Friday, December 12, 2014

The 90s - not that bad as a comics decade

A few posts ago - which with my post per month quota is a few months ago - I mentioned that I had moved my old desk and bagged some of my old comics that were in it and that I took some of them out to read again.

Especially the Paul Ryan run on FANTASTIC FOUR which I have now in it´s entirety thanks to the fine folks at ANDIS COMIC EXPRESS. And they really take the word express literally because I sent my order on Monday and I got them on Wednesday. So I got all the FANTASTIC FOUR issues from 356 to 414 which are 60 uninterrupted issues all done by the same creative team : Tom DeFalco and Paul Ryan. Yep, that DeFalco guy pops up again.

One of my favorite runs on a comic and again it starts in 1991 and goes on until 1996. There are many comic readers and historians who will tell you that the 80s where the best period in comics EVER and that the 90s were a dark and terrible period in which the industry only produced dreck.

To which I respond in true Walter Bishop fashion : Yes. And no. Let´s put things into perspective here. As someone who has lived this period of the comic industry and not only read about it in essay about that time I can affirm that the 80s were a great time to read comics. A lot of good stuff like Frank Miller´s DAREDEVIL, Alan Moore´s SWAMP THING or Walter Simonson´s THOR came out during the 80s. John Byrne was writing and drawing FANTASTIC FOUR, John Buscema was on AVENGERS, there were great independent books like TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES, USAGI YOJIMBO or CEREBUS. And RETURN OF THE DARK KNIGHT, BATMAN YEAR ONE, V FOR VENDETTA and WATCHMEN revolutionized comics forever.

On the other side a trend was started that aimed comics at an older audience and went totally overboard with the whole grim and gritty stuff.

And we still have to deal with that fallout Today. Okay, I won´t deny that there were a lot of comics in the 90s which weren´t very good. And part of the reason for that was that there were a lot of comic book companies - period. iMAGE started and most of their books concentrated on the art while ignoring the stories completely. Or at least to a big degree. Other companies like VALIANT or MALIBU were also out there trying to become top dog in the comic pound with trading cards and chromium covers. A lot of chromium and gimmick covers. There are 6 gimmick covers in Paul Ryan´s FF run. The 90s were the decade when art was more important than story, chromium covers reigned supreme, comics became collector items. Everybody wanted a piece of the pie and Marvel went bankrupt.

But the 90s were also the decade when little comic companies could flourish because creator rights were finally acknowledged. One of the reasons why there were so many publishers was the old rules changed.

Comic creators could fully benefit from their intellectual property and work for hire was just another option, not the only game in town. And I say, if you knew WHAT to read the 90s weren´t so bad. CEREBUS was still coming out in the 90s and so were USAGI YOJIMBO or SANDMAN. In fact SANDMAN had just started at the end of the 80s and finished in 1996.

Most of the big VERTIOG books like PREACHER, TRANSMETROPOLITAN or THE INVISIBLES came out in the 90s and there were such great indie comics like MADMAN, BONE or STRANGERS IN PARADISE which nobody can deny are some of the best comics ever published. Dark Horse Comics Presents introduced us to CONCRETE, SIN CITY and HELLBOY and Dark Horse brought us THE MASK, BARB WIRE and John Byrne´s NEXT MEN.

At DC we had great comics like James Robinson´s STARMAN and Mike Grell wrote one of the best series with his version of GREEN ARROW.

Also Gerard Jones was writing the best Green Lantern series ever GREEN LANTERN : MOSAIC. Alex Ross brought his magic in KINGDOM COME and UNCLE SAM and there was the Legion double whammy of the Bierbaums taking over writing on LEGION OF SUPER - HEROES while Alan Grant and Keith Giffen took on L.E.G.I.O.N. ´90 to ´94 which turned into a triple whammy when the Threeboot Legion added LEGIONNAIRES ( also written by the Bierbaums ). The 90s were a really good time to be a Legion fan.

Or a FLASH fan. Mark Waid started on the book and I read it solid through the 90s. Not one bad issue in the bunch, all great stories and great art.

Another DC book - or rather various books - I read straight through the 90s were the SUPERMAN titles. We had the Death of Superman, World without Superman, the Return of Superman and the Zapp Superman.

And what about the other big DC franchise ? Batman got a new Robin with Tim Drake, one of the best Robins in my opinion, he got his back broken by Bane and got better and ended up in NO MAN´S LAND. Artistic highlights were a lot of issues by Kelley Jones and Norm Breyfogle.

I also have to mention the Titans or THE NEW TITANS since they started the 90s with one of my favorite storylines, THE WILDBEAST HUNT.

Over at Marvel Alex Ross was also present with MARVELS, Brett Blevins did one of my favorite and weirdest series with SLEEPWALKER,

I was still enjoying THE MIGHTY THOR and Eric Masterson as first the new Thor and then Thunderstrike as I already mentioned in my last post,

Jim Lee started on UNCANNY X - MEN, Mark Texeira did art on the new GHOST RIDER ( with Javier Saltares ) and WOLVERINE,

Peter David was still writing THE INCREDIBLE HULK and the title went into overdrive - or better visual overload - when Dale Keown joined the team.

He also wrote two of my favorite books in the 90s, SPIDER - MAN 2099 with art by the great Rick Leonardi and X - Factor, probably the only title where he left a bigger mark than on the Hulk. QUASAR of all books became a must read thanks to the fabulous art by Greg Capullo and a story that will be spotlighted in one of my next DEATH IN COMICS posts,

and George Perez brought us SACHS & VIOLENS ( again with writing by Peter David ), the first issues of INFINITY GAUNTLET, HULK : FUTURE IMPERFECT and the first 23 issues of what would become one of the greatest runs in AVENGERS history EVER ! And speaking about great Avengers stories of the 90s, I know that there were some stories that were just a big pile of excrement but what better way to end the 90s for the Avengers than AVENGERS FOREVER by Kurt Busiek and Carlos Pacheco.

Just take a look at this original art page from issue 10 of the series.

This is the end of Today´s post even if there are still lots of great comic books from the 90s I could mention. This post is just too long as it is. I hope it wasn´t too boring and the next time somebody tries to go on a rant about how awful the 90s comics were you can tell him what´s what.
Before we come to the video section of the post I have to confess that I couldn´t help but put some homage covers in the post. Here are the cliff notes : the cover of QUASAR 29 is of course an homage to Demi Moore´s cover for VANITY FAIR, the cover of L.E.G.I.O.N. ´91 issue 32 is one of the many cover homages to the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, the cover for THOR 450 is an homage to JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY 83, the first appearance of Thor and the cover for FANTASTIC FOUR 391 by Paul Ryan pays homage to Jack Kirby´s cover for issue 49 of the same series.

Yesterday I posted a clip from THE RETURN OF THE INCREDIBLE HULK which I watched on YouTube after I finished the post ( well, as far as it was finished Yesterday since I did some work on it Today as you have without doubt noticed ). In any case I really enjoyed it and the characters of Doctor Donald Blake and Thor were not as bad as I thought back then which might have something to do with the fact that there have been a few versions of Thor since then that were even worse. Anyway, here is another Hulk tv movie, THE TRIAL OF THE INCREDIBLE HULK from 1989 which guest stars Daredevil played by STREETHAWK´s Rex Smith. Back then I thought their Daredevil costume looked silly but it´s practically the same as in the new tv series. Those Hollywood guys are so lazy they just swiped it from an old 80s tv movie. And watch out for a young Stan Lee who makes a cameo as part of the jury in Banner´s dream sequence.

Speaking about callbacks to older posts, some posts ago I posted the latino version of the BraveStarr movie, here is the german version.

And since not everybody speaks spanish or german here is BraveStarr - The Legend for all my readers in the UK and the United States. Enjoy !

I´m always happy to promote good comic podcasts, especially if they are from Germany. Here´s a new one that has started just recently which was brought to my attention by my brother ( you have to look for " geblitzt " and not just " blitz " on YouTube to find it ). This one is about GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY - which I have finally seen - and the comics on which they are based. A very good video with lots of information especially for those people who don´t read that many comics. And without spoilers. Danke !

Okay, one last video but this is just too hilarious to not post. She thinks she´s all that but her little brother totally video bombs her. He´s got some serious skills. I wanted to embed a YouTube video but of course it is blocked in Germany because it has music from Akon´s SMACK THAT.

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Anonymous said...

Nice post. I haven't read Tom DeFalco and Paul Ryan's
run on FF, think I'll check it out.

Fools act as if the 90's was mostly bad with a few gems, when it's exactly the opposite. bad comics were the exception not the rule.

the 90's also had the life and times of scrooge mcduck! and Sal Buscema's Spectacular Spider-Man! Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol! Shade the changing man! the Tick!
Alan Grant's Lobo! the list goes on and on.

SUBZERO said...

If you knew WHAT to read the 90s were great. Yes, there were some of the 90s tropes in the Thor comics - like pouches, goatees, ponytails and big guns - but those were in every book.

As for Tom DeFalco and Paul Ryan´s FF part of it is in a new Epic Collection but only the final issues. I don´t know why they decided to start with that but I guess they wanted to include the Carlos Pacheco issues. Speaking about Paul Ryan he´s also one of the artist in the Epic Collection IRON MAN : WAR GAMES. I thought that John Romita Jr did most of the issues but Paul Ryan draws more than half of it. He´s one of those artists who deserves to get more credit.