N.B: For maximum suspension of disbelief in this post, please temporarily forget the fact that Mister Bull is permanently and perpetually six years old.
You know that saying about the sixties? That if you remember the sixties, you either weren't there or you were Hal Jordan? Well, I kinda feel that way about the nineties.
I was laying awake last night, waiting for Christmas...it's almost here, isn't it? It's really, really close, right?...and to try to get to sleep I started thinking about comic books I've bought and read in the past. And I realized something funny: I don't remember much about the first half of the nineties...in comic books, that is.
I know I bought lots of comic books during the nineties...stack, piles, towers of 'em. I was living in Buffalo and Chicago and I remember the comic book stores I spent much time and many, many dimes in. But before 1996, when I moved to New York City and and bought JLA #1, I don't remember what most those comic books could possibly have been. I know the first past of the nineties was a remarkably Image-laden time, so that might account for how little I remember. I remember Queen City Comics in Buffalo, and Chicago Comics in (natch!) Chicago, plus that scruffy but friendly local Oak Park comic book shop. But with a few exceptions, I don't remember a lot of comic books from those years. Surely I musta bought a stack o' comics every week from 1990-1995...what the heck where they?
Here's the very few titles I do remember buying and reading:
STARMAN (1994): I got hooked on the Jack Knight Starman series straight from issue zero, and it still remains one of my favorite superhero series of all time. You can argue that the later issues wandered and it was sometimes a little too obsessed with collectibles for its own good, but it did two things that I never woulda imagined in my comics fandom before that point: it sparked my love of the DC Universe fictionopolis (imitated after but never done quite as well as Opal City) and for the concept of legacy heroes. More to the point, it stlll remains one of the few superhero comics with a beginning, middle, and an end, and when Jack and his son drove off into the sunset in the final issue (hey, the baby goes in the back seat, Jack), we haven't seen him since except in a couple cameo appearances. That James Robinson was able to bring an ending to a saga in a genre whose sagas never end still sticks with me.
LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES and LEGIONNAIRES (1994): I actually discovered the Legion in quarter back issues in the bins of the Half-Price Book Stores across the Midwest as I traveled around selling wonderful Norton books: it was the "Five Years Later" Legion that first caught my attention and had be snapping up back issues left and right. Too many cast members? Too hard to pick up the story threads? I never had that problem, and in fact that was one of the appeals. When the series re-booted in 1994 following Zero Hero, however, I became more of a fan than ever of the bright, beautifully redesigned world of 2994. New costumes, new characters, reimagined adventures and twice a month I could pick up a Legion book? Sign me up for that, especially because I could work my way backwards through Legion history by buying back issues of Volume 3 and 2. It was the beginning of my long love affair with the Legion, and though my interest hasn't carried over to the current volume, the characters still remain among my favorite in superhero comics.
L.E.G.I.O.N. (1989): At the same time I was gleefully diggin' back issues of LSH out of longboxes I also pulled up the quirky and often outrageous L.E.G.I.O.N.. I don't remember whether I discovered Legion or L.E.G.I.O.N. first, but I remember understanding immediately that the second spun out of the first even though the first followed the second chronologically. And oh ho, I had a little stuffed crush on Stealth. It went downhill fast by the time the title changed to R.E.B.E.L.S., but it was an amazing, fun, Lobo-flavored ride while it lasted.
THE DEATH AND RETURN OF SUPERMAN (1992): Yep, I hopped on board this bandwagon a few issues before Supes got himself battered to death in big single panels of Superman #75, not for the speculator craze but because I was intrigued by the story. But it was what happened after his death that made the Superman books even more compelling reading: missing corpses, the plotting of Luthor, and the surprise emergence of four supermen. Everybody in America (okay, well, comics fandom) was guessing who was the real steel deal! Sadly, I guessed wrong (I thought each of the four had some spirit or element of the real Kal-El). The unpredictability and the intricacy of the four Superman titles following the death issue kept me reading the character for many years until I finally dropped 'em all in a fit of boredom during the Millennium Giants storyline. But at the beginning, at least, it was the 52 of its time: every week something startling and exciting happened, and I couldn't wait to read what happened next.
THE AGE OF APOCALYPSE (1995): It was in the middle of one of my long dry spells of interest in the X-Men that a weird alternate universe stunt replaced all the X-books and got me back on board for four months. I'm a sucker for alternate histories and this one was the most elaborate and intricate to that date. I enjoyed some of the books more than others: my favorite was Astonishing X-Men, which did the unthinkable for me: it made me like Rogue, Sabretooth and Changeling. After the stunt was over it was back to confusing business as usual and I soon dropped all the X-titles again, but it had one of the most triumphant ends to a story that featured nuclear war I've ever read. Marvel revisited this universe last year, and what was "House of M" but another version of it, but to this little stuffed fan, they've never done it better.
AMALGAM (1996): I glanced at but didn't follow Marvel vs. DC, or, depending on who you asked, DC vs. Marvel, but remained scoffing and unimpressed at the gimmick of letting the fans instead of logic decide the outcome of battles. Storm defeats Wonder Woman? Wolverine beats Lobo? Pshaw, I ain't buyin' those victories. Like class elections, t'aint nothin' but a popularity contest. But I did hop on board for the two sets of wacky and wild Amalgam Comics, which showed more imagination and clever fun in two sets of 12 comics each that most of the DC and Marvel universes put together (hah!) that entire year. My favorites were the Spider-Boy and Dark Claw books, but I 'member being especially delighted for some reason by Generation Hex. And who can resist Lobo the Duck? Who, I ask ya? Who?
A WHOLE BUNCHA VERTIGO BOOKS (1993-): They weren't always age-appropriate for a little stuffed bull, but boy howdy, if some fans are Marvel Zombies, then call me a Vertigo Virtuoso, because for a while there, 'specially during the early nineties, I was buyin' and devourin' almost everything they published. You remember the classics, of course: my favorites have always been Sandman and Preacher, but from the slew of suddenly-twisted superhero comics (Doom Patrol, Animal Man, Swamp Thing) to the darker and more mysterious mystical titles set in the DC Universe (Hellblazer, Books of Magic) to some of my favorite original works (the first Terminal City miniseries, House of Secrets, Kill Your Boyfriend), I expanded my comics tastes past and beyond just four-color superheroes thanks to the Vertigo line. Sure, I bought a lotta series that in retrospect never quite lived up to their potential or my hopes (Nevada, Chiaroscuro, Goddess, even Grant Morrison's Sebastian O), but every issue was an experiment in something new. I stopped being a Vertigo zombie sometime in the late nineties and only pick up a handful that probably still aren't fit for a little stuffed bull (which is why John won't let me review 'em...boo!) but there was nothing like those glory days when you never really knew what would happen in something that looked and felt like a DC Comic but really wasn't.
LOTSA INDIES: Love & Rockets. Zot! Miracleman. A kindly clerk at Queen City Comics in Buffalo thrust the first copy of Bone over the counter at me and demanded I buy it. From Hell. Groo. Bacchus. Hellboy. The Maze Agency, Madman. I spent a lot of dimes on those paperback reissues of the complete Carl Barks. You can make fun of the nineties as the rise of bad girl pinups, Image Comics and Rob Liefeld, but remember that it also meant the explosion of indie comics that are considered classics today. It was a market in which it was not only feasible economically to publish V for Vendetta but also Grendel. Even more than Vertigo I got a chance to expand my horizons during these periods.
Wow, well that's actually a lot more than I thought I would come up with. But it still seems like I'm missing a lot of my memories from 1990-1996. Like Sam Beckett, my little stuffed brain has been swiss-cheesed by time and too many comic books. I can't believe I wasn't reading more superhero comics regularly; even more than now I had disposable income and lots of leisure time. What the heck else was I reading during those six years? What were you reading? Tell me and maybe I'll remember I read it too!