Tuesday, January 13, 2015


DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths – love it or hate it – was at least undertaken with a pretty specific goal in mind, even if the individual end points for a lot of its characters hadn’t yet been determined. At the very least, it did what was advertised on the tin, which was namely to erase the company’s complicated, overlapping and often contradictory continuity so that a new foundation could be laid, liberated from the boundaries of the past.

When Zero Hour came along, it was expressly to clean up continuity messes that had happened in the scant decade since Crisis, and started DC’s unfortunate trend of wiping out its universe every time a letterer dropped an unscripted semicolon. Well, that was the stated goal of the miniseries/crossover event, anyway, although surely a hopeful consequence of this newest “Crisis In Time” was another top-selling, press-generating hit – something the company seemed to giddily pursue ever since 92’s Death of Superman found itself reported on in every Podunk local newscast from here to Booborowie.

Mostly, Zero Hour seemed to instigate a trend which has found its apotheosis in the New 52: Changes made to continuity which are only referenced in passing, never told in any tale, and accepted as canon. Wading in Zero Hour’s wake, DC’s future is a world where they don’t even make comics, but rather just release index cards every month highlighting all the most recent changes to established continuity.

Speaking of the apotheoses of 90s comic book tropes, Marvel Comics and Archie Comics united to put a bow on the inter-company crossover trend early on in the 90s, when the cacophonous DC vs Marvel/Marvel vs DC series was still a few years off and the much-delayed JLA/Avengers was still a tardy gleam in comicdom’s collective eye. It didn’t stop the crossovers, oh no, but how exactly do you top slapping Riverdale’s daffy, chaste teen antics with the Punisher’s grisly body count?

Produced under two covers – one from each publisher, just so as to at least nod towards taking advantage of the collector’s market – the single-issue crossover boasted a script from indy creator Batton Lash and art from the unlikely pairing of John Buscema and Stan Goldberg. Packed with in-jokes, it was also kept the characters surprisingly true to their personalities in their source material (The Punisher does, contrary to his typical nature, let the baddie go at the end of the book. Not even often-progressive Archie Comics was ready to let a character be shot full of bloody holes and left to die on the street as a warning to others), so points all around! Now where’s that Wolverine vs Jughead they promised us?

Back in the Silver Age of the 1950s and 1960s, the death of the title’s hero wasn’t ever heralded by much more than an often-deceitful blurb emblazoned across the cover – “Not a hoax! Not an imaginary story!” By the ever-serious 90s, though, bold declarations like that simply weren’t serious enough (and superheroes are, by this point, VERY serious business, don’t you know?).

So, enter the specialty death covers. Amazing Spider-Man #400 – wherein Aunt May briefly kicks the bucket – took dual awards for ominousness and illegibility; its gravestone-styled cover included an embossed granite-patterned version which was basically unreadable at a glance. Superman, of course, celebrated his death with a famously polybagged version of the issue which included a black armband for the particularly morbid comic fan. By comparison, Green Arrow’s stark black and reflective-green send-off was practically understated.

Here’s a list of characters, teams and books which debuted in the 1990s and which included BLOOD as part of the title:

Youngblood, Bloodshot, Blood Syndicate, BloodStrike, BloodPool, Bloodpack, Bloodwynd, BloodStorm, BloodStain, Blood Path, Blood Bath, Blood Legion, Bad Blood, Blood S.C.R.E.A.M. (what?), BloodStrike, Bloodshed, Blood Moon, Blood Axe, Blood Sword, Blood Bow, BloodWulf, Blood Wolf, Blood Hawk, Blood Skull, Blood Claw, Bad Blood, Blood Legion, Bloodshed, BloodThirst, Bloodstorm, Blood Moon, Blood Thirst, Blood Seed, Blood Sell and Bloodfire, just to name a few.

Not all characters named “Blood-“something were created in the Nineties, but mostly the exercise here was to slyly force you to start reading “blood” as “blue-ed” in your head, which I’m sure you were doing by the end there. Ha-ha.

As one of a wave of second-generation Marvel heroes who’d step out from their predecessors’ mantle into their own identities (ex-Iron Man turned War Machine and former Captain America turned U.S.Agent being the other two), Eric Masterson had begun his career as a stand-in Thor. Graduating to his own title in the Nineties, from creators Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz, Thunderstrike ultimately was something of the antidote to the grim and gritty nineties. Despite digging up baddies with names like “BloodAxe” (see above), the comic seemed to intentionally recall the Silver Age brashness of Marvel’s debut, complete with cover emblazoned bombast. Inside, Thunderstrike himself was as much concerned with finding non-violent solutions to problems, with possibly the sole nod to Nineties-era cynicism being a cover which portrays ‘Strike extoling the virtues of suburban teenage nihilism. Close enough, I guess.

Still, despite the apparent old-schoolery of the title, it managed to eke out a full 24 issues, which is a pretty impressive run for anything not packed in a silver foil cover with embedded holographic trading cards.

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