If any character can be said to have midwifed the Nineties, it’s almost certainly Cable – who debuted at the tail end of the Eighties, but surely rose and fall entirely in the following decade. Loaded with pouches and guns, screaming and swinging around a seemingly unearned authority, decorated with more lights and tinsel than the Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center, the chief mutant of the Nineties began as a far-flung future version of New Mutant Cannonball. Editorial changed horses midstream and a very complicated backstory – and present story – was developed.
As goes the way of all techno-flesh, the fetish for Cable vanished and the adolescent enthusiasm used to create him began to wither as audiences turned their attention to newly- and more-edgy superhero created in his wake. It’s rewarding that there appears to be a nostalgia for the character, even if he’s no longer anywhere to be found in Marvel’s modern-day roster of top-rung characters.
One thing you certainly say for the character of Azrael - who, in the nineties, briefly took over the identity of Batman during the events of Knightfall – is that they at least never tried to hide the fact that he was a fucking terrible choice for the job. Pretty much from page one, panel one, “Az-Bats” was ruining the fine lines of one of the most iconic superhero costumes in comics and also everyone else with his forearm blades.
Before long, the Knightfall version of Batman had altered his costume so frequently and so haphazardly that he basically resembled a golem made of globe-shaped Christmas tree ornaments, with a Bavarian cuckoo clock for a chest plate. In a way, it almost sounds whimsical...
Pop culture increasingly dreaded the oncoming new millennium over the course of the Nineties, but DC Comics got the jump on them all by releasing this crossover event in its Summer Annuals in 1991. Following the investigations of future scientist superhero Waverider, readers were treated to sneak peeks of the world of the future some ten years hence. Naturally, as these things go, it was pretty much universally grim for everybody involved (excepting a light-hearted and continuity-spanning Justice League Europe adventure).
In case one grim ending wasn’t enough, Superman and Batman received a few apiece, owing to their multiple titles. The entire endeavor was undertaken to identify the identity of the mysterious Monarch, super-powered dictator of the future world, and whose modern-day identity of Captain Atom was leaked before the inks were dry on the final issue of the series bookends. That’s why it was arbitrarily changed to Hawk of Hawk and Dove, despite clues to the contrary, much to fans’ displeasure and the company’s chagrin. Aw well, everybody goes evil eventually, if Hawk wasn’t gonna do it now he was gonna do it before long …
So, here’s the thing: Several characters from the surprisingly rich and fanatically-embraced Sonic the Hedgehog universe manage to score an interdimensional team-up with assorted characters from the Image Universe. Also there were obvious X-Files ripoffs in there and the book was dedicated to Chris Carter, so in a lot of ways it’s actually an X-Files parody more than anything, so maybe I should start writing this one over from the beginning.
In any case, creators at Image loaned Spawn, Savage Dragon, Shadowhawk, someone I think called Velocity, another guy maybe called Union or Unity or something, and Maxx to the crossover. On the other side, of course, were all the famous Sonic characters – Sonic the Hedgehog, Knuckles the other Headgehog, Smuckles the Platypus, Speed Morphine the Cat, Dong Ratsy the half rat man, Tits the Wankbird and the Poison Twins, Righty and Lefty. And then the book went down in history as the greatest comic ever made.
The 1990s were the future - for all cases where the present equaled what we now know as the past – and what could be more futuristic than holograms? Well, how about holo-FOIL, and more specifically Holografix holofoil, a metallic reflective surface which created vivid repeating patters on the comic covers – you could have Spider-Man webs, X-Men Xes, circles and diamonds, squares and radiating beams, rectangles, octogons … listen, you’re not dumb, you know what shapes are. You could have shapes on them.
What made holografix holofoil a bit of a bummer was that covers really couldn’t be printed ON it, you had to have it surrounding a traditionally colored image, and so it was basically used to fill in space around posing characters, making some of the most boring covers out of the entire field of variant covers, which is saying a lot because it’s not like the embossed ones were singing and dancing up there or nothing …