Aug 25 2008 11:54pm

The King of the World, as Far as I Know

A hot topic in the comics blogosphere last week was “What were the best superhero comics of the 1990s, and were even the best ones any, um, good?” It’s a good thing the comics blogosphere took up this topic because I couldn’t tell you: I gafiated right through the decade, except for a brief fling with the early America’s Best Comics line. Which, I suppose, is the kind of thing one would say, but it happened just that way. What I was reading about the superhero-comics genre in the media was dire enough to keep me from re-engaging, particularly the deaths (for certain values of death) of Superman and the Jason Todd Robin. Somewhere I picked up a few issues of Daredevil written by DG Chichester: they and he seem to have passed from the memory of the hobby, but I liked them pretty well. But overall, I got no clue, so you should go to the people who were paying attention.

Dick Hyacinth kicks things off, tossing out the idea that there were no worthwhile superhero comics in the decade to warm up for an attack on part of Grant Morrison and Howard Porter’s tenure on JLA. In a separate post, he shoots down some of the decade’s standard canon. (Contains a lengthy comment thread with people’s enthusiasms.)

Tom Spurgeon offers a big long list of “half-way decent or well-regarded” books. It offers breadth rather than depth (there’s no appraisal).

Tim O’Neill goes the other way, offering lengthy appreciations of his Top Five, along with meditations on the social and psychological effects of long immersion in the hobby. (By implication, he thinks a decade’s gafiation here and there is a good idea.)

Pablo Defendini
1. pablodefendini
The dearth of good superhero comics is one of the contributing factors to my fafiation (I like that, had never heard of the terms before) from comics in the 90's as well. Most of the stuff I enjoyed during that time in the genre I discovered as reprints and trade paperbacks. Indies are a different story, but my waning enthusiasm for the underwear perverts, along with dwindling spending money contributed to my withdrawal in general.
Lenny Bailes
2. Lenny Bailes
For me, most of the good comics action in the '90s was in the DC Animated Universe. Alan Moore's run of Supreme was also excellent, although I guess critics might argue that being a second-order deconstruction/tribute to the Silver Age, it Doesn't Count. (And they might say the same thing about Busiek's Marvels.)
andrew brady
3. mekon
it was an issue of Generation X - #36 I think - in 1997 that was so utterly abysmal, it triggered a complete 'head in hands' reevaluation and put a stop to my standard weekly collecting of 'the usual' Marvel and DC stuff

looking back through the decade, and Tom Spurgeon's list, my thumbs go up to the following:

* Daredevil: Man Without Fear, Frank Miller and John Romita Jr.
* Kingdom Come, Mark Waid and Alex Ross
* Superman For All Seasons, Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale

For me, these are the trump cards of the mainstream superhero genre in the 1990s - the ones that your non comics-reading friends would borrow.

* Black Panther, Christopher Priest and Mark Texeira
* Deadpool, Joe Kelly and Various
* Hitman, Garth Ennis and John McCrea
* Quantum and Woody, Christopher Priest and M.D. Bright

These are genuinely FUNNY. Very fond memories (and fortunately all stored in the same box for rereading..)

* Astro City, Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson
* Stormwatch (final issues)/The Authority, Warren Ellis and Various Including Bryan Hitch
* Supreme, Alan Moore and Chris Sprouse
* WildCATS Vol. 2, Various

The non-mainstream super-indie-cool-superhero stuff. 'Breath of fresh air' seems to be a default view on Astro City. The others are great reboots, with Stormwatch morphing into something VERY special..

A couple of others I would add (though the latter two did start very late on in the decade):

* Ka-Zar, Waid and Kubert
* Planetary, Ellis and Cassaday
* Inhumans, Jenkins and Lee
Lenny Bailes
4. Emmet
I'd stand by Kingdom Come and the span of the Peter David run on Hulk between the coming-together storyline and the bit where it all got wrecked by Heroes Reborn; also most of the Morrison run on JLA, and some bits of The Invisibles for all its flaws. I also have a lingering fondness for John Byrne's Sensational She-Hulk.

It amuses me somewhat how many of the people going on about how the end of Final Crisis #3 recaps a key plot element from the "Rock of Ages" story in Morrison's run on JLA seem unaware that that is itself riffing on a key point in the conclusion of his superhero strip Zenith in 2000 AD, another part of which is very much a riff on the Crisis on Infinite Earths story-shape. Which I remember really liking at the time, but have not reread in ages.

One of these years I will catch up on The Authority and Planetary.
David Siegel
5. bigscary
Dick Hyacinth's complaint is basically "Superheroes aren't exactly the same as they were when I started reading comics" ("... the mask Green Latern wore when he was someone else." being a dead giveaway -- he's stating outright that Hal Jordan is the only person who is REALLY GL, everyone else has just been a sort of gag or placeholder. This is, by the way, one of the top forms of the complaint.)

So, if you read his question as he means it, "Were there any superhero comics in the 90's that were essentially the same as superhero comics of the 70's?", then the answer is "no". If you seek to answer the question as he phrased it, then saying "no" is really quite a stretch -- he, in fact, goes through a list of excellent comics and dismisses them for not being like comics used to be.
Clifton Royston
6. CliftonR
... and here I had thought this might be a post on science fiction lyrics in Steely Dan songs, of which there are quite a lot. Are you saving "Have you heard about the boom on Mizar 5?" for a later post?
Jim Henley
7. Supplanter
bigscary: I think there's something to that.

CliftonR: I don't remember that one, darnit. I did listen to the big ol' Steely Dan boxed set straight through within the last year, but it escapes me.

BTW, I quite favor Joe Jackson's live cover of "King of the World."
Clifton Royston
8. CliftonR
It's originally on The Royal Scam; the song is called 'Sign In, Stranger' and the lyrics seem to portray some kind of sleazy border planet huckster/recruiter. "Hey zombie, be born again, my friend/Won't you sign in, stranger?"

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