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Ramona, Enrique, and Leroy.

§ February 26th, 2024 § Filed under obituary, publishing § 7 Comments

Legendary comics artist Ramona Fradon passed away this week at the age of 97, having only retired from her popular commissions practice a month or two ago. If you’ve seen any of those commissions, you know her illustrative skill hadn’t lost a step. (The official gallery of art appears to have been taken down, but Google up some of her art…you won’t be disappointed.)

Above is a great shot from Super Friends #28 from 1980, a comic I picked up ages ago as it’s nominally a Swamp Thing appearance. As you can probably infer from the dialogue (by E. Nelson Bridwell), those characters aren’t the real, but rather folks in costumes magically transformed into the beings they were dressed as. But, eh, close enough for horseshoes. It’s a fun story, featuring the various superhero stars of the TV cartoon fighting weird creatures, some of whom likely wouldn’t make it past the network’s Standards and Practices. (“Who’s this?” “Oh, that’s the Demon, he–” [giant DENIED stamp pounded on the script])

She was a great talent, and you can read Mark Evanier’s obituary (and follow-up post) to get an idea of the breadth of her work and the regard in which she was held by her peers.

So long, Ramona.

• • •

Should also note the passing of Enrique Badia Romero, artist of Modesty Blaise and Axa. Sorry I don’t have as much to say about his art, other than that it was expertly crafted and beautiful linework, but this overview should tell you all about him and present nice samples of his ability.

I mean, a long time ago I was selling some Axa books on eBay and they got bounced off for being “too adult” for the general listings. Meanwhile, plenty of Faust and Leather and Lace to be found there. Romero was just too sexy for eBay, I guess!

So long, Enrique.

• • •

So I posted links to my post on the EC Comics revival at Oni Comics on both Bluesky and Xwitter a few days back, It’s pretty unusual for me to use Xwitter now, but I still check in from time to time to say “hello” and of course shill for myself. But this time there was a nice payoff as the literal President and Publisher of Oni Press responded to my tweet:

So there you go, straight from the horse’s mouth, we’re getting the original Leroy-style mechanical lettering in the new EC books. Maybe this may sound odd to anyone not familiar with the original ECs, but that lettering will go a long way to selling this revival to me.

Now he also mentions that other comments I’ve made presaged some of their other plans for the books, and if you read the original post there’s not a whole lot I said that would sort of fit into that category. I’m guessing we’ll be seeing semi-consistent creative teams on some of these books. I don’t know, we’ll see, and I’m looking forward to finding out.

Spidey cars, Living Lasers, Aero / it’s a duck-blur!

§ February 23rd, 2024 § Filed under disney, marvel, publishing § 9 Comments

Just been a week for surprise comics news, I guess, as Marvel has finally announced that they’ll be doing an Uncle Scrooge McDuck comic: Uncle Scrooge and the Infinity Dime. Multiple covers, natch, with the “main” cover as such:

…and feast your eyes on the Alex Ross variant cover:

Now, if you read the description of the comic at the link, it certainly sounds like the most Marvel-type comic they could be doing with this Disney property. Is there a multiverse involved? Of course there is.

Speaking with a pal of mine, he asked “just who is the audience for this?” And ideally it should be children, and at my shop I get enough children passing through that children’s comics are a viable product line for me. I know this may not be the case at some shops, either by accident or design, but I think overall the target audience for this book may not getting exposed to it.

However, ain’t nuthin’ wrong with getting some of those Marvel readers to try out Uncle Scrooge too, either through some of that DuckTales nostalgia, or the fact that it’s being written by noted comics scribe Jason Aaron, or that Alex Ross cover, or that it’s being sold as a (quoting from the press release) “time-honored Marvel adventure,” and so on. Just getting the big push from Marvel may get more people to try it out aside from the usual Disney fans.

It looks like it’ll be fun, and. it’ll be a welcome return of Scrooge and Donald and the nephews to comic book stands. I hope it’s successful enough to generate follow-up comics, and that it creates new fans, especially young ones, for Disney comics.

I’ve seen several comments online hoping this means actual team-ups between Marvel’s heroes and the Disney gang. I would prefer this wouldn’t happen, but I can’t deny that they’d likely sell well until Marvel does too many of them. But I’ll tell you what, Donald Duck Vs. Howard the Duck: Battle for The Pants — Marvel/Disney, I would write that for (almost) free.

And the comics retailer in me has a wish or two of his own, like trade editions of Marvel’s previous forays into adapting Disney’s animation, like their Aladdin or Beauty and the Beast series. Or Marvel’s two Roger Rabbit graphic novels…people still like Roger Rabbit, they’d sell!

• • •

In even yet more news, DC Comics is returning to Wednesday on-sale dates for their new comics, starting this July. Just as well, since hardly anyone noticed the change to Tuesdays in the first place. I mean, there were a few early birds, but otherwise folks just waited ’til Wednesdays.

DC should do their own version of these Marvel variants from around the time DC originally made the move in 2020.

“DCs Back on Sale Wednesdays!” variants would be all the rage, I just know it.

Horror ECs? How’s bayou?

§ February 21st, 2024 § Filed under publishing § 6 Comments

So some surprising comic news this week, with Oni Press announcing their revival of the EC Comics brand. By which I mean the brand that brought us Vault of Horror and Weird Science, and not, say, anything along the lines of Lucky Fights It Through.

This isn’t the first time that there’s been an attempt at bringing back EC Comics, specifically with new material and not just reprints of the originals. Usually it’s been a revival of the best-known of the ECs, Tales from the Crypt, which has been disinterred at least a couple of times in the last few years with new stories “in the EC tradition” under the familiar TFTC logo. For example, here’s issue #8 of the Papercutz-published version from 2008:

What’s interesting about Oni’s use of the EC brand is that it’s not starting off with yet another Tales from the Crypt series, or a revival of any of the other original titles. Instead, they’re doing brand new series, leaning on the EC brand itself to establish themselves, rather than depending on the name recognition of the title made part of pop culture for modern audiences primarily thanks to a TV show.

As such, they’ve tried to come up with new series names that evoke the EC experience…one working maybe a little better than the other. The first is the wonderfully-titled Cruel Universe:

…and the other is…well, Epitaphs from the Abyss:

…which gets points for trying, I suppose. It’s better than just swapping out synonyms for “tales” or “vault” or “horror” or “fear” I guess, but actually saying the name out loud (as I had occasion to do the other day) it doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue.

That said, the covers look swell, and I like the classic “SCIENCE” and “TERROR” banners in the corners. And they’ve got a pretty solid collection of creators to work on these books to start off, with folks like Jason Aaron, Cecil Castellucci, Peter Krause, Kano, Stephanie Phillips, Malachi Ward, Cullen Bunn, and Jay Stephens, among many others. One hopes that they retain use of the Leroy lettering of the originals, which is as much a part of the look ‘n’ feel of EC as any of its artists.

Another part of what made EC “EC” was its relatively small-ish and consistent roster of artists. Not saying these new ones won’t have great work in them, judging by the creatives announced, but part of the appeal of the originals was knowing you’d get new stories from the regulars. You crack open a Crypt, you expect a Jack Davis story and a Graham Ingels story, and so on. Sure, it wasn’t the same artists in every issue every time, but there was enough consistency that each title, or each genre of title, had its EC “house style,” that you knew what to expect. It’s too early to say what the Oni-era EC is going to do, but are we going to get, say, a Peter Krause story in every issue? Are the majority of the stories going to be written by Cullen Bunn and Jason Aaron in every release?

That’s not how modern anthology books work, and we’re likely to see a much wider range of stories and artwork from far more people than had worked on the originals. More dependence on freelancers than a bullpen (did EC have a literal bullpen?), which isn’t necessarily a comment on resultant quality. But it’ll certainly result in a different feel in the type of books these new releases will be. Beyond the fact that there’ll be about seven decades between the two versions of EC, of course. And there ain’t nuthin’ wrong with more points of view and life experiences informing the stories. (Cue the complaints of “wokeness” from the Usual Suspects, who obviously had never read an EC comic before.)

Trying to capture that EC style has been a continual windmill tilted at by the comic publishers over those decades. Outside of DC and Marvel’s Comics Code-approved “mystery” titles like House of Secrets, which followed in the short story anthology format (and featured plenty of good work of their own), one of the primary spiritual successors to EC is the output of Warren Publishing:

…especially with its own artistic excellence and its willingness to, shall we say, skirt the boundaries of taste in an occasionally tongue in cheek manner.

And one would be remiss to not mention the oeuvre of writer Bruce Jones, responsible for various 1980s EC-type indies like the following:

And even now, Image Comics is publishing Creepshow, a comic inspired by the Stephen King movie that was itself inspired by EC Comics:

This is hardly a comprehensive list, as the original ECs cast a long shadow and many, many publishers and creators have tried to follow in its footsteps. Given the creators involved, the publishing strategy taken with new and not revived titles, and the involvement of original publisher William M. Gaines’ daughter and grandson in this effort, I am at least cautiously optimistic. The immense regard in which EC Comics are held must surely be somewhat daunting to any new folks working on these books, but I am hoping what we get approaches the high precedent set by the originals.

Just don’t forget that Leroy lettering! I MEAN C’MON

The cowl stays on.

§ February 19th, 2024 § Filed under batman, dc comics, publishing § 23 Comments

Last time, jmurphy brought up

“But the good news is that LCE #51 is being reprinted full size.”

And indeed they are! The Limited Collectors’ Edition #51 treasury edition from 1977 is coming to shelves in a facsimile edition next month, collecting together theh original Ra’s al Ghul saga by Denny O’Neil, Neal Adams. Irv Novick, and Dick Giordano.

The only image I can find on the distributor sites for this facsimile is the one I posted above, showing its original cover. I’m hoping the cover is reproduced authentically, and not “retouched” as they did with 2004 reprint of DC 100 Page Super Spectacular #6 (original / reprint). Or (ahem) “recolored” as some other Adams reprints have been.

I realize I’m probably worrying for nothing, as DC’s facsimile editions of late haven’t had that much after-the-fact fiddling and are presented more-or-less as originally printed. (Though to be fair I haven’t really taken that close a lot to see if the Golden Age facsimiles, like the Superman #1, are the redrawn versions that appeared in the early DC Archives).

The big change of course is getting the material on nice, white paper, versus the newsprint of the originals. Of course, yes, I’ve commented before about the dissonance about seeing work that originally lived on newprint suddenly being all bright and shiny, but having it on those nice, big treasury-sized pages will certainly be nice and much easier on the ol’ eyeballs.

This will be, I think, DC’s first reprint of a treasury duplicating the original format, versus the treasury-sized hardcover edition they did of Superman Vs. Muhammad Ali (which is Peak Neal Adams Superman in my opinion). There was also a smaller “deluxe edition” hardcover published at the same time, with a new Adams cover and extra bonus material not included in the larger facsimile. I don’t know if the smaller book was given the “recoloring” treatment. Anyway, that story needs to be seen at full size, so I’m not sure why you’d want that “deluxe” version anyway.

But back to this Ra’s al Ghul treasury, which is probably about as good as this particular Bat-villain ever got in print form (outside the frankly demented and evil and great usage in the Batman Beyond cartoon). The treasury includes his first appearance and conflict with Batman, including the famed shirtless (but not cowlless) sword fight:

…and c’mon, if anything deserves to be reprinted on bigger than normal pages, it’s this.

With any luck this facsimile will do well enough to open up more reprints of DC’s treasuries (and spur Marvel along to do the same). It’s obvious why they started with this one (Batman drawn by Neal Adams, duh), but it’d be nice if they brought the Superman Vs. Wonder Woman story drawn by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez back into print — it did get a treasury-sized hardcover reprint a few years back, but man, it should always be available.

And personally I’d like some of those Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer treasuries just to get more Sheldon Mayer in my life. Not really holding my breath for this to happen, honestly.

I hope future treasury reprints, if any, will focus on the ones with new stories that have only appeared there, versus reprinting books that contain reprints themselves. Not to say that something like this Adams Batman collection isn’t worthwhile, and nice to have on Big Ol’ Pages, but I’d rather have any new material from these show up in its original dimensions rather than being shrunk down.

As someone who likes Ralph Snart, I would have appreciated that.

§ February 12th, 2024 § Filed under publishing § 12 Comments

I’ve written before about my nostalgic perusal of the magazine racks whilst shopping at the grocery store. I still do it, every Sunday evening (my usual hunting-and-gathering time) though the selection doesn’t change a whole lot between visits, and usually it’s only publications like this:

I mean, no offense to anyone out there into coloring cat farts, ready to frame, and I know there must be a few of you since this is Volume Freakin’ Eleven, but I just don’t swing that way, friends.

But every once in a while I spot something that at least gets me to pick it up and flip through it as I decide whether or not to take it home, like some Lord of the Rings mag that’s been on the rack there for a while. But this past Sunday I spotted this (one of the two copies left, so I’m presuming it must have sold at least a few copies) and had to get it:

At last, I have the Ultimate Guide. Sorry Scott McCloud, this is what will finally help me understand comics.

Okay, I make fun, but I honestly haven’t done much more than skim through it so far and it looks…you know, at least surface level sufficient in covering comic book history. It’s certainly not going to be so granular as to explain why Bob Kane sucks or how come the whole “Quack-Fu” thing in the Howard the Duck comic was a multi-layered parody/social commentary versus just another duck pun in the film, but for someone just dipping their toes in, it may whet their appetite.

The tiny heading at the top of the cover reads “Hollywood Spotlight,” a brand name that’s also brought you similar mags about the Transformers and the A-Team and various Marvel movies, so that’s the impetus for this publication. It’s for the reader who’s seen the superhero films and maybe wants to learn more about the source material, which, you know, isn’t a bad thing. The timing maybe is a little bad, given the superhero movie market is, if not dying, then at least stumbling around a bit coughing blood spittle into its hands (I mean, we’ll see how Deadpool & Wolverine does), but there’s always someone discovering these characters via the films that do exist and this mag might make a good primer.

That said, like I noted above I haven’t read it yet. The Golden Age and the Silver Age of comics each get about three or four pages apiece, I see an article about horror comics and Wertham’s Seduction of the Innocent and the Comics Code, a thing about event comics like Crisis on Infinite Earths and Secret Wars, and so on. The focus is of course on Marvel and DC (with a handful of movie stills to remind us of the final evolved form of comic books, natch), though there a feature on indie comics, a sidebar about Maus, and, well, back to DC with Watchmen and Dark Knight. Can’t wait to read what they say about Alan Moore.

Hey, here’s a bit about Gail Simone and “Women in Refrigerators” which is not something I expected in here. And of particular interest to me is this article about the ’90s market crash, ooh yeah feed that into my eyeballs. “Origin of Image Comics” is in here too, which I always said was “Marvel artists leave Marvel to create their own Marvel,” but it looks like this article goes a little deeper into that.

It all wraps up with “How Comics Took Over Hollywood,” likely without the addendum that, um, not so much anymore, but overall it looks like a very general overall approach to comics history. I don’t know what they’ve got wrong yet, and they’re covering a lot of ground for a ~100 page magazine, so certainly Your Favorite Topics undoubtedly got short shrift (“no 10-page examination of Ralph Snart, c’mon“). But it appears to do what it’s meant to do, give someone who knows all these “Holy Classic Characters, Batman!” from their media adaptations at least somewhat of an idea of where it all came from. Hopefully that’ll be enough to get them to at least look deeper into the parts that only get passing mentions.

Oh, and I’m afraid to say one of the first full page images in the mag is of Bob Kane posing with a Batman painting I’m sure he claimed he painted. SPOILER: he didn’t.

The one with the gannet.

§ February 9th, 2024 § Filed under marvel, publishing, variant covers § 9 Comments

Well, this is certainly something.

I know, I’m a little late to this polybag party, but boy howdy what a weirdly pandering idea that’s only going to contribute to the idea that kids aren’t welcome to modern superhero comics. Which is okay, I guess, because kids got their own stuff goin’ on, and aren’t likely to be interested in Marvels outside of Miles Morales and Deadpool anyway.

Basically, Marvel has announced that they’ll be releasing a comic, Blood Hunt #1, where apparently you won’t have to hunt far for that blood as a “Mature Readers” version of the title with all the gore and violence you crave will be presented in an unexpurgated fashion. Meanwhile, they’ll also produce a censored “general audiences” version of the same book that won’t sell. The naughty version, naturally selling for a buck more than its bowdlerized counterpart, will be sealed in a polybag for that extra attention from parents who already think superhero comics are all too violent for their kids anyway.

Perhaps I sound a little annoyed at this.

Now chances are pretty good this series will go over like a thing that doesn’t go over very well, and the whole “pay that extra buck, see what the butler saw” gimmick will drop off the face of the direct market. Or everyone will decide “I don’t want the stupid version made for babies, gimme that explicit content” and it’ll sell like gangbusters and suddenly every Marvel comic has a polybag. (Then Marvel can push the “pure and innocent” unbagged variants and charge more for those.)

I was put in mind of Marvel’s publishing…let’s say “strategy” in regards to their initial attempt at doing Miracleman. In this post (and please excuse my optimism that new stories were “close”), I noted that they were polybagging Miracleman issues despite the content usually not warranting it. My assumption was that 1) it was a mature readers book under the Marvel logo, and thus should be hidden from theoretically innocent eyes, and 2) by polybagging every issue, when they got to the “birth” issue it wouldn’t stand out as the only polybagged one.

And also there’s 3) the hoped-for sales boost by providing the lure of the forbidden by sealing the contents away, which didn’t work and sales continued to plummet because nobody cared.

There is a chance this may not be the case with Marvel books, though, particularly ones set in the mainstream Marvel universe, under the Marvel banner, in a standard comic book format, and not shoved under some distancing mature-reader label like “MAX” or “Epic” or “Star.” (Yes, Star, that Heathcliff was a freak.)

As I said above, the main problem with this is the perception from parents in my shop that all superhero comics are “violent” and “gory.” I always try to tell them “there are plenty of kid-friendly superhero books.” But seeing this on the stands…well, okay, it’s just the one so far, but it’ll be more of a problem once Marvel starts cranking out more of them. Or, to be honest, folks tend to home right in on the very thing you’d prefer they didn’t notice, trust me on this. But this isn’t going to help dissuade the notion that superhero comics are scary and gross. (I mean, sure, some are, but not all of them!)

Also I’m being reminded of another time publishers tried this sort of thing, when Aircel offered “adults only” and “general audiences” versions of Barry Blair’s Leather and Lace. As I said there, given the overall look ‘n’ feel of even the supposed general audiences version, there was no way in hell I was going to sell that to kids. I’m hoping history doesn’t repeat itself with this newest iteration of the gimmick.

To be fair, a superhero fight scene would probably have a pretty strong smell.

§ January 8th, 2024 § Filed under indies, publishing, this week's comics § 6 Comments

So I picked up a copy of the normalman 40th Anniversary Omnibus, reprinting in full Jim Valentino’s mid-1980s parody comic series from the mid-1980s. I believe this is the first color reprinting of the introductory back-up stories from Cerebus, as well as the story from A-V in 3-D, presented in color and non-3D. I also believe this is the first color reprinting of the concluding chapter, normalman 3-D in a non-3D format. I appreciate that, given it’s a little harder for my eyes to do 3D in print properly anymore. (These 3D stories have been reprinted in non-3D in previous black and white collections, from Slave Labor and from Image.)

Also featured is the crossover story from Journey #13 by William Messner-Loebs (presented in the original black and white by Messner-Loebs’ request). Other material, such as the later normalman specials from Image, ads, strips produced for conventions, unused pages, and the like round out the book. Sadly not included is 1997’s Max the Magnificent:

…a spin-off starring a character normalman runs into during the course of his adventures. The comic also features an appearance by normalman‘s Captain Everything, which makes it especially odd that it doesn’t make the cut.

Now for the most part, this is a nicely done book…the reproduction of the art is very sharp and clear. The original mini-series and 3D special, however, have been relettered, which…frankly, isn’t an improvement on the original lettering. Maybe in the earlier issues, where the lettering is a little less polished, it is a step up, but in these cases I would always prefer the original, with the lumpier handdrawn word balloons and occasionally funkier typography. However, it wasn’t that distracting, and especially for my eyes it made for an easier reading experience.


I understand there may be production issues where the art just has to be relettered. It happens, I get it. But it seems like every time relettering like this is done for reprint works such as this, misspellings and such slip in that weren’t in the original printing. As I recall, this happened with Image’s initial reprintings of Matt Wagner’s Mage: The Hero Discovered, and with those strange black and white collections of Jim Starlin’s Metamorphosis Odyssey from Slave Labor Graphics.

And it happens here, in this delxue volume of normalman I’d been wanting to see for years. Granted, for a several hundred page book, it’s not a whole lot, maybe a half-dozen or so errors that I’ve noticed, but they are still pretty distracting.

For example, from issue #1, here’s the original word balloon:

And here it is with an inexplicable word change:

From issue #10, the original panel:

And how it appears in the omnibus, with a couple of extra typos (for “imbecile” and “my”):

And here’s the one that really stood out to me, for what should be obvious reasons…from issue #4:

And here is it in the omnibus:

(Also, making “Or Mister Monster” the same size lettering does alter the gag a little.)

There are more examples (including at least one word balloon in the omnibus that I think has either misspelled a word or left a word out entirely, I haven’t checked yet).

This is just in the original normalman story, which is all I’ve read of this omnibus thus far. I don’t believe the other material has been rejiggered in this fashion. Plus, as I’ve said, it’s only a few of these errors that I’ve noticed, and I’m hoping they’ll be fixed in later reprintings. I should note that the Journey issue reprinted here has not been relettered.

As soon as I saw these, I did pull out my copies of the original series, actually kind of hoping the mistakes were in those. Somehow it would have been slightly less annoying if these were faithful reproductions of original errors, though undoubtedly I would then be complaining about “why didn’t they fix that?”

I am glad I have this book. I mean, mistakes happen — What Can You Do?™ — and given this hardcover was solicited with a first print run of only 1,500 copies, maybe like I said they can quickly fix these issues for new printings. It’s a classic and funny work that deserves to be in print, and I just want it to be in the best possible presentation.

Sometimes having a full run of Amazing Heroes pays off, sometimes it doesn’t.

§ December 22nd, 2023 § Filed under publishing § 6 Comments

Joe asks if Bloodshot #1 (discussed last time) shipped the same day as Superman #75, which you may recall is the “Death of Superman” issue mentioned so rarely around here.

And I’m afraid I have to say…I don’t recall. My memories of Death of Superman Day revolve primarily around “oh shit look at that line out front” so any recollection of other titles released at the same time have fallen to the wayside. But they were released around the same time, but whether it was the same time, I can’t tell you. The Comics Database has an exact date for the Superman book, bit that Bloodshot does not. Ah well.

It did remind me of the much-ballyhooed Alien vs. Predator #1, that upon its release in 1990 it barely sold for us at all. I think it may have been because there was another big release that same week (perhaps Spider-Man #1 with its variations and polybagged editions), or maybe because the logo was a pale green against an orange/yellow background that was barely visible. (The pic of the cover at the link above appears to have been contrast-adjusted slightly, as I assure you that’s not what the coloring on that logo looks like.)

As an aside, I looked at the “Coming Distractions” for that period in Amazing Heroes, which gives the on-sale date for Spider-Man #1 as June 19th, but for Aliens Vs. Predator #1 it simply says “ships in June.” So, I can’t confirm they came out on the same day, but there’s a chance they did and my memory hasn’t completely degraded.

In both cases, Bloodshot #1 and Aliens Vs. Predator #1 ended up selling fine, even if in the case of AvP I think it may have been from customers seeing #2 on the rack and wondering what happened to #1. But perhaps I’m inventing that memory. As I’ve said many a time, had I realized that 1) I’d still be in the business 2 1/2 decades later, and 2) that I’d be writing about my experience sin the biz constantly, I’d have taken better notes.

• • •

So we’re leading into Christmas weekend, and you’re not reading this, you’re out there fighting the crowds doing your last-second shopping or you’re trying to get everything done at the house to make it festive or you’ve bunkered up trying to avoid all this nonsense. However you spend the holiday, I hope it’s a safe and happy one. I may post something on Monday for Christmas, we’ll see how my Christmas Eve goes.

Thanks for reading, pals.

Like they all aren’t facetious.

§ December 20th, 2023 § Filed under 1990s Sins, publishing § 16 Comments

Back to the Most 1990s Comic discussion…as a reminder, my personal pick for the title is X-Force #1 for both artistic and marketing reasons. But, you folks have brought up some good contenders, so let us continue with Tom W and Marvel’s The Age of Apocalypse event (1995):

In my very long-ago pre-internet days, I did a little write-up on the announcement of this event for one of the BBSes I frequented. I can’t recall exactly what I said, all these years later, but I vaguely recall saying something along the lines that this was a drastic attention-getting stunt to grab the readers they could during what was a very apparent industry downturn from the salad days of just a couple years prior. Or if I didn’t say that, I should have.

This was one of those “alternative timeline” stories, where via some time-traveling shenanigans the Marvel Universe finds itself drastically changed, and all the regular X-titles were replaced for a few months by mini-series set in this milieu. For example, Wolverine became Weapon X, Generation X became Generation Next, and I’m not sure what was turned into Gambit and the X-ternals but that series was there too.

Tom describes the comics as containing “characters that are naught but grimaces and cool, endless splash pages of distorted, indecipherable anatomy [and] barely-there plotting” which may be the case, but it certainly sold well at the time and sold out of the back issue bins for quite a while thereafter. They don’t move quite as much now, but the chromium-covered X-Men: Alpha and, to a lesser extent, X-Men: Omega, which bookended the event, still sell fairly well.

As an embodiment of 1990s Comic Sins, I’m not sure how to categorize this. It is, as Tom noted, an attempt to latch onto then-current trends of comic book storytelling popularized by Image and its other imitators. My initial sarcastic idea was to put it in the “Hello, Fellow Kids” category, but to be honest, Marvel’s own form of 1990s excess was at this point well into its own unique style. And, y’know, it wasn’t all completely terrible, to be fair (here’s Chris B for the defense). So maybe let’s file this under “Forget Everything You Know” for its parallel universe stuff. But I’m open to suggestions.

• • •

Roel notes a few contenders, but let’s go with the one he specifically emphasized, and that’s the slightly infamous Extreme Justice (DC, 1995-6)…also noted by Rob S farther down in the comments:

As Roel says, “it looks like DC Comics badly cosplaying Image Comics,” which makes me want to place it in the aforementioned “Hello, Fellow Kids” category. More so than pretty much any other Marvel or DC book I’ve seen, Extreme Justice tried to emulate the, as it says on the tin, “extreme” art style that all of Today’s 1990s Youth were into, and cargo cult-style hoping that would draw in the big numbers that Image was, or at least had been, receiving. It only lasted a year and a half, so clearly it didn’t.

I’d only read a couple of issues of this series myself, and that was more than plenty. The most egregious of this title’s transgressions was its reworking of Booster Gold, who’d been generally a genial and occasionally goofy character, into whatever that is pictured on the cover I posted above. He was refitted with an armored costume, which I remember had one reviewer asking “if you’re going to be armored, why would you leave the top of your head exposed” which seemed like a good question to me.

This was a real try-hard of a book, and I’m not going to blame the creative team as they were likely following an editorial edict to “MAKE THIS COMIC KEWL.” In fact, the previously used “Kewl Style” category is probably where this should land, even if that doesn’t seem strong enough. The near-manic desperation of it probably overlaps with my somewhat facetious “Hello, Fellow Kids” category, so let’s give it that one too I mean, why not.

• • •

Joseph brings up Valiant’s Bloodshot #1 (Valiant 1993):

…which he compares to the slightly-fancier-covered (and already discussed) Turok Dinosaur Hunter #1 from the same company. This would probably just go into the general 1990s Sins “Gimmick” category, with its chromium card glued to the cover there. But as 1990s comics go, this isn’t…quite the offender as other titles have been, or at least it isn’t seen in quite the same like as that Turok first issue.

According to the Valiant Fans site, it had a print run of about 850,000 copies, which some publishers would push their favorite auntie into an industrial shredder to get those kind of numbers now. But that’s only about less than half of Turok #1, which feels slightly more ubiquitous. Not that Bloodshot #1s aren’t hard to come by (I think I have three in my store right now), but if I recall correctly sold quite well at the time and continued to sell as back issues afterward.

So I’ll probably stick with the “Gimmick” category for this one. As 1990s comics go, this wasn’t quite the burden on the marketplace as others have been.

• • •

JohnJ brings up the dreaded “Chesty Cap” image drawn by Rob Liefeld:

JohnJ mentions not being able to find the cover this is from, but it’s actually from an ad if I recall correctly, that ran on some back covers here and there. An ad for what, exactly, I don’t know…a convention or a mail order house or some damned thing, I don’t particularly feel like delving too deep in Liefeldity right now. (But this cover is pretty close.) Also, apparently there’s a new explanation for why the drawing…looks like that going ’round, decades after the fact, but again don’t really want to entertain RL too much.

The actual Captain America comics Liefeld briefly worked on didn’t feature anything quite as extreme as the above image. Not saying they were good, but they at least weren’t as epically…let’s say “fanciful” as that pic.

Now in its own way this is about as iconic a representation of what 1990s comics were all about as any actual comic you can think of. It’s not a specific comic, though, so I should likely exclude it from categorization. I’m not even sure what category I’d put on it if I did. “The Rob Liefeldest,” perhaps?

• • •

So that’s it for that this time around. I’ll address more of your suggestions soon…but in the meantime don’t forget to give me your 2024 comic industry predictions!

I’m just winging it with the category names, I hope you all realize that.

§ December 4th, 2023 § Filed under 1990s Sins, publishing § 18 Comments

Continuing the discussion of “Most 1990s Comic” with more of your nominees, starting with a couple of comics that, in fact, weren’t nominated but just mentioned by LouReedRichards:

Well, okay, technically LRR only mentioned the second print of Fantastic Four #371 (Marvel 1992) with the red cover:

…which, yes, when photographed correctly, the details on the front cover do show up to some extent, like in the white cover. But under most practical circumstances the cover is unreadable, as LRR says. I mean, yes, if you pick it up in your hands and take a closer look, angling it in the light, you can make it out, sure. But as a cover, it fails in easily and quickly expressing information to anyone just looking across the rack. It does succeed in standing out (“oh hey what’s that big white square between Excaliber #58 and Fish Police #3?”) so it attracts attention by being an anomaly.

Anyway, I probably don’t need to tell you how covers work. I was trying to think of a “1990s Comics Sins” category for this one, beyond simply “Variant.” “Self-Defeating Variant” maybe in that you can’t read the cover…but like I said, it stands out regardless of anyone immediately knowing what it is (beyond awareness of any pre-publication hype) so it succeeds in that regard. Sigh. At least it’s not something they attempted very often (though the “gravestone” overlay on Amazing Spider-Man #400 deluxe edition would be of the same ilk).

• • •

Brought up by Chris and a couple of other folks, Deathmate is certainly about as 1990s as it gets, teaming the characters of the immensely popular Valiant Comics with Image Comics. Ordered in droves, sold in dribbles, the series was an immense flop, leaving retailers who ordered huge numbers stuck with unsold stock.

Now in my mind when I asked “pick the most 1990s comic” I was thinking “single issue” more than “entire series,” but I see I didn’t make that explicit. But if we had to pick a single issue from the run, it’d be a no-brainer to single out Deathmate Red, from 1990s champ Rob Liefeld, which shipped months late and after the rest of the series, even the final “Epilogue” issue, was published.

• • •

DK sneaks in two picks, which I’ll allow because I like DK, starting with

Doom Force Special #1 (DC Comics 1992), by Grant Morrison and a host of artists, including Keith Giffen and Mike Mignola on that great cover with an all-timer of a gag. As a representative of the 1990s, I don’t know if it would be my go-to example, but it is directly addressing what was going on in the industry at the time, a not uncommon tack taken by other books of the era, so I suppose it can get its own 1990s Comics Sins category. “Parody” is a pretty wide net, including some publications of…varying quality, but I think it fits here.

DK’s other “real” choice is Eclipso: The Darkness Within #1 (DC Comics 1992):

…part one of what would be a multi-part crossover event that runs through all of DC’s annuals for the year, ending in The Darkness Within #2. That would put this in the “Events” category, I suppose, but I think what stands out about this comic outs it more firmly in the “Cover Gimmick” section. It’s that twice-damned plastic jewel glued to the cover on the “direct market” edition, the thing that sticks out and puts a good diamond-shaped dent in the comic right before it in the storage box unless precautions are taken. (I think I put a backing board in front of my copy of this comic to ease said pokiness.)

As gimmicks go, this was…pretty out there, actually gluing a three-dimensional object to a cover. The only other comic I can think of that tried something like this was Sin #1 (Tragedy Strikes Press 1992) with its Band-Aids (or “Adhesive Bandage Strips”) but at least those are flatter than that gem. (Come to think of it, I should look at the condition of my copy of Sin to see if the glue has eaten through the paper yet.)

Anyway, that gem probably seemed like a good idea at the time. It is kind of neat, but still, what a thing to do.

• • •

Okay, let’s wrap this up for today with Customer Sean, who submits

New Mutants #98 (Marvel 1991), the introduction of Deadpool, drawn by the inimitable (or overly-imitable) Mr. Liefeld. That cover is certainly representative of a certain type of comic, a bunch of Kewl Characters standing around with Kewl Names.

For a 1990s Comics Sins category, maybe “Introducing a New Character,” perhaps? I mean, unlike other 1990s comics that would fit in this category (such as those series of annuals from both DC and Marvel introducing new folks) Deadpool actually caught on. Granted, it was more due to its handling by Other Hands than in its initial appearances, but still it’s not a bad visual, and the name “Deadpool” at least feels more like a name appropriate to the character.

Is it a Symbol of 1990s Comics like we’re talking about here? I feel as if its more recent position as a “hot” “collectible” comic that commands high prices is what I more immediately associate with this book. New Mutants #98 is absolutely Of Its Time, but it’s maybe evolved past that to be more representative of more recent industry shenanigans.

• • •

That’s plenty of my typing sticking into your eyes today. We’ll continue later in the week after a certain special something tomorrow. Thanks for reading, as always!

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