Thursday, March 07, 2013

90's Week: Day 4


Well we've finally come to the end of 90's week here @ The House. It's okay, don't be sad.

I do want to correct an error on my part from yesterday's post. I accidently left the Stone Temple Pilots off my influential rock list. As I mentioned before, I'm pretty sure I heard their music before borrowing their debut album from a friend in middle school. After that, I was hooked and became a fan for life.

So, sorry guys:(

I was thinking of what to topic/subject to wrap up with since I've already covered some TV shows, cartoons, and music.

I was debating whether or not to talk about the toys, but then I've already briefly done that in a post from 2011, when talking about the X-Men Toy Biz figures I bought up like crazy back then.

Then I figured, well maybe wrestling, but then Shlomo would just call it silly(Love ya' Bear Jew;)

So, I guess I'm stuck with the comics side of the 90's.

You know, that decade, depending on who you talk to about, either consider it a low point from comics, or a decent enough era that set up the new millenium.

I think the truth, like most things, lies in the middle.
After all thanks to Image Comics back then, the industry was all about the art, with less attention or stardom heaped on the writers. Plus the gimmick covers. Oh sweet Jesus the gimmick covers!!!!

So yeah, there was both good and bad, so here's just a few samples of the good stuff that stood out to me during the 90's.

1). Image Comics.

Yes, Image Comics. I know they got a bad rap in the early days for it's bad writing that had little to no substance, over-reliance on gimmick covers, and characters that looked too much like exact clones of the more famous Marvel and DC characters. But really in hindsight, was that all that surprising considering it was mainly artists and not writers that created that company?

Really the only one worth a damn as a writer back then was Erik Larsen. Someone had to be while everyone else was content just to be superstar artists. Maybe it's not their faults that their main strengths and attraction was the pretty pictures they drew and the sexy, almost naked chicks that made Fanboys like me drool.
At least they tried. Hell the only successful marketer of the group was Todd McFarlane, and that was with just one character versus the gazillions of characters the other creators(with the possible exception of Larsen) throw out there.

 But that's all in hindsight now. Back then, I didn't care if how bad the stories were, because like everyone else I cared more about the pretty pictures and wild-ass characters that made up the early Image roster.
1995 was the year of Image Comics for me, since once I discovered the product, I was instantly hooked. I'd go on to hunt and scour down every back issue of the titles I liked until I was satisfied.

Early favorites included:

The Maxx, Bloodstrike, Brigade(still miss that title actually) Supreme(yeah I know, I know;) Youngblood and any extra title associated with it, Cyberforce, ShadowhawkWildC.A.T.S., and Glory(but only because she was drawn so sexy. What? I was a young teenage boy, you do the math)

Say what you will, but without those first years of trial and error, Image wouldn't be the more well-rounded, balanced publisher it's now become in the last decade or so. Well that, and thanks to Robert Kirkman obviously;)

2). DC Deaths

DC had to do something, anything to compete with the red-hot Image Comics and their stranglehold on the industry back then. So some genius in marketing said "Hey, I know! Let's kill and/or replace some of our iconic characters. That'll bring 'em back in!"
Well at least that's how I imagine it went;)

So off to the races DC went, killing off their cash cow Superman, crippling and replacing Batman, and Turning Hal Jordan heel and replacing him, while simultaneously eradicating the the entire GLC.

Good God DC was cleaning house!

The last bits of of those types of tactics was a little event called Zero Hour(Loved it back then) which effectively killed off the trusty old JSA, almost killing Wally West, and Superman's duel identity of Clark Kent(which didn't stick for very long either)

DC got their extra revenue, press, and attention, but it wouldn't last long after blowing their load so to speak, and ruining characters like Hal Jordan and Hawkman for a very long time.

3). Heroes Reborn

If you want to really talk about a polarizing topic, just bring the now infamous take over of the popular mainstay titles of Marvel Comics by Rob Liefield and Jim Lee. A collective groan is more than expected when this object of discussion is brought up. Yes it didn't age well, as in at all, but it was a quick shot in the arm for a company facing bankruptcy.

Yes you heard me right, bankruptcy. Back in late '96-'97, the House of Ideas was staring the dread B-word in the face and fast. So then Marvel Comics EIC Bob Harras and the powers that be decided to they needed to do something, and do something quick. So gave Jim Lee and Rob Liefield(fresh off being ousted from Image) a ringy-dingy, and history was made.

I have to say at the time and being a bit more ignorant of how things in the industry worked back then, this all seemed like a good thing. Books like Avengers, Iron Man, Fantastic Four, were suffering from an all-time low in sales, and this seemed like just the thing the books needed. Of course sacrifices had to be made, and the 1st critically-acclaimed run on Captain America by Mark Waid and Ron Garney was cut short right as it was starting to make become buzz-worthy. The Fantastic Four were also cut short just as Carlos Pacheco getting warmed up, and then there was Warren Ellis' too brief run on Thor.

Thanks to Professor X going bad(again) and becoming Onslaught, the Avengers and FF were forced to conveniently sacrifice their lives so that they Lee and Liefield could give them all makeovers Image Comics-style.

It was fun for a bit, but then one by one, creators came and went, and by the second year it was mercifully put out of its misery. It really was something exciting at first, but just went to shit faster than Liefield's rendition of Captain Man-Boobs America.

4). Warren Ellis is God!

Well okay not really, but he's pretty damn popular.
The late 90's, not to mention the coming decade would not have been as exciting if it wasn't for this man.

All I have to say is Stormwatch, The Authority, and Planetary and you already know where I'm going with this.

Ellis brought something new to the table. He brought excitement and wonderment back. Not to mention, along with Grant Morrison, single-handedly invented the Michael Bay-esque wide-screen action/adventure comic.

He turned what could've easily amounted to nothing more than a true 90's rip-off of the JLA in the Authority,  into a fresh concept. If these guys were the JLA, they were the JLA like you wish they were; proactive killing machines that got the job  done, no matter the difficulty level, just without the pesky moral dilemma of killing people.

And then there was Planetary.

Only Ellis could make a concept like Super-powered archaeologists work, and work he did, along side artist extraordinaire John Cassidy. Planetary allowed to explore the hidden world of the then Wildstorm Universe, showcasing all sorts of weird and secret going-ons, while allowing readers to feel as they were going to these wild and exotic places along with Elijah Snow, The Drummer, and Jakita Wagner.

Plus Ellis' version of an evil Fantastic Four in the, well, The Four, was fun as hell to watch.

Thankfully Ellis and Cassidy got to end the book they wanted too, but I wouldn't be against an occasional special every now and then. Oh wait, that'll probably never happen because of the stupid DC reboot. Damn you Didio!!!!!!!

5). Grant Morrison's JLA

It just wouldn't be a true 90's list, without mentioning the true saving grace of DC back then. Hey, that's no bullshit either!

The Justice League as a team and concept wasn't much to look at back then. It was mostly comprised of some main-eventers like Wally West Flash, WW, and maybe Hawkman(?) with the rest being second- and third-stringers like Blue Beetle, Metamorpho, Ice Maiden, Crimson Fox, Obsidian, and Nukleon.

When Morrison was announced to takeover the book with a new #1, fans were skeptical, and rightfully so. After all, Morrison at that point was mainly known as that "Edgy Vertigo Guy", so there was plenty trepidation about someone like him taking over a mainstream title, and a huge franchise one at that.

But Morrison pretty quickly proved the naysayers wrong with his White Martian Invasion story-line  and from the there the hits just kept coming. JLA vs. the forces of Heaven, "Rock of Ages", Prometheus, His Crisis from the 5th Dimension, and so on. Not to mention Earth 2 and his last arc, World War 3.

I also cannot forget or stress enough just how awesome series artist Howard Porter was on that book. No doubt inspired by Morrison's love of all things Silver Age, Porter infused every panel and page with true creative energy that just made the every scene pop out at you with excitement and wonder.

That'll do it for me this week. As always, feel free to comment like a motherfucker on what you read, or skipped over. it's all good in the hood;)

Have a good weekend people......


Randomnerd said...

Wow. So much info. 90's overload in fast forward. I'd almost managed to completely block that Liefeld Cap from my memory, thanks for that. ;) Two notes: Ellis is still god, or at least one of them. I still read a lot of his work at least once a year along with Gaiman. It never goes out of style. And the lovely thing is so much of it is self contained you feel like you're getting a whole story. A sweet, twisted whole story.
Thank goodness for Morrison. Who saved the JLA.
Remember those black armbands they gave out after they killed Supes? I think I might still have one somewhere. Yeah, I wore one. It was shameless. I hated it. But I wore it. Felt right. And wrong. And right. Damn it. I'm still conflicted.
And as much as I hated the Supermen who came out of that I absolutely love Superbody, aka Conner Kent. Because out of that came Young Justice and the new incarnation of Teen Titans, which was AWESOME. For a while. I hope it will be again.
And wow, The Maxx. I loved that title. And the cartoon. Hooked doesn't even describe it. And Wildcats.
Excellent posting my friend.

Dale Bagwell said...

Aww, you're welcome Random. Always happy to be of service;)

The Maxx cartoon was favorite of mine, besides the Head. Remember that show? That's another topic/post in itself.

I'd argue that Morrison(along with Waid, Alex Ross, Robinson, and Millar)helped save DC in general back then. And then along came Johns.......

I never owned the armband, bc I was too cheap even back then to buy one. But I hear ya; I probably would've rocked it too had I owned one myself.

The four impostor supermen were really exciting to me at the time, but bear in mind I was like what, 13, 14 at the time;)

Other than that, I can't hate on the 90's in general. I forgot to mention Marvels or Kingdom Come, but they had my attention back then, and still hold up today. Oh, and Vertigo and Ruins/The Punisher kills the Marvel Universe as well. Good, depressing stuff;)

Dan said...

Morrisons JLA was a definitive comic for me and I'm glad you give Howard his props too. Will never forget his Darkseid.

As for Image, my early favourites were Grifter, Glory and WildC.A.Ts oh yeah and the original Gen13. It was obvious early hat Wildstorm/homage was going to break away, but I never thought I'd be brought.

I'm the reverse of Random though as I loved Reign of the Supermen better than I did the death. It had Hal Jordan snap so Kyle could enter, introduced the Fantastic Four origin of Cyborg Superman and gave us Steel. What's not to love?

As for what other 90s Id add, Spiderman 2099 (did you think Id say clone?) Age of Apocalypse, Shi, and of course for me The Ultraverse.

Dale Bagwell said...

@Dan: I briefly got on board the 2099 express there for a bit. I think I bought a random issue of Spider-Man and Ravage 2099, but I was mostly into X-Men 2099, mostly due to Ron Lim.

In fact I still remember the old QVC/HSN spots that pimped the entire line and foil covers at the time.

Ultraverse a little, but mainly the Exiles stuff for me. Oh, and the Ultraforce/Avengers stuff as well.

As for the Superman stuff, I liked both, I used to have the first(to me anyways) big hardcover that collected both the death and reign issues. Wish I still had that and the Time and Time Again trade.

As for Gen13, who wasn't a fan of them? The covers alone were enough to get me to buy, as did Witchblade and the Darkness.

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