Movies & TV / Columns

The Worst Comic Book Trends from the 90s

September 4, 2019 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
Adam X

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! Last week we covered House of X #3, Year of the Villain: Black Mask #1, and more!

On with the show!

Last time we discussed the Best Comic Books from the 90s!. Here’s what some of you had to say:

Solomon Grundy: “Might not be a vogue choice, but batman had knightfall and long halloween during the 90s. For me, just based on those 2 arcs, batman should be on the list.”

redraptor: “Yes all the above are awesome and all would have dog in the fight for a Top 10 list. So, I’ll go with one not mentioned: The first 3 years or so of Ghost Rider as well as Spirits of Vengeance. Everything started to come apart around the Midnight Sons cash grab then things came off the rails with Seige of Darkness and the title lost its way, but those first 2-3 years were pretty sweet. The mythology has been retconned into oblivion since, but Mackie actually seemed to have had an overarching storyline and answers for most of the questions posed in the story. As opposed to most popular “Big Mystery” stories we have had over the years like X-files, Lost, and dare I say Wolverine.

Dont get me wrong. GR is definitely Halloween to Starman’s Godfather, but I feel it’s worth a mention for some horror fans.”

Acolyte Of Glorious La Parka~: “One that nobody mentions – X-Men #303. This was the issue right before the big event with Magneto ripping out Wolverine’s adamantium, and Xavier “killing” him. Illyana (Colossus’ sister) dies of the legacy virus, in what I thought was the most heartbreaking comic issue I had ever read. Not just her death, but the X-Men’s reaction to it. Colossus leaves the group, blaming Xavier for her death. The pain the other X-Men feel is like nothing you’ve ever read in a comic. It’s like you can physically feel it. I cried every time I read it, and would so if I read it today. Pick this up in a comic store if you possibly can. It will put you through the emotional wringer. As fine a writing in the genre as you are EVER going to find.”

Michael L: “Although the Death of Superman storyline got many into the Superman series, for me it was the Funeral For a Friend series, combined with the Reign of the Superman storyline that kept me going until the early 2000’s when I got tired of the endless megastories that were nothing but fights. I liked the more personal side of the Superman characters, for which they did a very good job through the mid 90’s or so.”

Tom Hyberger: “I’m going to get weird here. Pitt was my favorite even though it was a little uneven. Age of Apocalypse was great. Gen13 was good for a bit. I was into amazing Spiderman as well but it started crossing over so much you couldn’t follow it all. X-Force was also a lot of fun. Finally, Spawn. Spawn was fun to read back then too.”

Al Lobama: “The biggest omission from this list that I could think of was Thunderbolts. That series literally turned the Marvel Universe on it’s head after the post-Heroes Reborn shake-up. It was a novel concept that came as a complete shock by the end of the first issue, and it remained an original and engaging series throughout that first thirty-six issue run by Busiek and Bagley. Sadly, no other creative team or series relaunch has ever been able to get the concept right since.

On the DC side, I’ve got to go with Mark Waid’s run on Flash for both it’s longevity, consistency, and overall entertainment value. Post Crisis, Wally West was viewed by fans as a placeholder until Barry Allen eventually came back from the dead. It was because of Waid’s work on this series that Wally West became THE Flash, to the point that many fans (myself among them) were actually disappointed when Barry Allen eventually did come back. I’d also throw in John Ostrander and Tom Mandrake’s run on the Spectre, which is still the high water mark for the character.

If we want to include Independent/Small Press books on this list, I’d add the works of Evan Dorkin, namely Hectic Planet, Dork!, and Milk & Cheese. Dorkin’s work during this period pulsated with raw energy and comedic anger, like a Mature Readers version of Mad Magazine. Milk & Cheese was a miracle in that each strip was essentially repeating the exact same joke, yet somehow it amazingly never got old. And has there ever been a funnier or more accurate parody of the hardcore fanboy culture than the Eltingville Comic Book, Science Fiction, Horror, Fantasy, and Role-playing Club?”

mcdropkick: “We were bout to throw hands but you mentioned Starman at the end. Good man. Astro City is another personal favorite, maybe my favorite comic ever if you put a gun to my head.

Another favorite was Hitman by Ennis and McCrea.”

Reginald Fisterbottom: “No mention of Justice League International? BWA-HA-HA-HA-HA!!!”

Some great back and forth last week. To read ALL of the comments go HERE! As always, thanks for the input!

This week we discuss…

The Worst Comic Books from the 90s!

Since we covered the Best last week, why not flip it and go after the worst? I’m also looking into doing the Best/Worst of the 80s, which is pretty interesting.

As I said last week, the 90s were an interesting and dark time to be a fan. Every week was an endless parade of variant, hologram, and foil covers that littered the racks. Speculation ran wild, driving publishers, both big and small, to feed the beast.

I remember seeing news reports that talked to people who treated holofoil as an actual investment opportunity. It was that kind of speculating that drew in casual fans and, specifically, vultures who were only in it for a quick buck. Everyone was buying up as much as they can, with dreams of reselling it to make a pretty penny.

Which is pretty much what just about everything from the 90s is worth today outside some current hot movie properties that were born during that era.

Comic stories were filled with big superheroes with big guns, big shoulder pads, and big pouches. Mullets and midriffs were a favored look while women were drawn in the most unrealistic portrayal ever, usually in a bikini. If you were an Independent, there was a strong chance an adult variant existed of just the bottom half of the bikini being worn.

Oh, and everything popular had to be extreme! Like Extreme Justice. The less said about that book the better.

Perhaps one of the worst (best?) examples of this is Adam X aka The X-Treme! Created by Fabian Nicieza, Greg Capullo and Jeff Johnson, Adam X first appeared in X-Force Annual # 2 back in 1993. Originally the plan was for Adam X was intended to be the third Summers brother. This was throw to the side, thankfully, when a change of writers brought a change of plans.

Adam X’s costume was about what you’d think it would be and had some blades and a backwards turned hat. To make sure you knew how extreme he was.

What it was missing was armor. Which the 90s seemed to relish.

While Wolverine went feral with his look, plenty of other heroes went all in with the armor. Heroes like…

Booster Gold
Captain America (and I should mention Capwolf here. Yes, Captain America was a werewolf for a brief stint)

And who can forget when Azrael took over Batman and armored himself with armor on top of armor. And to top it off, he added more armor.

Invisible Woman put a “window” on her costume and Wonder Woman wore a kind of black spandex…actually, I’m still not sure what they were going for there.

The 90s gave us different versions of familiar characters, like Thor and Thunderstrike. Eric Masterson started as a supporting character and then merged with Thor. While creator Tom DeFalco claimed that Thunderstrike outsold Thor and The Avengers combined at the time of its cancellation; that was very doubtful.

Then again, books that weren’t using gimmicks weren’t as hot sellers so maybe he was right.

We also got Heroes Reborn. The idea behind this was Marvel would outsource the production of several of its flagship books to the studios of Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld. This drew a huge amount of attention, as these two were firmly in place at Image. The changes they made to the characters drew mixed reactions from the fans, with some books doing better than others. Sales for the series were impressive but the quality is still being debated today.

We were introduced to such characters like Bloodwulf and Warchild. We got titles with every variation of blood in the title. We also were overexposed to the adventures, and multiple series, of Wolverine, Spider-Man, Punisher, Ghost Rider, Batman, and a host of others.

The 90s were filled with everyone jumping into the publishing game. One of the standouts was Chaos! Comics, which mostly focused on horror comics. Their titles included Lady Death, Purgatori, Evil Ernie, Chastity, Jade, Bad Kitty, and Lady Demon.

Doom, death, and big boobs were their bread and butter.

Speaking of death, perhaps the biggest event from that time that exemplified all that was wrong was The Death of Superman. I know it has its fans but it was a moment that brought just as much bad as it did good. The moment Superman came back, the backlash swelled as Superman fans felt cheated and the speculators saw their collectible devalue.

Overexposure, gimmick story, changing costumes, multiple covers, it’s a checklist of 90s cliches.

What did you dislike most about comic books in the 90s?

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