ushering in an era of artist-centric titles.
  5. Computer coloring. (Personally I hate it)
  6. Common lateness of titles, scheduling issues, fill-in issues.

The 90s appears to have permanently transformed the industry for the worse.


#4

There was a lot of crap in the '90s, but there were still a plethora of great comics being produced. It’s just that the ratio of crap to good comics was completely skewed, and the industry almost died.

Speculation and the collectors’ market was terrible for the industry, but what made it worse was all the horrible products being churned out. You look back at a lot of those famous storylines and series and most of them have no artistic merit or meaningful value as actual comics (and they aren’t even entertaining to read).

Personally, I think the '90s comics that are most famous, like Death of Superman, KnightFall, Clone Saga, Spawn, Age of Apocalypse, Onslaught, and Maximum Carnage are straight garbage. They might have some nostalgia value, but there’s basically no reason to read stuff like that when you could, y’know, read something worthwhile.

Vertigo was created in the early '90s and their catalogue is obviously full of great reading material. Even the bottom tier Vertigo comics were still more interesting than most of the other Marvel and DC superheroes. Not everything was as good as their flagship series like Sandman, Hellblazer, Sandman Mystery Theatre, and Shade, but even the lesser titles showed some attempt at respecting the reader’s attention span. For example, take Animal Man after Morrison and Milligan were finished with it. It was still a solid read, especially when Delano took over.

The late '80s and early '90s were basically the British Invasion of comics. You had guys like Morrison (guess he might be Scottish, but whatever; I’m an insensitive American anyway), Delano, Milligan, Ellis, Ennis, Gaiman, Millar, and a number of good artists doing work for the big two (but mostly DC or Vertigo).

Don’t forget, books like Preacher, Invisibles, and Transmetropolitan started in the '90s. Not to mention Morrison’s run on JLA. And there were also the “superhero” books that were on the fringe of the DC Universe, like Hitman and Starman. If there’s a Marvel equivalent, I can’t think of them right now.

I really think DC kicked Marvel’s ass in the ‘90s. I’m trying to think of any Marvel titles that can try to measure up to something like Kingdom Come, and I can’t think of anything, other than Marvels. Spider-Man was sucking during that period. (I think DeMatteis’ first run on Spectacular is the highlight of the era.) The X-Men sucked. (But Joe Casey’s run on Cable was amazing, as was his Deathlok spinoff - although the Deathlok series might’ve been the early 2000s.)

Fantastic Four wasn’t very good, either. I remember those early '90s stories in particular, where Johnny married a Skrull and then Marvel made Sue dress like a slut. It was pathetic.

Avengers? What happened in Avengers during the '90s? Operation Galactic Storm? Convoluted crossover. Avengers/X-Men: Bloodties? Another weak crossover. And I still think the Busiek/Perez Avengers is really hard to read because of its Claremontesque sensibilities.

There were those Infinity Gauntlet crossovers and cosmic series that Groggy mentioned. I don’t think those have aged well, though, even though I have nothing but fondness for Silver Surfer by Starlin, Marz, and Lim. They might be entertaining, but I still can’t imagine thinking of them in the same tier as something like JLA.

The proliferation of comics before the bust probably means there’s a lot of stuff that flew under my radar. It’s impossible to have read everything, or even most things, that were published in that era. I just can’t think of any other Marvel or non-Vertigo DC comics that have aged well. Wait - DC also started Paradox back in the '90s, and they made some classics like Road to Perdition, Green Candles, and A History of Violence.

Even Image did a handful of good comics in the '90s, after the founders realized that they needed some help writing. Alan Moore took over WildC.A.T.s [with Travis Charest, baby! (on some issues)] and Rob Liefeld’s Supreme. Alan Moore’s Supreme might be my favorite Superman stories ever, including All-Star Superman - that’s how much I like it. He also wrote the 1963 miniseries for Image, a pastiche of Silver Age-era Marvels. Astro City started out at Image, I think, before DC bought WildStorm. So did America’s Best Comics (okay, that’s late '90s, but it should still count). Ellis did StormWatch and The Authority.

Dark Horse was kicking ass in the '90s, too. Concrete, Sin City, Hellboy, Martha Washington, Grendel, Nexus, Groo, Usagi Yojimbo, the Mask, Big Guy & Rusty, Hardboiled, and a bunch of other stuff. Bryan Talbot’s A Tale of One Bad Rat is brilliant. Joe Kubert’s Fax from Sarajevo is a graphic novel that really impacted me when I discovered it, and I still think it’s a superlative piece of work from one of the all-time legends of comics. Even some of those Star Wars comics weren’t all that bad, actually. They aren’t anything that will transform a neophyte into a full-blown hardcore fan, but a bunch of them were still more fun and entertaining than a lot of superhero stuff.

Finally, I think there were plenty of indie comics that are fantastic. Moore and Campbell’s From Hell is one of those comics that a lot of connoisseurs would consider one of the greatest of all time. Moore also did another OGN called A Small Killing, which is probably one of his lesser-known works but also one of his most interesting. Jeff Smith’s Bone is a true epic. Peter Bagge’s Hate comics are pretty great. There was Sam & Max by Steve Purcell - remember the cartoon? It’s been making a comeback as a computer game recently. But that Sam & Max comic is so awesome and funny that I will never part with my TPB. Cerebus and American Splendor were still going strong. Bendis and Brubaker were still toiling in the undergrounds at the time, but even their early, non-supehero works kick ass. (Fire, Goldfish, and Jinx from Bendis and Lowlife from Brubaker.) Guys like Adrian Tomine and Dan Clowes are still the hallmark of ultra-hip, pretentious, indie rock kids today, and back then they were hitting their stride. Lapham started Stray Bullets in the '90s.

And I barely read anything from the other comics companies that rose and died, like Valiant and Malibu. But the few comics from those companies that I did read, I got the impression that they were at least as good the average Marvel comic.

Street Fighter by Malibu comics, specifically issue 2, is one of the funniest things I have ever read in my entire experience of reading comics. On the scale of Unintentional Comedy, Malibu’s Street Fighter #2 is Mike Tyson’s mouth. I’m not sure if the people who made that comic didn’t know what they were doing or if they were just such geniuses that a commoner like myself can’t discern their intentions.

I’m skimming over what I just wrote and I guess it looks like I’m one of those Internet dudes who’s trying to show off how much knowledge he has on an esoteric subject. Too bad comic books are the most important thing in life (after Jesus). Too bad I know so much about them.

Hey, bub - you asked first.


#5

Zeph pretty much covered everything.

I feel the exact same way including especially Maximum Carnage (Did I even hide my hate for that?)

Pre-Unity Valiant was fantastic. I’ve always been more inclined toward more mature themed books because I started with Elementals (all I could afford really, because X-men was expensive for me) and Grendel from Comico in the 80s. So the Vertigo titles were fuckin a godsend. Although, the only drawback was probably that it spawned that whole teenage “goth” sub-culture later on (yes I’m blaming Gaiman for that).

90s also supercharged self-publishing and creator-owned comics. Dave Sim, Colleen Doran, Terry Moore, Colleen Doran, Jeff Smith, The Image 6 (say what you will about them),etc. They paved the way for self-publishing before there was an economy to support it like we do now.

EDIT:
Good 90s books from Marvel:

  • Doom 2099 (Warren Ellis wrote the last 1/3 of the book)
  • Peter David’s Hulk (technically started late 80s)
  • Peter David’s X-Factor (For what he had to go through and the fucked up “Marvel way” of doing things pre-Quesada, these were great)

Trying to think of other good Marvel books…its kinda sad that I even have to do that.


#6

I’m 20 so either yall started reading comics at an early age or i’m the youngest one here, anyways in the 90’s all I read/collected were special issues of sonic comics and to this day I love every issue I own. I started getting into comics about 4 years ago so there’s still a mountain of “must read” material I haven’t even begun to stumble upon but so far most of the stuff I’ve read from the 90’s like age of apocalypse, maximum carnage, onslaught (not reborn) for example I really liked.

I also love the entire preacher and 100 bullets series’ but I guess i’m the out lier here since i’m still new to the whole comic scene especially since I only buy hc graphic novels.


#7

I was about to post about the invisibles it’s a great comic

and fuck the haters age of apocalypse is ABAP


#8

Personally I enjoyed the X-Men comics of the 90s.

Also Spider-Man 2099 and Doom 2099 were great.

There was some good Batman stuff and lots of good Dark Horse stuff.


#9

Dang, Zeph, you ever think of being a comic industry analyst? :amazed:


#10

Also the '90s is when I got into comics, I picked up Aliens Vs Predator from Dark Horse (P. Gorath where are you) and that’s what opened the door for me :tup:


#11

Titles like Sin City, Understanding Comics, Supreme: Story of the Year, and Sandman justified the 90s, just as other decades are justified by their standout titles. Most comics are crap, but it’s the occasional gem that makes them worth reading.

And it’s weird how most of the ones I just mentioned start with an “S.” Cosmic.


#12

That’s true. I forgot to mention Understanding Comics in my monster post. I’m a failure. Sano, please give me a temporary ban for my grievous mistake.


#13

Spawn !!!

Wow, it blocks me from putting the letters all in caps… lol


#14

You are banned for 5 minutes. I know it’s long, but hey. Catch you in 5! :looney:

I won’t make a long post, this time, but it seems like in the 90s art was more important than story, now it’s like things are reversed where story is more important than artwork. Seriously, in the 90s all of the Image guys became superstars thanks to art, now it’s the writers who are getting way more attention. We have a Church of Bru, not a Church of Mark Bagley after all. :rofl:

There are books I buy for story, others for artwork and others just to follow characters I like, so in that respect not much has changed for me since I still do the same thing. I’m not the harshest storyline critic, so long as the story doesn’t piss me off by taking characters in directions I don’t like or doesn’t bore me to death it’s all good, so I suppose I don’t have a lot of bad things to say about the 90s. Clone saga and Mackie reboot aside of course for Spidey lol!

This is a much better time for comics though, I’ll say that much.


#15

valiant up to 1994
Robocop from Marvel
Darkhawk
Sleepwalker
Stray Bullets


#16

Variant covers were all the rage. :tup: (:tdown:)

Remember Gen13 #1 with all the 13 variants? Remember the Clone Saga? Remember when Pryde admitted to LIKING the Clone Saga?


#17

Yeh something good came out of comics in the 90’s

…my idol Joe Madureira came beasting the pages of Uncanny X-men
…no honestly, his artwork blew me away I thought he was the best thing since sliced bread lol.

At the time I was very very biased towards Marvel, but then I grew to like Wild Cats and GEN13. I think in those days the comics were a lil more enjoyable atleast IMO because even though especially in Marvel they dealt with real life situations and had violence in them they just felt a lil more friendly at the time and didnt have a bunch of confusion like they do now, I mean I still enjoy them today but I usually find myself in Jim Hanley’s buying older books. But bahh to answer the question, I would just have to say Age Of Apocalypse was probably one of the greatest stories to grace comics not only in the 90’s but period. I mean I was only like in 2nd of 3rd grade when that came out but I thought it was awesome as far as the art was excuted, but it took me a few years later to actually understand it better and I loved it, my brother still has his copies of that.


#18

Late eighties and early ninties saw the kick off of the second greatest comic series ever written, The Tick.


#19

Maximum Carnage…best series ever.


#20

Admit it you liked the cover:rofl:

I totally get why anyone wouldn’t like mc but I loved it for what it was just lots of straightup violence and a shitload of heroes and villains mashed together, not to mention venom taking down carnage was pretty cool.