Comics and Cosplay
The Great 90s Comics 'Event'-Splosion

Ross Lincoln | 24 Jul 2014 16:30
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Batman versus a Lucha Libre madman and Superman killed? It was a crazy time.

Oh, the 90s. Time of grimdarkness and superseriousness. A time when the comics industry was finally getting respect, when popular movies based on comics were becoming a thing, geek culture was just beginning to become mainstream, and the medium as a whole was taken more seriously, as art, than at any time previous.

At the same time, the industry was changing. Publishers like Image were encouraging creatives to revolt against publishers who refused to allow them any rights to their creations, while the last vestiges of the Comics Code Authority were being swept away. In many ways, we're still living in the aftermath of the period, for all the good and bad that entails.

But of course, there's a lot of good, even if it's bloated, ridiculous good. The 90s were also a great time for big budget, insane blockbusters and comics were no different. But where film produced giant, bloated, campy action movies, comics had special events that lasted more than a year. Giant crossovers, amazing shifts in content, and of course, earth shattering changes were rampant. They didn't always work, but damned if they weren't fun.

Since Comic Con is starting, and since the 90s is when Comic Con Really started to matter as a force in pop culture, now is as good a time as any to look back, and so let's do just that with a close look at two of the biggest crazy, bloated events in comics history that practically defined all such events for the rest of the decade.

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The Death of Superman - 1992

By the late 80s people had gotten it into their heads that comic books were intrinsically valuable, and like gold, or real estate, would be a safe, high yield investment for the future. No, I don't mean comics as art, I mean the physical copies themselves. A speculative bubble grew around comics, with back issue prices skyrocketing, until the whole thing popped, thanks to Superman.

The death of Superman was the result of corporate synergy so complex new forms of math are needed to make sense of it. Superman was rebooted in 1986 by writer John Byrne. The new take emphasized Clark Kent as Superman's real identity instead of the other way around, changed Lex Luthor into an evil businessman, and even ditched the idea that Lois Lane was obsessed with Superman in favor of having her friendship and professional relationship with Clark be more important. It was a success, but then Byrne got into a dispute with DC, and quit. Superman continued with a new writer but sales began to drop enough that DC became concerned.

DC decided an event was needed to boost sales, and in 1992 it settled on an arc in which Clark and Lois fell in love and got married. However, DC's corporate parent, Warner Bros., had by this time began work on a tv show called "Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman." WB didn't want the comic to beat the tv show to a Superman wedding, and DC complied, agreeing to delay the planned arc until the tv show got around to it. Yes, that is kind of icky.

But DC still needed an event to boost sales of Superman, and so it settled on the next best thing after marrying Superman off: killing him. No, seriously. The idea started as a joke by DC writers, frustrated by having to postpone their planned story arc for perhaps years, but DC editorial management latched on to it, and so in the fall of 1992, a new villain, an unstoppable kryptonian killing thing called Doomsday was introduced to the DC universe. Almost as if the writers wanted to telegraph the fact that they were killing Superman just to watch him die, Doomsday had no real qualities aside from being extremely badass and extremely angry. He landed on earth, began tearing up everything he saw, and even the combined might of the Justice League couldn't stop him.

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