Welcome to the return of the long running and Einstein award winning "From Top to Bottom" column! Every week I will look at something within the comics industry and give you my opinion on what I think is the best and what I think ranks amongst the bottom-feeders.
Last time, I admitted that I like gimmick covers and that I was one of those fans that helped make it a problem by buying a ton of them. I still stand by saying that some of them were cool and I looked at the Top and Bottom of Gimmick Covers. After reading more of Brandon's great Casualties of the 90's columns I decided it would be fun to look back at the 90's as well. With this special extended 18th edition, I will be looking at my favorite projects that came out in the 90's. While the 90's were not looked at as one of the greatest eras in comics, it was certainly important and is probably my favorite era.
October 1992. Marc Silvestri is one of my favorite artists and I could not wait until this series came out. Like all early Image books this did have problems with lateness but it was worth waiting. The first miniseries had 5 issues (#0-4) and the second series lasted only 35 issues. What I liked about this series is that Cyberforce's main enemy was destroyed in the 25th issue and then it had to change direction. That new direction introduced a more supernatural edge to it that became Top Cow's main staple.
August 1994. I am a sucker team books and Ultraforce featured all of Malibu's top guns. Another big draw was the return of George Perez to a monthly book. Sadly, this series only lasted 10 issues before Marvel destroyed the line. But the 2nd volume that came out a year later was still pretty entertaining, it featured early work from Warren Ellis. This series and the original Prime title were fantastic.
September 1991. The only Valiant title that I have a full run (except for that pesky #60) of. Those early issues was absolutely terrific. Solar was not an ordinary super hero, and I recognized that quickly when he lost control of his powers and destroyed the whole Earth. The split personalities and alternative universes were more than plot devices, they were clever ways for the reader to learn how god-like and how human Solar really was.
7) Stray Bullets
March 1995. I discovered this book a lot later than when it initially came out and I wish I had picked it up then. Back when I first collected comics, I rarely went beyond Marvel and DC and I was more into superhero stuff. This book would have changed my comic buying habits for the better. This book is still going although sadly it is on hiatus. Reading Stray Bullets makes me feel better about the life that I have, there are moments when I read it that I feel sick to my stomach. I feel that way because I feel like I know these characters and the terrible decisions that they make and it is hard to watch what happens.
6) Age of Apocalypse
March 1995. I couldn't believe it when I heard that Marvel was cancelling all of its X-titles (I heard this in the comic shop, way before the Internet was used) and I couldn't believe what these "new" X-titles looked like. Probably one of the greatest events of the 90's. While I knew that the normal Marvel Universe would return, it was so much fun to see how characters were changed and how they fought. It really felt important and would affect the X-titles for years after. Hey Marvel! This is how you kill off Banshee!
March 1994. I always like Mignola's moody art when it was on Alpha Flight and I remember flipping through this issue at Woodhaven Comics in New York and thinking that this could be something special. This was pure Mignola art, not like I saw when he was on Alpha Flight. It wasn't until Wake the Devil that I knew for sure that this was special. I never imagined that this series would still continue today and that there would have been a few movies as well.
July 1996. When Stormwatch first came out I collected and loved the early issues, Backlash turned out to be a personal favorite of mine and I followed him through the Kindred and then to his own Backlash series. But the reason I listed Stormwatch on this list was when Warren Ellis took over the book and turned it around. Ellis gave me a superhero book that was not just about capes and supervillians. He gave us a book about how those who have abilities can change the world. His work grew more ambitious and led the way to the 2nd volume of Stormwatch and then naturally turned into the Authority. His run changed comics forever.
July 1991. My first real independent book that I picked up. I heard a ton of good reviews about it and I saw #15 on the shelves and decided to pick it up. At first glance I thought I was picking up a kids book, the Bone characters looked silly. But as I read the issue and laughed out loud, I knew I was wrong. The black and white art really stood out and the pacing seemed a lot slower than other comics (this was before decompression was really used) and it fit. Those first 25 issues of the that series (it was completed with #55) were classic!
October 1994. By now I am sure everyone knows that I a MAJOR Alan Davis fan. I loved his run on Excalibur and was intrigued by this new mysterious series that featured all new characters. What I loved about this book were the relationships between the characters, they felt like a family to me. They argued like a family does, they treat each other like family members do, good or bad. During this time, comics were more grim and gritty. It seemed like every team book had a guy with claws and a guy with large guns. This book hearkened back to the older days, where characters had code names like Crimson Crusader and they wore a cape. This was a refreshing look back at the classic feel of the old days. Sadly, Alan left the book with the 8th issue and returned for a 2 issue miniseries with the X-Men and it would take almost 15 years for them to return.
1) Savage Dragon
July 1992. At first I really disliked Erik Larsen and now I love the guy. His book has never failed to entertain me. This book literally has everything. I never know what to expect when I read it, it is full of shocks, twists, violence, sex and a whole lot more! The best part is that Erik Larsen will always be on the book until he dies and I will be along for the ride the whole time. How can you go wrong with a character like BrainApe? Yes, he is a huge gorilla with the brain of Adolf Hitler. Erik is not afraid to change anything, NOTHING is sacred, even the Dragon himself!
See? I love the 90's! I could have easily added Preacher, Starman, Alan Moore's Supreme to this list! Now there are books that came out that were not so great either. I will not bore you with a huge list of what was ridiculous but I will give you my Bottom 3 projects of the 90's.
September 1993. This crossover featured 2 of the hottest comic companies in Image and Valiant and this series was one of the things that caused the downfall of comics in the 90's. Image was extremely late in the project, so late that retailers could not return any unsold comics back to the publisher. There was thousands of Deathmate Red and Black left unsold in comic shops. The project was hastily put together and it should be noted that Todd McFarland and Erik Larsen wanted nothing to do with the project. Its only bright spot was that it did introduce Gen13 to comic fans.
2) Heroes Reborn
November 1996. You'd think that with Liefeld and Jim Lee returning to Marvel would be the greatest thing but it wasn't. None of the creators could even stay on the books the whole time, which was extremely disappointing. The only good thing about it was it gave more exposure to the Avengers and Fantastic Four titles and made them just as important as the X and Spider-titles.
1) The Clone Saga
October 1994. I never thought it would come to a time when I didn't collect a Spider-Man book. It has only happened twice, with Brand New Day and back in the 90's with the Clone Saga. Comic book companies in the 90's found a formula of success by overhauling characters completely, they killed Superman, broke Batman's back, made Hal Jordan go crazy, kill Daredevil off and replace him with an 'armor' version, make Colossus go bad, suck the metal out of Wolverine, kill off Green Arrow... ...geez, the list is endless. The biggest disaster was the Clone Saga. The Spider-Man we all knew was just a clone! The Clone Saga was only supposed to last a year or so but it sold well (like all the comics in the 90's) and so Marvel extended it and it went on and on and on. Now there are some good stories within that craptacular event, Amazing Spider-Man #400 being the best, we ended up with a new Spider-Man. The costume was cool, but Ben Reily was not. Thankfully they ended it by killing Ben, who was revealed to be the actual clone but it also brought back Norman Osborn. Ugh.
Sure the 90's had some terrible moments but there were some great gems that came out of the same era!