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

Ross Lincoln | 24 Jul 2014 12:30
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Doomsday eventually made his way to Metropolis, where he and Superman duked it out until both were dying. Supes died in Lois' arms, and DC spent the next year milking the aftermath of his death for everything it was worth, with four new supermen, including fascist clone, a cyborg, a superboy clone, and John Henry aka Steel trying to claim aspects of Superman's legacy. Until, of course, Superman was brought back from the dead.

It paid off handsomely for DC, until it didn't. Superman vol. 2 #75, the issue in which he died, sold millions of copies, but most of those sales were to people who didn't actually read comics, but thought the death of Superman issue would become valuable later (it wouldn't). They didn't stick around to see what happened next, and by the time Superman was brought back from the dead, sales had returned to their decline levels. Meanwhile, so many copies of The Death of Superman were printed that they had no value, and eventually people figured that out. It's not a coincidence that speculative bubble in comics burst around the same time.

Batman: Knightfall - April 1993 to August 1994.

Now technically, this wasn't an intentional follow-up to Superman's death - the Batman writers had been planning this story since 1991. But coming as it did immediately after that event, it was seen, unfairly, as another gimmick designed to drive up sales. But bubble or no bubble, follow-the-leader event or not, Batman's own mega-traumatic event, was a real blast. Plus, it involved a Lucha Libre-inspired villain, and a broken spine.

At the beginning of this story, we find Bruce Wayne burnt out and losing focus in his war on crime. Enter Bane, an insane, steroid-enhanced criminal genius who was raised in a Latin American prison and comes to Gotham, basically with the intention of defeating Batman permanently. Meanwhile, we also meet Jean-Paul Valley, a graduate student who turns out to have been raised as a member of an ancient order of assassins. (Though we don't learn that initially. Just roll with it, ok?)

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Jean-Paul becomes Azrael, an avenging superhero in training fighting alongside Batman. Meanwhile, Bane gets up to some serious business, spending many months on the pages of DC Comics doing stuff like freeing the inmates of Arkham Asylum and injecting them with experimental drugs. All the while, Bruce is still having his midlife crisis. Drama!

Bane's intent is to soften up Batman by forcing him to fight through waves of enemies. Batman is for some reason bent on dealing with them alone, which drives a rift between him and Robin, and each time he defeats one of the released criminals he becomes weaker, until finally, Bane corners him, then breaks his back by slamming him down on his knees in the iconic pose we all groaned through in The Dark Knight Rises.

Batman thus paralyzed, he spends the next year trying to rehabilitate. Owing to his falling out with Robin, he asks Jean-Paul to fill in as Batman. Which works for a while, except for the whole havjng been trained as an assassin thing. At first simply a more hardcore Batman in a mechanical suit, he eventually becomes mentally unstable and increasingly violent. Sure, he manages to defeat Bane and get some payback for Bruce, but he also breaks Batman's no kill rule when he lets the serial killer Abattoir die, and freaks out everyone who used to like Batman to boot.

Bruce eventually fixes his broken back thanks to, well, basically magic, and eventually is forced to battle Jean-Paul for the right to be Batman. Luckily, that Battle ends with Jean-Paul conceding defeat and leaving to wander the streets homeless and destitute. Weirdly, Bruce doesn't turn him over to the police, because he felt guilty for having made Jean-Paul Batman in the first place which, well, doesn't make sense but just roll with it.

The thing is, despite introducing awful characters like Bane and Abattoir, the story is actually awesome. Epic in scope, genrebending, and full of serious ramifications it took the series years to fully process, it managed to transcend the event-ness of it handily. And, let's be honest: it also helped make Lucha Libre cool in the US. So yay.

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