THAT'S SO 90s!
This column marks the 700th continuous week of Pipeline Commentary and Review. The whole thing started in 1997, which I suppose means I'm in my third decade writing this column: The 90s, the Aughts, and now the 10s. ("Lies, damned lies, and statistics," right?)
Let's revisit the 90s this week. I came across a forgotten longbox of comics that so perfectly exemplified comics of the decade that I had to report back my findings.
Let's take a look at some of these atrocities, er, examples of their time:
The world of computing is always tough for storytellers to handle. Just take a look at all the hacker-type movies Hollywood has done, and how few of them contain more than an ounce of truth or authenticity. Marvel at the high tech world of '24,' where Jack Bauer's group all had iPhones on steroids years before the smart phone world took off. Bore yourself to sleep watching people type phosphorescent characters onto a black screen. Heck, there are times that I think the only good use of a computer in Hollywood was the closing bit from each episode of "Doogie Howser." Even then, Doogie never typoed anything.
All of this brings us to Neal Adams' 1990/1991 modern masterpiece, "Cyberrad." Never heard of it? Lucky you. I mean, just say that title out loud. "Cyberrad." It trades off both the hip lingo of the day (or, more likely, it was hip five years prior to the series' actual publication) and a computer buzzword. A few years later, everything would be "Cyber" something or "e-" something.
Neal Adams did the layouts for the issue, while Richard Bennett did the rest of the art. Adams' footprint is felt clearly throughout the issue, as it probably was in the entire Continuity Comics line-up.
The book appears to have been hip, cutting edge, and remarkably emo. This is a tortured character who wants us to know that he is not a robot, and stop asking him about it:
He might just be a hair metal band front man, though.
You know what's really bad about that page? Check out the way the guy's left foot from the middle image winds up sticking out of the crotch of the next guy down. Artists, please watch your tangents!
You know how every comic is someone's favorite? I think this comic was the end of that adage.
The early 90s was a different time in publishing, to be sure. The lack of a commercialized internet and a graphical web browser meant that comic previews were something that other publishers would do. Out of this was born a magazine called "Comics Debut." It was in comic book format and, each month, would feature sample sequences from a handful of titles across multiple companies. This particular issue has samples from the following 90s gems:
- "Mack Bolan: The Executioner" #1 (Innovation Comics)
- "She-Bat and Spawn: She-Bat" #3 (Continuity Comics)
- "Freex" #1 (Malibu's Ultraverse)
- "Aliens vs. Predator: The Deadlist of the Species" #1 (Dark Horse)
- "Madman Adventures" #3 (Kitchen Sink/Tundra)
- "Children of the Voyage" (Marvel UK)
- "Deathmate Prologue" (Image)
It was published, by the way, by the same folks who do "Comic Shop News."
Even better, you got to pay a dollar for the honor. That's right: 20 years ago, you had to buy your previews. We're so spoiled today.
But the thing that really pushes this comic over the top and into "That's So 90s!" territory is the graphic design. Check out just one sample page, and I can assure you that every introduction page looks just as bad. This was a specific choice, not just a one-off mistake. And it's nearly completely illegible every time. I wonder which version of Photoshop they were using at the time. This issue was published in 1993.
Remember the letters columns in comics at that same time that did similar things? You couldn't read the letters anymore, because the background purple to yellow gradient was too harsh to make out the plain black text.
"Ex-Mutants" was a series published by Malibu comics, going back to the 80s. In 1992, it came back. This time, a new young artist by the name of Paul Pelletier handled the art chores, and a new writer was announced in the letters column of issue #2:
"Special announcement: Malibu is pleased to announce that hot young writer Hank Kanalz of Youngblood and Brigade will be taking over the Ex-Mutants adventures beginning with Ex-Mutants #4..."
Today, DC Entertainment is pleased to announce that hot young writer Hank Kanalz is their new Senior Vice President, Digital.
Let's jump forward to 1994 now. Jim Shooter published a lot of lines of comics in the 90s, starting with Valiant, then Defiant, and finally Broadway. And they all pretty much looked alike: boring, with painted colors.
It's that middle publishing effort that gives us the comic that some might say typifies the 90s the most: "Grimmax." If you like grim and gritty, this book is grim to the max!
Actually, no, it's not. This #0 issue is - well, goofy. It's the story of a bicycle delivery guy from another planet now working on earth, fighting off bad neighborhoods' worth of goons to deliver his one important package.
It's shocking, I tell you, that a lineup of comics featuring the headliner "Warriors of Plasm" failed so quickly. Shocking.
This promotional issue was done in conjunction with "Hero Illustrated" magazine, which I remember quite enjoying at the time. It's an impressive lineup of creators they boast of writing about in the last year. But it looks like an average week here at CBR.
And there's no better topic worthy of discussion than comic magazines of the 90s. Perhaps another time...
From some time after Shooter left Valiant Comics, we have a comic that's oh-so-very 90s, but also retro-cool by today's standards. Remember "Valiant Vision?"
This was Valiant's attempt to remake 3D comics. You didn't need to wear dorky green and red glasses for this effect, either. No, the glasses that came with the comic were clear. Actually, they were polarizing lenses that basically worked by making red things jump out and blue things recede. So who better to star in such a comic that Solar, a character covered head to toe in a red bodysuit? And the story carefully made sure that he'd be in an environment with lots of blue backgrounds. For an extreme example, check out this house ad:
Note the gradient from blue to red on the objects that are in a stack growing out towards the reader.
Today, comics publishers seem more interested in getting their comics to movie, but eventually they'll get back around to 3D.
"Scavengers" #1 might take the cake for "That's So 90s!," though. On its own merit, there's nothing too crazy about it. It's a full color spaceship-based comic. It's drawn by Franchesco, whose unique style always shines.
The publisher was the short-lived Triumphant Comics, whose publishing methodology was aimed squarely at the market of its time. Take a look at the band across the top of the cover for this first issue again. Yes, there's a serial number on the comic. The entire 25,000 unit print run of this issue had a counter stamping an incrementing number on each and every cover.
My copy is 4582 of 25,000. I wonder if that makes my copy of this issue worth 50 cents more than the person who's stuck with a cover greater than 10,000. As with any collectible, lower numbers are better, right? Since none of Triumphatn's comics are worth the paper they're printed on today, we'll never know.
We have space for one last throwback to the 90s. I did find an issue of Image/Valiant's "Deathmate" (the Epilogue) in this box, but that's too obvious. Picking on a book that came out late and featured the art of Marc Silvestri and Joe Quesada is just too easy. (I see some P. Craig Russell influence on Quesada's art in the issue that I've never really thought about before, though.) Also, the back cover was an ad for "Killer Instinct," billed as "The First Ever Homage Studios Crossover." I'm so glad we got away from the early 90s storytelling style of rampant crossovers and company-wide mega-events, aren't you?
Forget about "Deathmate." How about the lesser-known company-wide crossover, "Deathwatch 2000?" Clearly, this book was ahead of its time, being published in 1993 and all. The timing is interesting, though, as it looks like this Continuity Comics crossover was happening at the same time as "Deathmate." It was the early 90s - anything that sold a ton of comics (and that was a lot of things) got copied in excess quickly.
Plus, all the good names with "blood" in them were already taken.
So, yeah, "Deathwatch 2000" was Neal Adams' Continuity Comics' company-wide crossover event, which included the aforementioned Cyberrad, of course, as well as Valeria the She-Bat, of the "Spawn" crossover mentioned in the "Comics Debut" comic above.
The crossover was planned to run 20 issues, and then be followed by "The Rise of Magic," the next Continuity crossover event. Wow, thank goodness Marvel and DC didn't repeat that kind of mistake 15-20 years later...
Sorry, there's something caught in my throat this week. Must be the emotions such an anniversary week fills me with.
"Crazyman" was another title involved in the crossover at the time. It was about to "sally forth" (that's what the ad copy says) into a "Prisoner" riff.
Most excitedly for the time is news that "Neal Adams personally illustrates the final chapter of the Armor/Rage conflict. The longest hand-to-hand combat epic in comic book history."
How long is "epic?" 48 pages. I have to think there's a 48 page hand-to-hand fight sequence somewhere in "Lone Wolf and Cub," previously. Maybe three.
You might be thinking that, by now, I'm picking on this comic too much. I thought so, too, but then I looked at the inside front cover. Why is this book almost overqualified for "That's So 90s?" The inside front cover has a hidden secret message - presented stereoscopically! Cross you eyes and get a surprise!
And did I mention the baseball cards that came with it?
If this comic had one of those Tyvek indestructible covers on it, my head might have exploded.
I have more forgotten bits of interest from the 90s, and hope to return to it soon. Stay tuned...
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