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Comics 411: The Best of Comic Books in the 1990s

November 1, 2017 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
Kingdom Come - Mark Waid

I’m Steve Gustafson and thanks for stopping by. Don’t forget to check out 411mania’s Comic Book Review Roundtable, every Thursday! Read up on the best reviews and let us know what you’re reading as well. Click to read the latest Comic Book Review Roundtable! Deadpool vs Old Man Logan #1, Dark Nights: Metal #2, and more!

Now, on with the show!

Last week we discussed Scariest Comic Book Moments! Here’s what some of you had to say:

Ricky Soelistyo: “Every single time DC or Marvel did a reboot, or “universe changing events”…it was pretty scary”

DarthDaver: “Kid Miracleman’s London rampage.”

D2Kvirus: “The scene in Preacher where the Reaver Cleaver asks the victim they have tied to the chair if they recognise the face he holds in his hand, and the victim slowly realises it’s theirs.”

prowriter: “Lot of the newer Moon Knight stuff with Specter’s mental illness certainly is up there. Also, when Barracuda kidnaps Punisher’s newfound child in the Punisher Max series. Oh and the ultracreep factor that was Bullseye in that series. Kidnapping a family to “relive Castle’s hell.” Finally, f’n Whiteface man. Some of the stuff he does in the Nighthawk Max title is just wow. He’s a Joker analogue, and he’s just as horrid.”

To read ALL the comments from last week’s column, CLICK HERE! As always, thanks for the input!

This week we discuss…

The Best of Comic Books in 90s!

Rob Liefeld’s Bloodstrike is getting another comeback. The 1990s black ops superteam is set to comeback with Michael Fiffe doing the honors. Fiffe tweeted that the series will return in 2018, though no official announcement had been made by Image. Liefeld did retweet the announcement, so things are looking like a go.

For some of you, the 90s were before your time. To the rest of us, that 90s became an interesting and dark time to be a fan. Sure, sales were booming, Wizard magazine was riding high, and it was all good fun. Until you factor in the endless parade of variant, hologram, and foil covers that littered the racks. Plus, with so many gimmick events going around, stores were filled with casual fans with the “collector mentality”. Thanks to a lot of hype, comic covers and stories were filled with big superheroes with guns and big pouches. Women were drawn in the most unrealistic portrayal ever and everything popular had to be extreme!

And it all came crashing down.

But that’s a story for another time. It wasn’t all bad in the 90s. We had Alex Ross, for example. Alex’s artwork can be described as painted realism but it’s so much more than that. He opens the curtain and gives us a believable look at what our favorite heroes (and villains) would look like if we were in the room with them. Alex teamed up with Kurt Busiek’s for Marvels, a fun, engrossing, and personal journey through the history of the Marvel universe. I flipped through it the other day and it still draws you in and you can’t help but marvel at its simple complexity. Ross also teamed up with Mark Waid for DC’s Kingdom Come. While Marvels celebrated Marvel’s past, Kingdom Come took a look at DC’s dark apocalyptic future. While the story is heavy on religious allegory, it takes pleasure in revealing on what happens to the heroes and villains that we’re familiar with and introduces us to a new cast of characters.

Alan Moore has achieved near iconic status in the industry and while some of his interviews delve into incomprehensible diatribes, we’ll always have The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. The League was a crazy “what if” style book that looked at what would happen if some of the greatest figures of fiction teamed up. Some of the easter eggs went over my head (at the time) but you read it and felt like you were reading something important.

Image gets a lot of flack when it comes to the 90s but we have to acknowledge the impact it had on the industry as a whole. The great Marvel exodus included eight of the biggest artists at the time: Todd McFarlane, Jim Lee, Rob Liefeld, Marc Silvestri, Erik Larsen, Jim Valentino, Whilce Portacio, and Chris Claremont. While Image took some hits and received some bad press for missed deadlines and gimmick covers, you can’t deny their pushing the fight for rights forward. Characters like Spawn and Savage Dragon still thrive today. And Astro City still continues to shine with some of the most solid storytelling out there.

On the other hand, I was a big fan of Valiant in the 90s. While they had a certain “house style” when it came to art, the stories were solid and different from the usual fare. Harbinger, X-O Manowar, Rai, and Shadowman, the crossover event called Unity, and then Eternal Warrior and Archer & Armstrong. Yes, Valiant pioneered a number of marketing innovations, such as the issue zero “origin” issues, the gold logo program, coupons redeemable for original comic books, and chromium covers, and they became a victim of the comic book bust. That and some questionable ownership deals.

When it came to the independent scene, two books stood out as well. Sin City and Hellboy. While Frank Miller’s best work may be behind him, Sin City was a gritty film noir style book that took the reader on a journey like none other. On the flip side, Mike Mignola’s Hellboy still remains one of my favorite books of all time thanks to it’s use of legend, layered characters, and artwork that stuck with you.

While we’re waiting for Milestone Comics’ to return, it was founded in 1993 by a coalition of African-American artists and writers, consisting of Dwayne McDuffie, Denys Cowan, Michael Davis, and Derek T. Dingle. Its first batch of titles: Hardware, Icon, Blood Syndicate, and Static caught the attention of fans and it’s still talked about fondly today.

DC gave us some of the best Vertigo books ever in the 90s. Preacher, Hellblazer, Animal Man, and, perhaps the best of all, Sandman, and so many more. It was a good bet that if you picked up a Vertigo title during this time, you would get your money’s worth. While not Vertigo, James Robinson’s run on Starman is still one of the best reads you can give yourself.

What do you think of the 90s? What was your favorite title?

That’s all the time I have. Check out our Comic Book Reviews tomorrow and see you next week!