Spawn, “Maximum Carnage,” X-Men, Youngblood, Ben Reilly: this is just a minuscule list of names and titles that defined one of the dopest times in comics. Now, I’m fully aware of my bias. I was born in ’78, started collecting comics in the late ’80s, and by the time the ’90s were in full swing I was an impressionable teenager with my nose deeply buried in Wizard Magazine. As the Nineties steamed on so did my passion for comics, its creators, and learning that Todd McFarlane walks on water.
My mission for this CC&M is to ramble on about a decade in comics that tends to be a topic of either you love it or hate it, very few seem to be on the fence in the argument. Whether it’s a single issue, arc, an event, or just browsing covers, there’s magic in this decade and its comics. Stories like “Knightfall,” Preacher, Kingdom Come, and we can’t forget The Infinity Gauntlet. Now, I realize this list is riddled with bias and far from cracking the surface of the great stories, writers, and artists from this decade. The ’90s will be forever immortalized as the decade where heroes died and heroes were cloned on top of die-cut foil covers, while a majority haven’t aged well these are still some of the coolest time machines out there.
Now, you can’t talk about the Nineties without talking about one of the most significant milestones in comic book history, the birth of Image Comics. Say what you will about the exodus of talent from the Big Two but if Image doesn’t happen, we are looking a different landscape of the hobby and fandom. Ever since Youngblood opened the door and hit the shelves it’s all been downhill from there. Obviously, Spawn, Savage Dragon, Gen13, Witchblade opened the door to the greatness of The Walking Dead, Invincible, Saga… well you get the idea. Without this historic event, we are looking at a completely different industry.
Digging through log boxes, the ’90s covers are immediately recognizable. Not all are going to be iconic and they could easily be recognizable for not being easy on the eyes, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder regardless of how much folks decide what to gatekeep in the hobby regarding the decade. Now can the 90s stand up to what Kirby, Romita, Perez, and the like did it depends on how you break it down? Character and art-wise, I don’t think so, but in the context of what the ’90s meant to the hobby, I think they do. Even with the big speculation boom, comics needed the ’90s to go on a vision quest of sorts and find themselves and who they wanted to be. Unfortunately, bad costume redesigns and the abandoning of quality storytelling for the quick dollar also left a bad taste in folks’ mouths that lingers to this day. I’m not saying the ’90s was the best decade for comics but if you look in the right places there’s an argument there with an abundance of ammunition. If we bring up titles such as Sandman, Mark Waid’s Captain America, Grant Morrison’s JLA, accompany that with Spawn, The Savage Dragon, and the Wildstorm Universe, those are some pretty big guns that still fire pretty loudly.
I realize the decade isn’t for everyone and that is perfectly fine, and I totally get why. You may not like the art, you may not like the gimmicks, or you may not like that you got stuck with 15 copies of Wildstar #1 and the harsh reality that you weren’t going to retire. The bottom line, the ’90s are a great decade for comics. The next time you are in your LCS and the ’90s come up (and they will) before you comment take a minute and hear how the conversation started. Did it start with Rob Liefeld, J. Scott Campbell, overly embellished women on the cover, or market speculation? Normally these conversations start this way and it’s completely unfair to the great stories, artists, writers, and characters that the decade produced.