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Why I Fear the 90s Revival Happening In Comics

Anybody who knows comics knows the 90s was a sad time for the medium. Sales dropped immensely, as did the quality of the books. Some say the industry will never return to the form it once held. That may be a tad hyperbolic, but before I continue this rant, I am aware that there were stellar 90s comics like “The Sandman,” “Kingdom Come,” “Hellboy,” and “Preacher” to name a few. The decade also gave rise to Image Comics, a publisher that the independent comics sphere would be nothing without. Furthermore there have been some amazing 90s reboot efforts like Brandon Graham’s “Prophet” or the entire relaunch of Valiant. However, the 90s revival I am talking about is not about homage, self-reflexivity, and redemption. It seems to be revival for the sake of revival, and it targets the kids, like me, who grew up reading those dreadful comics.

X-Force 11 1I started to notice signs of the revival a few months ago, but hoped I was only being neurotic. However, when Marvel announced “Deadpool Vs. X-Force” at the start of May, I knew it was the beginning of something much bigger.

Last week Marvel announced that they would be doing foil variant covers (does it get more 90s than that? Maybe if they started putting out POGS.) for the upcoming “Death of Wolverine” mini-series (Which sounds eerily similar to “Death of Superman”). This obviously isn’t new. We saw DC make their “awesome” 3-D covers last year. In recent years, variant covers have been a way for artists to showcase their work, to entice retailers, and for fans to support their favorite artists. Foil variants were used in the 90s as a way for the companies to get people to buy 10 copies of a book they mass produced with the hopes it would be worth a lot of money in the future. I doubt anyone is sitting at home stoked on their 10 foil cover copies of “Doom 2099” #1. Sure, we’ve seen foil covers crop up since the 90s, but why do they keep returning to it? Are there artists out there who are really passionate about making these covers? It seems like another gimmick. Either way, there are more signs to point to.

This week, DC announced that they will be bringing back Doomsday, who we already have seen fail in the New 52. Now we are being treated to “Superman: Doomed”. Is there any way this series could be good? Well, yes, it’s coming from the talented minds of Greg Pak, Scott Lodell, Charles Soule, and artist Ken Lashley. Doomsday is a bad villain to begin with, and it seems the creative team knows this as they are changing him up. Doomsday is now “a virus, infecting Superman from within, transforming him into an unstoppable monster.” It could be interesting, but it still screams 90s. The “Death of Superman” series and the subsequent “Return of Superman” is what lead to so many people feeling betrayed by the industry that they stopped reading altogether. Just watch Max Landis’ short below. He explains it all better than I ever could.

With foil variants, the “Death of” arcs, and the return of characters like Doomsday, it seems the 90s revival is undeniable. I know there are plenty of people who love these characters and who genuinely want to read these books. However, I can’t help but feel there is something disingenuous about it all.

I grew up reading comics during that era. I have a certain nostalgia for them, but I also saw first hand how bad it was. My fear is not that the industry is doomed to repeat history. It will not collapse. We have too many independent creators, and too many smart people working in the industry who will make sure what happened in the 90s never happens again. My fear comes from the lack of progress. The Big Two are always criticized for running in circles, for never making any of the major changes they promise. For whatever reason, people keep coming back (including myself), with the hope that maybe one day this will change. This revival of the 90s brings to the forefront the fear of the publishers to take risks and the resulting stagnation. Rather than getting stories for a modern time, and offering something new, they return to a disastrous period. The medium, like any other, demands a forward momentum, and if it continues this way, people may start to notice, better yet, care.

I suppose it’s all in the way the revival happens. There is a chance for these books to offer an honest, reflective look back at that dark stain in comics history, but it doesn’t seem foil variants or “killing” Wolverine is the best way to go about it.



  • Now I agree that the 90’s wasn’t the best time for comics but I do have to say that I loved Doomsday as a kid. I love purchasing variant cover comics even if i own the issue, recently at the comic shoppe i saw a variant cover of Superman Unchained with Doomsday on it and you’re damn right I bought it!

    • Lonnie Nadler

      I have no problem with great variant covers. I take issue with foil variants, especially if there is a price hike to go along with it.

  • Charlie Kelly

    as long as rob liefield doesn’t do interior art to Deadpool vs. X-Force, i’m good. I know he “created” them, but I despise his art.

  • Chandler Of-Adelaide

    The 90’s comic scene cops way more flak than it deserves all because Rob Liefeld sucks and comic geeks are mostly pretentious hipster types.

    Personally I preferred a lot of the 90’s comics because they were a helluva lot more interesting than most of the golden and silver age stories.

  • guitar_shredda*

    what exactly was wrong with the comics of the 90s? poor story telling?

    • Lonnie Nadler

      Poor storytelling, too many events, lots of character death and then revivals. It felt like it was all run by businessmen and not creators.

      • Dameyon Moore

        It was run by businessmen.

  • Greasy

    there’s every possibility that you’re completely right, however, as you’ve said, it’s hard not to have a little bit of nostalgia for those ridiculous, excessive, musclebound 90s comics. revisiting them is alwa

    • Lonnie Nadler

      I would love to get that awareness in the books. I hope that’s the direction they go.

  • Saren Nevac

    Guess that means increased pouches on everyone. 😉

    The variant covers went into overkill. I remember the xmen covers with the hologram foil thing on the front, the one were Magneto takes all of the metal out of Wolverine. Loved Doomsday, yes he has no character, but he doesnt need one as he is a force of nature – might as well ask if a hurricane has any character. But now they keep adding character to him they are making him less of a threat.

    Loved Image, i got into comics around that time so could read a comic from 1st issue. They designed some great characters, just people like Rob Liefield preferred to invent than put effort in the characters back stories etc. Spawn, Savage Dragon, Prophet and The Maxx were awesome. Liked Supreme, the arrogant god complex superman.

    Lets hope they dont over do it with the cross overs whee you need to buy 20 comics a month just to keep up with the story. I guess in the 90s it was just greed, knowing fans would buy then and the variants.

  • Jason Bartlett

    These are your examples of a 90’s revival? It is not even close to the 90’s these days. I like the books coming out and who cares about variants? They’ll never go away, foil or no foil.

  • art123guy

    I vaguely remember the foil covers as being the norm and not so much a hard to find variant.

    And I agree with Saren Nevac, the crossovers were a bigger problem for me. It seemed like it was 3 months of crossover, 2 months off, then another 3 month crossover.

    • Lonnie Nadler

      Events and crossovers were definitely an issue and still are, but they seem to be a bit more under control now.

      • art123guy

        What I remember/hated most was all the Spider-Man titles crossing over constantly. I only really liked 2, but every few months I hadda buy the other 2 in order to figure out what was happening. At least now you don’t have to buy all the odd series the crossover spills into in order to understand what’s going on.

  • BigJ

    I agree that the ’90s was characterized by bad comics with horrible writing and flashy art that did nothing for the story. Although there was some fantastic comics that did emerge from this era. It was fantastic for sales and made companies a lot of money. I think Marvel and DC are consistently chasing that era with things like 3D covers, killing a character every quarter and re-booting a book every six months.

  • Daniel Duncan

    I really liked Liefields run on New Mutants/X-Force, The Death of Superman/Reign of the Supermen arc, Knightfall/Quest/End in the Bat books and all the late 80s/early 90s X-Men crossovers. I will admit the Spider-Man Clone Saga was overkill, but for the most part the 90s comics were great.

    • Daniel Duncan

      Also, I might add that so far the New 52 Bat books have been garbage, and I wish there was a “90s revival” in the Bat books

  • Evan3

    Yeesh man, don’t you think that’s a bit harsh. Every era and has its cash ins Hostess Fruit Pie anyone, Spider-Man meets Cap’n Crunch) and awful arcs. Shit, I’ll take the edgy multi-covered 90s over the cynical, needlessly violent New 52 reboot.
    90s had its fair share of seminal stories (Lots listed below, but I’ll throw Heroes Reborn into the mix too), the rise of Image and Dark Horse, and all the rampant consumerism led to a rise in demand for greater creator’s rights. Let’s also not forget that the 90s gave us seminal series Batman The Animated Series, Adventures off Superman, and the still seminal, but kinda awful X-Men and Spider-Man toons.
    Anyways, I get what you mean in that the 90s was the worst for predatory consumerism with the foil, holograms, and variants, so I get that you are wary. But I am far more concerned with DC’s apparent hatred of super heroes (let’s make them bleak as shit and kill and maim them) and over-exposure than the callous bubble-bursting tricks employed in the 90s.

  • Dameyon Moore

    The foil covers, the gimmicked covers, the gimmicked storylines, so on and so forth that came out of the 1990s all happened because of the business end of comics. Not the creative end. If you look at the entire decade from 1990 to 1999, you’ll see the entire spectrum of the comic book business until it almost imploded upon itself, and it wasn’t because of the content of the books. You had folks buying seven thousand copies of Spider-Man # 1, X-Force # 1 and X-Men # 1, all because they thought they could put their kids through college with them in a few years. Too keep that “audience” occupied and to keep coming back for more with more # 1s, foil covers, gimmicked storylines, etc., etc. A lot of these decisions were made by DC and Marvel as a knee-jerk reaction to the success of Image Comics, where these books were selling millions of copies at times without any historical characters attached to them — which is what Marvel and DC at the time always promoted, that the characters sell, not the artist or writer attached. As bad as some of the Image books may have read, they were selling because of the artists attached to them. Why buy a Jim Lee clone-type artist when you could buy a Jim Lee comic?

    The problem began when those folks that had bought all those # 1’s learned that those comics weren’t increasing in value — because so many of them had been published and they were everywhere — and bailed on the entire medium. It didn’t help matters much that Marvel had bought its own distribution company, which halved the discounts that comic shops were getting from Marvel and from Diamond, and were forced out of business.

    As a teenager during that time — well for most of it — it was an awesome time to be a fan of comics. So many new characters were being birthed left and right, and the art was exciting, explosive, and wonderful to look at — anatomically correct and photorealistic be damned — and some of those covers were cool as shit. The Deathblow # 1 cover from WildStorm Productions and Image Comics was hella cool, the die-cut cover of Wolverine # 50 — if I remember right, one of Marc Silvestri’s last comics for Marvel — was pretty cool; the all black cover of Magnus Robot Fighter, and Rai # 0 is still one of the most epic comic covers of all time. Covers are always gimmicks. Always. It’s the first thing you see in a comic, and everything from the title, to the numbering, to the picture involved on the front, it’s all a gimmick to get people to buy them. In the 1960s, Marvel used the Stan Lee gimmick of using dialogue and caption boxes to pull people in. Gimmicks are a part of comic book culture.

    Dismissing the 1990s as a bad time for comics is always a way of ignoring what actually happened to the medium during that time. Image paved the way for the explosion of independent comics which led to the exposure that Goldfish, Fire, and Jinx got, which got the screenplay of Torso into Todd McFarlane’s hands which got Brian Michael Bendis the writing gig on Sam & Twitch, which led to Powers, which led to, y’know, that run he did on Ultimate Spider-Man. It also gave us David Mack’s KABUKI, Warren Ellis’ incredible run on StormWatch that lead into the Authority; it led to Robert Kirkman seeking an avenue for his love of those early Image Comics to start self-publishing his comic Battle Pope which, y’know, led to him working for Marvel on a few occasions, and eventually pitching the Walking Dead and Invincible to Image and eventually becoming an Image partner.

    It also birthed Sin City. Hellboy. 300.

    And it isn’t like you don’t have options outside of what Marvel and DC are doing. The diversity of today’s comics, which also exploded in the 1990s, is more vast than it has ever been.

    So, yep.

    • I didn’t dismiss it entirely. The first paragraph says plainly. I am thankful for a lot of 90s books and for Image Comics especially. It’s also undeniable the the industry completely crashed during that time. It’s not a matter of opinion, it’s a fact.

      I am obviously well aware of the options outside Marvel and DC, and my concern is the business side, as you (and I) mentioned. I don’t think we disagree on anything. Thanks for your response, it’s much appreciated whenever a reader comments to the extent you did.

      • Dameyon Moore

        You’re welcome! I get very wordy when I talk comics, but I do apologize for missing some of the points of your article. I don’t know how I missed them, ’cause I read it three times over. But I did!

  • THEComedyholligan

    Super hero comics suck, they are all about resetting continuty to maintain a pergatory of repetitive events. Nothing big happens because within 5-6 years the story just resets anyway. Don’t read super hero comics, they are possiblely the least interesting over saturated genre. Check out comics like crossed, ferals, uber, caliban, wormwood. These comics tell stories.

  • Canucklehead

    Everything tends to run in cycles so I wouldn’t be too concerned. Being able to consume a wide variety of stories and styles makes them all more interesting. I still read a couple of the big 2 books (I actually really liked the first 3 Doomed issues) but I would be just as unfulfilled reading nothing but those as I would be reading nothing but “edgy” and “cool” books.Art is a buffet, so keep sampling. But stay away from the Salisbury Steak.

  • Elijah Wood, Ron Howard and (I think) Simon Pegg appeared in that clip. I must be nice to have a dad that is so well connected.

    • Evan3

      Don’t forget Mandy Moore!

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