The Big Picture: Comics in The 90s: What Happened?

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One of the things I look back in the comics in the 1990's and the reason I started reading manga (actually I don't read manga nowadays, except for One Piece) was because comics in the 1990's was trying to hard to shock me. Everything became convoluted, dark and complicated. Good literature comes from human drama, not from those ultra complex convoluted, clone story that some writes come up with.

Smokescreen:

franksands:
Image Comics is doing some very good things now, almost 20 years later, like Saga and Chew.

This is true, but Image has been bought out by DC, so they're more of an imprint like Vertigo now, instead of a challenger to the big two publishers.

Were did you read that? I can't find any evidence of it with google.

Loved the 90s, Power Rangers, Vertigo, later (96 onwards) Image. Amalgam, X-force (after Liefeld), every single friggin cartoon (I'd put anime there but i didn't know (or care) the difference at the time so it's up with cartoons), Cartoon Network, Ben Riley, Fighting Games, consoles, Gameboy, [insert Biggy line here], Bishop (one of my gav black characters), Batman's entirety, Robin, Nightwing, Bill Clinton (i'm not American but even as a kid i liked him :P)

So much love. <3

Smokescreen:

franksands:
Image Comics is doing some very good things now, almost 20 years later, like Saga and Chew.

This is true, but Image has been bought out by DC, so they're more of an imprint like Vertigo now, instead of a challenger to the big two publishers.

That's... not even close to true.

scnj:

Smokescreen:

franksands:
Image Comics is doing some very good things now, almost 20 years later, like Saga and Chew.

This is true, but Image has been bought out by DC, so they're more of an imprint like Vertigo now, instead of a challenger to the big two publishers.

That's... not even close to true.

Kumagawa Misogi:

Smokescreen:

franksands:
Image Comics is doing some very good things now, almost 20 years later, like Saga and Chew.

This is true, but Image has been bought out by DC, so they're more of an imprint like Vertigo now, instead of a challenger to the big two publishers.

Were did you read that? I can't find any evidence of it with google.

I apologize, I was incorrect.

The correct statement would have been to say that Jim Lee's stuff in WildStorm productions became part of DC comics. I was under a misunderstanding myself.

Bonus captcha amusement: 'face the music'.

saintdane05:

DVS BSTrD:
Welcome to March is 90's month,
where bad comics burn.
MovieBob's gonna teach you all
a lesson you won't learn.
Liefeld, you're not the smartest.
Image, needs more than artists.
Any artists who had a comic published,
fame gave them a turn.
Movie Bob
Dark Age! Merch! Making blood go splat!
Movie Bob!
Speculator boom! Gotta purchase that!
Linkara!
Egos, bankruptcy, scarceness disappeared!
Movie Bob!
COMICS. ARE, WEIRD!
MOVIE BOB!

Can I hug you now? Like, genuine, huge, I LOVE YOU hug?

What's the tune to sing that to?

Falseprophet:
Pretty good summary, Bob. I feel like a proper understanding of what happened with 90s comics would require going into the history of the direct market and Diamond, and the subculture they created. E.g., the direct market took superhero books out of the drugstores and supermarkets where most kids discovered them, and put them in specialty shops which the parents of young children weren't likely to enter, skewing the age of comic buyers into their teens and early 20s. However, this also provided an environment where Big Two books could explore the lessened restrictions of the Comics Code Authority, and where new smaller indie publishers could float edgier new material like Cerebus and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Those are the roots of your four pillars. But covering the Bronze Age of Comics would need its own episode, and frankly it deserves it: it's a long-neglected but extremely foundational era of North American comics.

Anachronism:
Wasn't all bad. The '90s was the decade that saw the rise of Vertigo, which has published a lot of the best and most influential comic books of all time, in my opinion. In terms of the medium growing up and becoming actually mature rather than superficially mature - as most superhero books of the time were - the importance of Vertigo can't be overstated.

And while Image admittedly isn't a powerhouse on the level of Marvel or DC, these days it looks likely to surpass Vertigo as the place to go for interesting, original, creator-owned comic books. The Walking Dead is the obvious big name, but you also have great stuff like Saga and Age of Bronze (a personal favourite), which probably wouldn't be published by the Big Two because they don't really fit with the rest of their properties.

Seconded. Vertigo and Image gave most of the British Invasion guys (Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Warren Ellis, Garth Ennis, and some of their artist buddies) their first real breaks in North American comics, which eventually led to the replacement of the Superstar Artist with the Superstar Writer. Around 75% of all the comics I've ever bought came from these two imprints.

Excuse me, but you forgot someone: Grant Morrison. His issues of Animal Man, Doom Patrol, and JLA are legendary. Not to mention his original creations under Vertigo.

Deathlyphil:
Just out of interest, is it possible that Bob could talk about non-American comics? Where's the love for 2000AD? What about Judge Dredd? Possibly the only character to run for about 30 years in the same continuity?

Might as well try and get him to talk about European cinema. But Dredd deserves more love generally. I am sick of explaining how it has remained one of the best and most subtle satirical comics ever made.

There is a great moment in the Total War arc where he talks about democratic terrorists (democracy being treated like an extremist religion in the Dredd universe) and their levels of commitment. He lists through the slacktavists etc. until he talks about the true believers who he says: "Will stop at nothing to achieve their goals." Next panel he says he will "take them out no matter the cost" (Or words to that effect)

I will try and get a scan. it's an amazing piece and if you didn't get that Dredd was a satire or not have a sense of irony you would totally miss it. Anyone who watched the amazing film closely last year will understand. Especially about certain ways he metes out 'Justice'

90's comics ruled, as I am from very late 1982.
And boy, did those Image and TopCow comics like Witchblade and The Darkness rock my world!
Even Tombraider was pretty swell.

No clue Marvel and DC mucked the market up so much tho.
Just knew them from those AWESOME Batman and X-MEN cartoons ;-)

Bob I really wish you would just stretch these out in full 15-30 minute webisodes. 5-7 minutes for a show just isn't enough time for you to shove in all the ideas you want to talk about. This episode in particular is suffering for it. For me 5-7 minutes only works if what the person is showing is a single idea "This game is good" "This movie sucks", that sort of thing. Talking about the rise and downfall of 90's comics can't be done in 5 minutes without missing HUGE chunks of vital information, and when you miss the vital information you're presenting, bad, incomplete information.

Darth_Payn:

saintdane05:

DVS BSTrD:
Welcome to March is 90's month,
where bad comics burn.
MovieBob's gonna teach you all
a lesson you won't learn.
Liefeld, you're not the smartest.
Image, needs more than artists.
Any artists who had a comic published,
fame gave them a turn.
Movie Bob
Dark Age! Merch! Making blood go splat!
Movie Bob!
Speculator boom! Gotta purchase that!
Linkara!
Egos, bankruptcy, scarceness disappeared!
Movie Bob!
COMICS. ARE, WEIRD!
MOVIE BOB!

Can I hug you now? Like, genuine, huge, I LOVE YOU hug?

What's the tune to sing that to?

Sing it to the tune of Linkara's THeme.

Totally disagree.

My knowledge of DC in the 90's is very limited, but in and amongst the shite Marvel pumped out there was some complete quality. And while crossovers and newer characters were made for the wrong reason, they took the possibilities of comic book story writing to new levels. You can't really say that is a bad thing. The same, stagnant characters and ridiculous story lines in the 60's/70's/early 80's were a bad thing, and those were what inspired writers like Alan Moore to make dark satire out of the medium.

Similarly, while McFarlane/Liefield and even Sivestri get a lot of stick for their art (totally unfounded in my opinion), it's a style that defined the decade in comic art. Flares are stupid too, but I can't make the generalisation that trousers in the 70's sucked. They were of their time.

As a kid in the 90's (and a teen into the 00's) the 80's where what sucked. Glam rock? Yeesh. Transformers? Lame. Walkmans? Give me a break. NOW, however, I can look back on the 80's and appreciate what it was, and the hidden qualities in it. Sounds like a cop out man, but maybe you're too close to the 90's to see it? The rise of independent comic publishing as a genuine business model that is still self supporting, even after the speculator bubble broke? Sounds like a pretty fine decade to me.

Just 2 days ago I was watching a documentary on youtube about the history of the comic book industry until recently which mentioned this among other things. here's the link for anyone interested: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TKT0LLPgSnA

saintdane05:
Image actually helped start the Walking Dead. So, good for them. I think you also forgot to mention a few things:

1. Jim Lee never really wrote his own comic. He was an artist. Pure and simple. He also ended up not only going back to DC, but is now their own Big Artist Guy. See his work on Justice League and Batman.
image
2. Rob Liefeld pretty much murdered the company Valient Comics, one of the many, many, many OTHER independents that rose up during the speculator bubble.
3. Writers were important, especially for Marvel. Their Transformers series can be said to be successful purely from the actions of Bob Budiansky and Simon Furman, while the artists are barely remembered. Remember Shockwave? They are teh guys that made him a character that was a badass scientist, rather than a weak Yes Man.
4. Spawn is badass. He's probably the second best thing to come from Image (Next to the Aforementioned Walking Dead.)

Really, 90's comics can be summed up like this:

And the sad thing is for the longest time,I associated Image comics as being assocciated to either Spawn (Heard of him,never read his comics,think he and his powers are cool)or bad comics (Youngblood)(Via AT4W and what I had heard at the time) And it wasn't until I watched Spoilertasic's Top 10 Comic Minute Comics of 2012 that I learned of Gladstone's School for World Conquerers and 27 I think,that I thought to give them a look. And sure enough,I was hooked. And when I read up to current with Gladstone's and finished 27 and it's sequel Second Set(which I recommend),that I looked and found Chew. And ever since I've been a fan of Image. YoungBlood or no,some good stuff is being released by them. Which reminds me,Five Weapons #2 and Think Tank #6 should be out tommorrow.

Oh hell no, he did not just call friends bad television.

Anachronism:
Wasn't all bad. The '90s was the decade that saw the rise of Vertigo, which has published a lot of the best and most influential comic books of all time, in my opinion. In terms of the medium growing up and becoming actually mature rather than superficially mature - as most superhero books of the time were - the importance of Vertigo can't be overstated.

And while Image admittedly isn't a powerhouse on the level of Marvel or DC, these days it looks likely to surpass Vertigo as the place to go for interesting, original, creator-owned comic books. The Walking Dead is the obvious big name, but you also have great stuff like Saga and Age of Bronze (a personal favourite), which probably wouldn't be published by the Big Two because they don't really fit with the rest of their properties.

I was pretty disappointed by the lack of Vertigo mentioned here. There was more than Watchmen.

And yeah, Image has become very influential. The 90s were pretty important overall to the creator owned comics we celebrate now.

I've pretty much known most of this story, but I'd be interested in hearing about how Image became the hit factory that it is today.

Also:

Realitycrash:
Hey, SANDMAN and Hellblazer both did fine during the 90's.

Yeah, not all of the nineties sucked - Vertigo definitely deserves some recognition. Maybe next March, eh?

Battle Catman:
Bob's description of why the speculator bubble burst (old comics were valuable because not many survived, as opposed to everyone stockpiling new titles they hoped would be worth money some day) is the exact same reasoning I give my friend as to why modern toys will never carry the kind of secondary market price tag as their past versions.

A mint-in-sealed-box Transformers G1 Grimlock is never going to go down in value because in the 80's no one had the foresight to predict people would still be crazy about these toys nearly 30 years later, so very few of them exist. On the other hand, whenever something is labeled "collector edition" or "limited," people snatch up as many as they can, assuring there will be a surplus down the road, effectively shooting themselves in the foot.

Another factor that nearly sunk the comic book industry is with everyone buying 2 or 3 copies of these 'special editions' assuming they'd be huge collectors items down the road (I remember me and my brothers buying some fancy covered new Spiderman series with that in mind) it greatly increased comic sales and the publishers started spending to increased their production capacity to match. Naturally when people started realizing these new comics weren't going to be worth anything they stopped buying and the publishers were caught with their pants down.

I forget who did it, maybe A&E or something, but there's a great 1 hour documentary that covers the history of comic books available on youtube that covers pretty much everything in depth.

Steve the Pocket:
How dumb was the speculator boom? Even Calvin and Hobbes, whose creator likely knew jack-all about comic books, made fun of it.

At 4 bucks a piece, they're already to rich for my blood new! Thank G-d youtube has some people keep me up to date with things like, the progress of Superior Spiderman. I just can't afford to buy them myself. And if the story is carried into a crossover series? Time to mortgage my home.

Rossco64:
-snip-

Don't forget the massive sci-fi boom that dominated the Nineties like Trek, Babylon 5, Farscape etc. Shame we don't have that level of sci-fi now.

Realitycrash:
Hey, SANDMAN and Hellblazer both did fine during the 90's.

Seriously, why no Big Picture for Sandman? I'd argue it's one of the most important comics of all time.

I assume he's waiting for Neil Gaiman's new Sandman series to be released, or at least fully announced.

What hasn't been mentioned is that something can be rare and still not worth anything as there is no demand for it.

I do have some Australian comics that there does not seem to be much information about online, but I keep them as I enjoyed them when they first came out. They were also published during the 90s. I even remember doing two comic book inspired artworks in my senior year art class at high school as I enjoyed them so much.

Can't really get into manga or anime. I did start buying the Akira issues, but stopped after #2 as they started getting expensive from then on.

I do enjoy buying zines from local shops as a lot of the time the content never appears online and I kick myself when I go back and it is not there.

I do like buying old books/annuals with cartoons in them as you find a lot of good stuff that way. Seems to be more of an English thing as the popular shows used to have a "Big book of" each year.

Some things that you think would never be worth anything have a habit of appreciating in value if you approach them with a different viewpoint. One example would be vintage stores selling old Playboy magazines to match the month you were born in. Might take a while for some of you, but the 70's ones are kickin!

Looking back at the speculator boom, it wasn't all bad in concept. Oh, financially it was stupid, but it produced something most people crave for today: creativity. All those number 1s and new characters had to come from somewhere, which lead to new creations, nostalgic revisits, and second stringers getting a fair amount of page time. Compare that to today where so much of Marvel has a tie to either the Avengers or the X-Men, or DC with the JLA. Yes, very few ideas stuck, even for the short term, but it was nice to see the juices flowing without it having to be an out of continuity crossover or needing a total reboot to pull off, and before the tug of war between new ideas and nostalgia killed the ability to see any changes as only short term.

Anachronism:
Wasn't all bad. The '90s was the decade that saw the rise of Vertigo, which has published a lot of the best and most influential comic books of all time, in my opinion. In terms of the medium growing up and becoming actually mature rather than superficially mature - as most superhero books of the time were - the importance of Vertigo can't be overstated.

And while Image admittedly isn't a powerhouse on the level of Marvel or DC, these days it looks likely to surpass Vertigo as the place to go for interesting, original, creator-owned comic books. The Walking Dead is the obvious big name, but you also have great stuff like Saga and Age of Bronze (a personal favourite), which probably wouldn't be published by the Big Two because they don't really fit with the rest of their properties.

Damn these Ninjas!

I came here exactly to sing praises for Vertigo!

There was so much right from Vertigo. It was born from Alan Moore's Swamp Thing and Neil Gaiman's Sandman, two masterpieces that transcended its medium. Then it brought us Preacher by Garth Ennis, Hellblazer, and a lot of great standalone miniseries!
Vertigo was "Comics for adults" done right!

And, despite the bad phase in comics, other notable works were produced, like Kingdom Come, Frank Miller's Sin City (by Dark Horse IIRC), Kurt Busiek's Astro City, Hellboy... And that is just from the top of my head.

All of those were very relevant, and some of the most creative work the industry produced in a very long time! Really worth mentioning...

I was into 2000 AD Comics like Strontium Dog and Judge Dredd back in the late 80's/Early 90's.I also read comics from Eclipse in the 90's. Original Grendel, Mage and so on. I think my favorite Indy Comics were the Southern Knights and the DNAgents.

I'll give Bob some credit for this, while I think his opinion of the 90's is pretty overblown and he fails to fully appreciate a lot of the good qualities of that decade, the 90's for comic's wasn't exactly an era to be proud of. But even then there were some good things about that era that Bob seems to have ignored, we got comics like Sandman, Kingdom Come, the Trade Paperback format rose to prominence as well.

Still, the collector market was a complete era where the industry just seemed to go "fuck logic!" A classic case of why money seems to have far too much influence on clever thinking sometimes. Hell, even if the bubble hadn't burst then, you'd still be waiting decades at least just to even try and get a return on your investment. With the amount of other people buying these "rare" issues for the exact same reason, you were screwed either way you looked at it.

saintdane05:

Darth_Payn:

saintdane05:

Can I hug you now? Like, genuine, huge, I LOVE YOU hug?

What's the tune to sing that to?

Sing it to the tune of Linkara's THeme.

It latched on to the Pokemon theme in my head. Damn 90s again...

Nghtgnt:

Nooners:
What's Bob referring to there in the End? I admit that I have no clue whatsoever...

Neil Gaiman vs Todd Mcfarlane. Gaiman created Violator, Medieval Spawn, and Angela when he wrote a couple issues of Spawn, but then was in some legal battles to secure partial ownership of those characters. Ironic considering the whole Image Comics formed to give creators control/ownership of their creations...

Anyways, at the end of Marvel's current Age of Ultron event Neil Gaiman is supposedly co-writing the last issue and Angela will be showing up, which I believe is to segue into Marvel's next event, which I think Gaiman will be writing some of.

http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/03/21/marvels-age-of-ultron-features-controversial-angel/

That's a good possibility. Another I found is a rumor that Marvel may be revisiting the Heroes Reborn universe. Either of which would make a good episode.

Redem:
90's sucked meme...huh bob for it to be a meme you need more than one person that use it.

Yeah, not only have these "90's suck" videos not convinced me the 90's sucked, it's convinced me even further the 90's were a better time period then now.

I dont need to watch the video to tell you what happened to comics in the '90's. They sucked because all they did was focus on gimmicks and artwork, and forgot what makes them truly great... the story. Chromium covers, multiple "collectible" covers, bagged comics with cards and such (which, by the way, those baggies they came in are acidic and will eventually destroy your comic.. not that most of those are really worth squat, anyway) and the list goes on. It was a bad time to be a comic collector back then. Anyone remember Valiant? /sigh, my wallet does.

Smokescreen:

franksands:
Image Comics is doing some very good things now, almost 20 years later, like Saga and Chew.

This is true, but Image has been bought out by DC, so they're more of an imprint like Vertigo now, instead of a challenger to the big two publishers.

As far as I know, only WildStorm (one of the studios in Image) was bought by DC. Image Comics is still independent.

Netrigan:

The 90s has some of the best writers the industry has ever seen, most at the height of their power, back when there were a few major publishers who were interested in letting these guys do what they did best with a minimum of interference. Alan Moore re-entered the super-hero fray thanks to Image, Frank Miller gave up being a horrible Robocop screen-writer and launched a few brilliant creator-owned books, Gaiman's Sandman was positively rolling along, a young Garth Ennis knocked it out of the park with Hellblazer then topped it with Preacher, there's even a grumpy Warren Ellis coming to prominence at the end of the decade.

So true. The video wasn't wrong about the first half of the decade, but the late 90s gave us a lot of brilliant comics - in addition to the ones you mentioned I'd add Grant Morrison's The Invisibles, and Peter Milligan's short-lived The Minx (and didn't Ed Brubaker's short Scene of the Crime come out in '98 or '99 as well?).

Plus a lot of Warren Ellis' more recent weird big ideas were already around in a watered down form in the mid-'90s in his run on Excalibur (my avatar here is from that) as well as in DV8/Stormwatch/The Authority/Planetary.

And that's not even getting into all the indie stuff, or some of the European Sci Fi that was coming out at the time. Yeah, the early '90s were pretty crap (with some notable exceptions, of course), but there was a lot of good stuff (and maybe more importantly influential stuff) coming out in the second half of the decade.

Is it just me or does a lot of that sound like exactly what's happening with gaming at the moment? Too much money being circulated by everyone jumping the shark and a lot of indies and splinter studios (via kickstarter) trying to carve their slice of the market.

To add to previous posts for the sake of my online ego. Comics sucked in the '90's? Seriously? I think the view here was a tad narrow. I look at my comic book case and the overwhelming majority is Stormwatch, The Authority, Hellboy and large chunks of Vertigo and Moore, oh and a single more "mainstream" representation in Kingdom Come... The nineties was pretty good for some of us.

~cough~ TNG, DS9, Babylon 5, X-Files, Frasier ~cough~

SonOfVoorhees:
There was awesome Image comics. Savage Dragon, Maxx, Supreme, Prophet to name a few. While some were great, others were great ideas with zero writing ability. Supreme was a superman character who came back to earth and found tons of superheroes taking his place. He was awesome, violent and egotistical. Just no real background or writers of calibre to make him awesome.

Now Image release stuff like The Walking Dead and other creator owned stuff so im glad they are still going.

Heck isn't Kirkman pretty much the largest principle owner of Image these days? I'll give Image credit. They stuck it out through the awful years, and evolved from the art driven abomination of the 90's to a much more writer driven company today. And it has paid off. At least as well as anything can in today's comic industry. (News flash. The comics industry as we know it is doomed. As the big bookstore chains die so to die the main discoverable courses of their product. Until they figure out on how to truly capitalize on digital markets, they are all screwed. The writing is on the wall for Diamond and the independent comic shops.)

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