Tuesday, July 22, 2014

90 FROM THE 90s Part Two

Tekno Comix
It spelled “Comics” with an “X” so you KNOW it came from the future!

Tekno Comix was a short-lived, high-concept press which, unlike most companies, chose to focus its titles thematically rather than diversify. Their oeuvre was science fiction, which admittedly was a pretty underserved genre in the contemporary comic book scene, but it still left the company vulnerable to quirks of changing taste and a single-handed oversaturation of the market. Tekno’s other gimmick was signing celebrities as the headlining authors of their books – a neat trick considering that two of their authors had been dead for years.

Although the books were scripted by other creators, Tekno published titles ostensibly “by” Isaac Asimov, Gene Roddenberry and Leonard Nimoy, plus authors Tad Williams and John Jakes, and managed to get Mickey Spillane’s name on a science fiction story, so that’s a real “get.” Sandman author Neil Gaiman created concepts for Lady Justice and the steampunk world occupied by Teknophage and Mr.Hero (aka The Newmatic Man), which made him Tekno’s hardest working creator. You know, not counting all the folks who actually wrote the books despite not having their name on the masthead, that is.

Rob Liefeld
Born Robrutus Leander Donenfeld in the Republic of Weimar, the man who became Rob Liefeld ultimately became synonymous with the 1990s. Which is weird because he hardly ever wrote or drew anything, and tended to abandon projects about five minutes after they were announced in Previews.

One of the founding members of Image Comics, Liefeld also possess the rare claim to fame of having been ejected from the group, then having the decision reversed allowing him to remain, then quitting even as the rest of the company was sitting down to vote him out again. Ah, the ol’ wacka-spinna-badonk-a-roo number 5, it works every time!

Liefeld’s alleged offenses involved siphoning company funds, poaching inter-company talent and messing up the publishing schedule, but mostly he’s derided in the fan community for his inability to draw for shit. Of course, if drawing like a grade-schooler were a hanging offense, the streets would be lined with the bodies of comic book artists. On the other hand, he’s managing to emerge as pretty much the only creator who worked in the 2000s and never sexually harassed anyone, so I guess I only care so much that he can’t draw feet.

You have to give Valiant Comics’ new bosses (as of 1995) at Acclaim credit for figuring out how to mask linewide cuts as an “event.” Props must also be given for marketing the event with camping equipment – you could get a Birthquake canteen and flashlight! They’re the perfect way to recall Birthquake when out camping with friends or family.

Valiant’s new owners were eager to revamp the line in such a way that it became easier to turn the properties into successful video game franchises, which is just as good a reason to make superhero comics as anything else, right? I mean, “turn ‘em into video games” or “because you have a traumatic head injury”, both reasons are fully valid. So they used the event to cancel underperforming titles and give new origins and background to the characters they thought could make useful properties, like Turok and Shadowman. Then they did “After Birthquake” and the company folded, which is just as well.

Amalgam Comics
If there’s any evidence that ideas trump execution in mainstream comics, Amalgam may be exhibit A. While some of the books which came out of this Marvel/DC mashup of existing characters were pretty solid – Super-Soldier and Spider-Boy, in particular, Thorion earning points for its intense Kirby homage and Dr.Strangefate for the epic pairing of Garcia-Lopez and Nowlan on art chores – most of the others were a little desperate. Particular problems arose when mashing up the two most popular characters at either company – Batman and Wolverine – resulted in something called Dark Claw, which was probably the most 90s-style amalgam, only sort of a third-tier kind of 90s.

Otherwise, smashing Marvel and DC characters together gave up some great ideas for combinations which fell apart in their books, like Lobo and Howard the Duck combined in the unimaginative Lobo the Duck, or Ghost Rider getting slapped together with The Flash, or random DC characters jammed up with assorted Marvel mutants and calling it an X-Men/Doom Patrol mashup despite evidence to the contrary.

Part of the problem with Amalgam was that the books existed gimmick-first, it was all about mashing up two familiar characters, therefore every line of dialogue and every character was a constant nod-and-wink from the creative team. “It’s Bruce … Parker, a photojournalist…millionaire from the Gotham … Bugle! And his cousin Mary Jane … Starfire!” just over and over, endless “get it?”s from a pre-established formula lacking all surprise. Still love the Ladronn Spider-Boy issue, though.

With the granddaddy of 1990s comics – Cable, the time-travelling telekinetic cyborg munitions expert mutant freedom fighter that eats like a meal – proving to be Marvel’s one definitive breakout character of the decade AND being the inspiration for an entire generation of post-Liefeld spittle-blasting super-types, it was only natural for the company to want to expand the franchise.

What better way to get more Cable into everyone’s life than by grabbing a Cable from an alternate timeline! Many ways! There were many better ways!

Emerging from the Age of Apocalypse crossover event, Nate “X-Man” Grey was cloned from the genetic material of Cyclops and Jean Grey, producing an offspring which was identical to Cable although that is flat out not how genetics work – but then again, why start complaining about that now? Young, shirtless, and unmarred by Cable’s techno-organic garbage, X-Man was conceivably a sexy and hip update of the already-ancient-at-five-years-old elder mutant, which is I guess what Marvel thought they needed because he was brought over into mainstream continuity. For a while. Considering Marvel hardly ever uses Cable any more these days, it’s not unsurprising that Nate Grey – his non-starter of a carbon copy – is basically ignored as well.


BillyWitchDoctor said...

I latched onto ONE Amalgam comic--Spider-Boy Team-Up, which gave us the Legion of Galactic Guardians.

With lines like "I haven't seen a reality reboot like this since Doc Alternity respun the Infinity Loop!" and character like the Paste-Pot Pete/Matter-Eater Lad's amalgam "Paste-Eater Pete," it remains one of my all-time favorite stupid comics.

Calamity Jon said...

Yeah, that's the Ladronn issue. For the art alone, it's one of the most fascinating mainstream productions of the era - plus it had more fun with the concept than any other book in the series...

James W. Fry 3.0 said...

I can't say with exact certainty where this idea came from, but I'll credit it to Kurt Busiek, 'cause I'm pretty sure it came up in a conversation with him: There was one AMALGAM concept that would have been a sure-fire top seller based simply on the title.The unfortunate paradox was that that title could simply Never Be Published: mash up sgt. FUry and sgt. roCK and you get SGT. FUCK---the Amalgam book EVERYONE wanted to do, but no one could...

Calamity Jon said...

By any chance, would it have been FRank RoCK + nICK FUry, and therefore SGT.FRICK FUCK?

cup king said...

Sgt. Rory isn't a swearword but unfortunately sounds like a semi-retired community policeman that gives road safety talks.

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