One of the very best things about the 90’s was the the fact that the comics companies had so many great card sets produced. Many of my pals, and myself, found the cards exciting. While many of my pals did not wind up the lifelong superhero fan that I am, many of us still recall these cards with reverence. Here are some of my favorite cards that feature X-Force, plus a few of the “Cable Files” that were included in early issues of X-Force! See you Monday for Starman!
Hey there! Welcome to a very special installment of The Unspoken Decade, as this is our first foray into the AMAZING Super-Blog Team-Up! After you’re done enjoying our article here, check out the other great blogs participating in this go-round of the Super-Blog Team-Up! Aw, who the hell am I kidding? Those blogs are so great, you’re probably going to go read them first. Reckon I can’t blame you, so go ahead and scope them out! I will wait.
You’re back? Fantastic! Hope you had a most excellent time, and I just want to say how honored we are here at The Unspoken Decade to be a part of the Super-Blog Team-Up, even if it has meant one of the busiest weeks of my life! Regular readers of the best 90’s comics blog in the universe know that our usual post date is Monday, and I know that all of you enjoyed that kickass X-Force article. A few of you even enjoyed the Mike Mignola X-Force surprise post yesterday, but this is now our third straight day with a post, a first here, and between this and the two LIVE radio shows I know all y’all listen to every week (Compton After Dark and Her Dork World/His Dork World), and working 6 days a week at my regular job, I have been working my fingers to the bone!
But no matter how bad I have had it this week, two of the greatest heroes of all time had it much worse in the early 90’s. There’s no way anyone, superhero fan or not, who was alive and cognizant in the early 90’s could forget the furor and hoopla over the death of Superman and the breaking of Batman’s back. The latter did not create the firestorm that the former did, most likely because it came after Superman’s demise and at the same time as his rebirth, but it still caused ripples in the mainstream media, a place that comics were rarely able to venture into in the early 90’s, although that notion seems silly now, as we are in an era where super hero movies routinely dominate the box office. But as usual, I digress.
From what I understand, it was Jerry Ordway’s idea to kill Superman. Superman had four monthly titles then, and the creative teams worked closely together so that the four titles (Superman, Action Comics, Adventures of Superman, Superman: The Man of Steel) basically meshed together to make what was essentially a weekly series. Not being a giant Superman fan, that seems like more than a bit much. I’m sure the Superman fans were ecstatic, but I didn’t know either of them. None of my pals were into Superman. He was seen as a relic, and the four titles were ignored by us and the world; they were to be seen as a stepping stone to license underoos and usually shitty video games.
Then they decided to kill him.
Don’t let the snark in my statement fool you; I fucking love Doomsday in this suit. He looks creepy to me, and somehow even deadlier than when he loses the suit and has BONES THAT STICK OUT OF HIS KNEES. I like his look and all, but I think it is hilarious that the guy who iced the Big Red S has such a feature. It just seems silly and too “comic booky,” but then again, not only is this guy’s name Doomsday, but this also is a comic book, so I guess I can let knee-bones go.
One thing Doomsday and I have in common is an intense hatred of birds. DC decided a great way to get me to hate Doomsday would be to have him kill a bird with his hand, and while I am not the kind of person who is cruel to animals, if Doomsday wants to kill a wild bird, power to him. I fucking hate birds.
Seriously, why would that bird leave the flock just to fly over to Doomsday and meet its demise? Perhaps it was sad and ostracized by the others. We will never know now. What we do know is that if we are to take Doomsday seriously as a villain, he must beat some enemy greater than a lonely bird who had no flock friends.
ENTER THE JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA!
I guess technically they were not the Justice League OF America, as their title was just “Justice League America,” and they also had a counterpart in Europe, cleverly titled “Justice League Europe”. When I was in 7th grade, I “made up” a team called The Protection Agency, and then placed them all over the globe. “Protection Agency Asia” and “Protection Agency Australia” were two of the teams, and if you don’t get the pattern from those two, I am not sure you should be allowed to read this or any blog.
I was accused, rightfully so, by my pals of just copying Justice League. Of course, I could not admit this, so I clung as hard as I could to the fact that I put a Protection Agency on every continent and not just two, thus making my idea much different than JLA or JLE. Yeah, they didn’t buy it either. What we all bought, or at least tried to buy, was this:
The JLA had little identity in this time. They were past the Maguire/Giffen/Dematteis humorous BWAHAHAHAHA era (which should be checked out by those who haven’t ever seen those JL comics. They are as good as you have been told.), but they haven’t really established themselves as anything but a generic super-hero team. They are a group of B-Listers and The Man of Tomorrow. I’m not knocking these guys; I am a fan of all of them, and I especially love Guy Gardner and Blue Beetle. My sister, Angel Hayes (who does work here at The Unspoken Decade too), is a giant Booster Gold fan. But there’s something about this team that just doesn’t work for me. Maybe it is Maxima, a former Superman villain, being on the team, or maybe it is a lack of Martian Manhunter at this time, but it just doesn’t always feel like the JLA. I do like them, though, because as I have said in other entries, this is MY era, so this was MY JLA in a certain sense. Even the JLA with Nuklon and Blue Devil holds a near and dear place to my heart, although Morrison’s JLA did eventually supplant this group as MY JLA later.
I wonder if that powerhouse line-up in Morrison’s JLA could have done better against Doomsday than this Justice League did. One thing is for sure: They could not have done much worse.
As bad as Guy Gardner got it, he didn’t lose out nearly as badly as Blue Beetle, who was literally beaten into a coma. I’m not one of those folks who misuses literally, so you can stop cringing now.
As Blue Beetle lay dying, his best friend was hurtling through the sky, having been punched by Doomsday. REALLY HARD. Thankfully, Booster Gold literally has friends in high places. Now you can cringe.
The books do a fantastic job of very quickly getting Doomsday over as a force to be reckoned with. What made him even more palatable to readers, especially readers my age when this came out, is the fact that Doomsday was shrouded in mystery. I don’t mean that he was wearing that awesome Night Trap villain suit; I mean that no one knew who he was. I think nearly every character that got hot in the early 90’s had a past that was at least cloudy, if not as outright murky as The Everglades at midnight on an overcast night. Ghost Rider, Cable, and Wolverine all immediately spring to mind as examples of this phenomenon.
Sacrificing the JLA, even if it wasn’t your Daddy’s JLA or even Grant Morrison’s JLA, made Doomsday seem formidable, but the next question had to be how they’d make Superman seem just as formidable. The answer is an old-school wrestling tactic: THE NO-SELL!
Then they beat on each other. A LOT! This had to be one of the most savage fights in the history of Superman, and it had to happen against the most savage opponent he ever faced. You would think that whoever killed Superman should have been well-known, but I think having the character that killed Superman (and the character that broke the Batman) comes out of nowhere really showed the inherent danger of being a superhero. Since we know that these stories are fictional, we can forget how serious these adventures can be. Having a new guy come out of the woodwork and destroy an established character reminds the audience of that danger, thus inspiring new interest.
Doomsday is also one of those characters, much like Punisher and Hulk, who is more of a force of nature than they are people or people-like entities. Doomsday seems to exist just to destroy whatever gets in his path, and he had no direction. That is, until he found pro wrestling.
Once again, wrestling is to blame for destroying everything. Of course, being the huge wrestling fan that I am, I would actually be interested in WarBash. This card spelled doom for the citizens of Metropolis, though, as this is the moment that Doomsday became aware that he no longer had to use the Disney secret of calling birds to himself so he could subsequently kill them. No longer would he have to wait for a cadre of costumed heroes to attack him. He knew there was a battle waiting for him in Metropolis in the form of Major Mayhem!
Despite looking more like the lead singer of The Village People than a legitimate World Heavyweight Champion, Major Mayhem was able to teach the DC Universe’s most formidable force of nature the geography lesson that led to the death of Earth’s Greatest Hero. He now knew of Metropolis. One smashed road sign later, and somewhere in the distance Death of The Endless put on her blackest makeup and coolest ankh and headed for Metropolis as well. (Spoiler Alert: She isn’t in any of these comics.)
Superman, the world’s mightiest hero, seems to be very out of his league here. In a single swoop, Doomsday would eviscerate Superman, and punch the 90’s Supergirl (who will one day get a write-up here!)into goop.
Fearsome. I think this was the first time I ever saw Superman bleed. This was also from the first issue of the storyline I was able to pick up. Every time I hit the LCS then, the Doomsday stuff was sold out. My mom managed to snag this one for me. I remember trying to keep it in near-mint condition as I watched the Wizard articles tell me that its price was climbing higher and higher, but I also was completely overwhelmed by the comic and just had to read it over and over. This meant an early demise for what I thought was going to be worth a fortune forever, but in hindsight, there were very few comics I loved more than the one where Supergirl fell to Doomsday.
Despite the setbacks and despite Doomsday’s rampant brutality, Superman remains valiant and steadfast in his belief that he will stop this creature, no matter what takes. The determination shines through, and you believe that a Superman will die.
Dan Jurgens does an amazing job with Superman #75. Every page is a single panel; every panel is a story, culminating in an epic showdown where Superman’s Double-Axehandle is pitted against a big haymaker from Doomsday. Jurgens shows us not just how Superman appeared to the world, but also to those closest to him. This makes his imminent death personal, and not just the death of an icon that we have all been familiar with since before we could read. Before we see The Man of Tomorrow die, we must see him live.
The entire saga is amazing, as we see a World Without a Superman, and the Return of Superman was really clever, with four men claiming to be Superman. Doomsday was the perfect entity to destroy Superman. He’s a monster from his opening panel until his demise alongside The Man of Steel. His relentless onslaught was more than even Superman can handle, and even though it cost Doomsday his life, he can say what few villains can; he not only defeated, but he killed Superman. Such a feat alone makes him worthy of inclusion in the villains entry for this go-round of Super-Blog Team Up.
However, Superman was not the only iconic superhero to fall prey to a villain. He wasn’t even the only iconic hero to fall to a brand new villain. In the case of the Caped Crusader, Bane was able to do something adversaries like The Joker, The Riddler, or even KGBeast had been unable to do, and that is break Batman.
Bane first appeared in the Chuck Dixon/Graham Bolan special, Batman: Vengeance of Bane. I actually bought this off the shelf when it first came out. I loved the cover, and I loved one-shots. Due to my status as poor white trash, I was sometimes unable to get all the parts of a multi-part story, and so one-shots appealed to me, and how could a cover like this not appeal to anyone?
I said on my entry here on Punisher: War Zone #1 that Chuck Dixon probably only wrote one masterpiece, but after reading VoB, I have to reconsider my stance. This is amazing. By the time you are finished with it, you both feel sorry for and repulsed by Bane. He got a rather raw deal in life, but he somehow turns it all to his advantage.
You start out feeling badly for Bane, as he has been “trapped in a world he never made!” in a much more harsh way than we ever saw happen to Howard the Duck. Many folks, myself included, sometimes complain about the cards life handed us, but this story reminds us that there are many, especially in the third world, that have it so much worse than us. Bane was screwed before he ever tasted oxygen.
Bane could have allowed that to damn him, but he instead rises to the challenge and makes himself king of the prison. First, though, he has an accident that bashes his head and renders him comatose. He has a vision of his future self while unconscious that inspires him to rise to the occasion by becoming stronger than all those around him. Bane starts quickly after emerging from the coma, as the inmate who offered Bane what seemed to be unsavory employment gets his quickly…
Bane gets sent back to solitary for this, and when he emerges this time, he is a man on a mission. He picks up a few henchmen in the prison, and begins his takeover. He also learns to read, which I like to think was inspired by pirated broadcasts of Reading Rainbow starring LeVar Burton, but that probably isn’t true.
Soon, ruling the prison just isn’t enough for Bane, who has become the pinnacle of prowess via sheer will, concentration, and determination. His thirst for knowledge in these books means he soon learns of a great world outside of these walls, and he finds himself wanting to know all about it. He is intrigued when his henchman Bird (who can seemingly talk to Birds, so it isn’t just a clever name) tells him of Gotham City and Batman. Bane decides he is to rule Gotham.
Bane is then placed into an experiment in the prison using the drug Venom, which had been featured in the Batman comics prior to this. Bruce Wayne even got addicted to it. Bane survives experiment after experiment in the prison, and eventually, engineers a way off the island.
Now that he has escaped the prison, Bane is in Gotham City, learning the ropes, and discovering television, in the early 90’s, I would have had to recommend USA Up All Night to him. Being the savvy guy that he is, I am sure that he found Rhonda Sheer and Gilbert Gottfried all on his own.
He was also able to start carving a piece of the Gotham City underworld out for himself with the help of his henchmen. That was just the start of what would eventually culminate in this…
Batman was broken. Superman was dead. The 90’s brought you the villains who fulfilled the promises of all the Golden, Silver, and Bronze Age villains that preceded them. They destroyed the icons of good, maybe not forever, but more thoroughly than any who came before them. These two characters also became firmly entrenched in the lore of Batman and Superman, showing up in cartoons, movies, and one of the most underrated beat ‘em up games of all time.
These villains had to be larger than life, bigger than Gods and a 90’s kind of extreme in order to triumph over the greatest superheroes of all time, but they did so with aplomb, and remember, it all happened in The Unspoken Decade…
Now head on over to the articles listed below and enjoy Super –Blog Team-Up!!! Thanks for stopping in with The Unspoken Decade! Special post tomorrow, and then next Monday, take a look at Starman!!!! Also, check me out LIVE on internet radio Thursday nights at midnight for Her Dork World, His Dork World, and on Sunday nights at 11:30 Eastern for Compton After Dark!!!
X-Force, particularly the early issues of X-Force, embodied the excess of the 90’s, but even a midst the age of extreme, less could be more. Take a look at the excellent work of Mike Mignola on X-Force. I bet you didn’t even know he did some X-Force! Oh, you did? Well, now I look foolish. Enjoy some work from the creator of Hellboy, and get ready to see more of both Hellboy and Mignola right here at The Unspoken Decade!!!
That’s just beautiful, plus we learn Cable’s taste in stand-up comedy. Lenny Bruce is not afraid according to R.E.M., but perhaps he should be. Come back tomorrow for Super-Blog Team-Up!