By 1996, Rob Liefeld had either seen the writing on the wall of had bristled long enough under the multi-headed beast at the helm of Image Comics. Having already tested the waters with spinning off an independently published imprint away from Image under the title of Maximum Press, Liefeld made the split official by launching the unironically titled “Awesome” Comics brand.
Unfortunately, Awesome launched amid allegations that Liefeld had inappropriately used Image funds to publish Maximum books, and persisted under the usual conditions of exceedingly late and incomplete solicited series. Meanwhile, the highlight of the company’s stock rested on the shoulders of Alan Moore, leaving Liefeld bereft of praise and subject to the entirety of the criticism directed at the company.
Awesome folded after less than four years, although its top creators – Moore, Loeb, McGuiness – bounced back immediately. Liefeld’s rep took a bit of a beating, but when has that ever stopped him? The man is bulletproof.
As the 90s have been resurrected in spades by an increasingly desperate mainstream publisher which shall remain nameless but which has at its helm two guys who look like they were sent over from central casting to play the roles of “obnoxious sexist next-door neighbor” and “horny co-worker” for a Kevin James comedy, the one most trustworthy cover gimmick of them all has recently been reintroduced – the variant cover.
Yes, the contents remain the same, but you can still get someone to buy three, five, ten copies of the same book if you slap different covers on it – even if it’s just the pencils, even if it’s a photograph,even sometimes if it’s literally a blank cover with nothing on it at all! Sometimes those sell for MORE. They oughtta try printing ‘em with nothing inside, too.
Gen13 probably took the award for most ambitious variant cover gimmick of the 90s, producing thirteen covers for the team’s newest volume AND selling the books as sealed special edition prints (i.e. comic covers on better paper).
Inter-company crossovers were huge money in the Nineties, so it was fortunate for Marvel that they owned a whole company with which they could manufacture cross-company crossovers. Huh? I dunno, but it ended up creating crossover opportunities for Prime and the Hulk, Spider-Man and Prime, Rune and the Silver Surfer, Nightman and Wolverine, the Exiles and X-Men, the Avengers and Ultraforce, and a ton more including cameos and guest-appearances, all of which ultimately presaged the complete disappearance of the Malibu heroes from the roster while Marvel stripped their coloring technology down to the rims. Exciting times, mainstream comics in the Nineties, exciting times …
Although DC and Marvel were, in their ways, slow to respond to the thematic changes of the Nineties, the former company in particular managed to drop the most significant and high-profile arcs of the era. Once of these was certainly the Death of Superman, possibly the most-publicized event in the history of comics up to that point, and which set the model for every subsequent media-forward press release issued by either of the big two companies since.
News programs on television and radio were reporting on Superman’s apparent death and subsequent replacement by a quartet of possible successors, and managed to push sales of the black-bagged, armband-bearing special issue into record numbers. It may also have launched the current state of “event comics,” as the progression of Superman’s battle against Doomsday, death, replacement, resurrection, and re-acquisition of his mantle turned into a seemingly never-ending spectacle with no concrete conclusion in mind. Also, seriously, they included black armbands with the comics, which is just embarrassing.
It’s ironic that, in the Nineties, just as comics were wriggling out from under the confines of the Comics Code Authority, moving exclusively to the safe, anything-goes environment of the direct market, and handing their reins to independent creators – and therefore allowing in more and bloodier violence than ever before – they got rid of guns.
Traditional handguns and larger arms disappeared almost overnight, replaced by glowing chrome toasters which fired energy bursts or other incomprehensible special effects. Of course, we all know there’s nothing more aerodynamic than an iPad, so obviously you’ll want to replace your bullets with ammunition the size and shape of a hardcover novel.
The Wafer Gun or Toaster Gun became as synonymous with the era as did pouches, shouting and spittle forced through clenched teeth, although hopefully you’ll forgive me if I don’t cover that last one in this feature.