Tag Archives: Doomsday

Madness as Futility: Ghost Rider #33

Hello, Legions of the Unspoken!  I hope the month of March is treating you very well!  March is a favorite month of mine!  Spring Training is in full gear, and we get to see the Madness of the NCAA Basketball Tournament, both men and women’s!  There isn’t a time of year like it for me, and while I am sure that all reading this agree with me that they hope the Kansas Jayhawks win it all (ROCK CHALK…for real, post who you’re pulling for in the comments!), we decided to delve into Madness of the 90’s comic book variety here at The Unspoken Decade!

I think it is illegal for us to call it “March M*****s”, due to NCAA trademarks, and if you think those cats don’t care about the best 90’s Comics Book website on the planet due to its relative small amount of influence in comparison to the monolith that they are, well these are the folks that suspended a player for NOT BEING HOMELESS, so I would not put anything past them.  They make the Age of Apocalypse look like McDonaldland.

mcdonaldland
The only tyrant that could ever truly strike fear into Apocalypse’s heart is Mayor McCheese.

The NCAA would intimidate even Dr. Doom, Juggernaut, or Magneto, but the villain of Ghost Rider #33 would not care one whit about their infinite wave of minutiae in regards to rules and regulations.  Madcap is mad, you see, and so he would appreciate our “Madness Month,” although I am not sure what he would think of being featured in it!  He would certainly appreciate the McDonaldland reference, however, as no matter how mad, depraved, or evil one may be, the idea that a mayor with a cheeseburger for a head will always bring a smile to anyone’s face, even if your face looks like this:

For not having many features, that face sure is frightening.

On the surface, the pairing of Madcap and Ghost Rider seems odd.  Ghost Rider is firmly entrenched in the occult corner of the Marvel Universe, cavorting about with heroes like Dr. Strange, Morbius, Blade, Werewolf by Night, and others.  I always wondered why they did not marry this world more strongly with the darker street level titles like Daredevil and Punisher.  They tried with the “Marvelution” when they made the Edge imprint (which I plan to take a look at in depth in the future!), but the big 90’d boom had less breath than a lungless walrus by that time.  Too little, too late, and it isn’t like we never got to see Punisher and Ghost Rider or Daredevil and Dr. Strange team up in the 90’s, but I feel like characters with multiple titles in the 90’s could have benefited by having a brand that meshed with a brand for which the character was not known.  How awesome would a Punisher Midnight Sons title or a Spider-Man title set in the cosmic corners of the Marvel Universe be?  The answer is so awesome that if I don’t stop talking about it right now then I will NEVER cease talking about it.

As I started talking about before in the prior paragraph meandered more than the Mississippi herself, on the surface, Ghost Rider and Madcap are an odd pairing.  Madcap is highly frivolous to the point of being a walking work of Dada, while Ghost Rider is the SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE and is quite grim, which I do not mean in the pejorative sense that many would use that word in, but I mean that Ghost Rider does not make a ton of jokes and is generally almost as personable as a walking stick.

What it lacks in personality, it makes up for by creeping the hell out of you.
What it lacks in personality, it makes up for by creeping the hell out of you.

Then all of a sudden, two things are obvious, the first of which is that these two characters aren’t too different once one takes a gander past the surface.  Both are nearly indestructible, both have trouble feeling, and both are engaged in a mission with a singular focus usually only seen in things that cannot think, like thunderclouds.  Madcap spreads madness, and this version of  Ghost Rider avenges the spilling of innocent blood.  There’s not a lot of subtlety to either guy, and it really works for both of them.  The other thing is how awesome the clash over their differences shall be.  Madcap believes in the idea that everything is meaningless, while GR believes that humanity must be worth something, lest he would cease avenging the innocent and start using his powers to run a furnace or something.

I am glad he didn’t go into furnacing because this is a fantastic issue, and Ghost Rider overall was a splendid title!  Ghost Rider #33 is one of the first issues of GR after the conclusion of the “Rise of the Midnight Sons” saga.  After several months of intertwined stories with the other Midnight Sons titles as well as guest stars in his own title (such as Dr. Strange saving Dan Ketch’s life in the very issue prior to this one!), this issue stands alone, and it also sets up some major changes in Danny Ketch (Ghost Rider)’s life!  This issue can also be read alone without reading prior GR issues; there’s a subplot involving ladies from H.E.A.R.T. getting attacked that would make a lot more sense had one read a few more issues, but it isn’t so opaque as to ruin the comic.

I miss the 90’s because they may have been the last era when we would get this sort of comic book, where a superhero story from the Big 2 would begin and end in the same issue.  There were still fill-ins here and yon, and these type of issues were a great gateway for someone who did not follow a title to get into a book.  For instance, I was familiar with Ghost Rider before this issue, but I didn’t follow it closely. I saw this on the rack at Kroger when I was in 7th grade, and I sat down and read it. Sitting and reading a comic book was preferable to walking behind Mom and somehow always being in the way in the flour aisle, and this cover drew me in.

Ghost Rider - Vengeance Unbound #33 - Page 1
Oh, I forgot to mention earlier that they both have stares that cause mental illness.  My bad.

I wound up following Ghost Rider for about a year after this issue, which I do not think I would have had this comic contained some convoluted story that continued subplot after subplot that I could not catch up with while being a part of 74092980234 different stories as well.  Conversely, though, I would not have given this much of a look had I not been hooked in by the “Rise of the Midnight Sons,” so I guess it works both ways.  Normally, I hate it when things have it both ways, but this is delightful.

Speaking of delightful, how about the inside cover of this bad boy featuring an ad for everyone’s favorite animated band of mutants, the Uncanny X-Men?

Ghost Rider - Vengeance Unbound #33 - Page 2
Jesus, 12.95 for two episodes on VHS? Before torrents, they made out like kings. Now they only make out like bandits.

I also have to wonder about the upper-left-hand corner of this ad, where they let us know that this is an “advertisement,” as though people either thought there was a magic comic book that would open up from the INSIDE COVER of another comic book, or that this comic book page was a VHS tape, and that they had somehow lucked out and did not have to pay 12.95 for two measly X-Men episodes.

To be fair though, I would have paid.  X-Men was such a huge part of my life in 7th grade.  Everyone watched it, and by everyone, I mean all the people at the losers’ lunch table with me watched it and discussed it.  LOUDLY.  Actually, as I have gotten older, I have found out that even the kids at the cool table were watching, but I had no idea at the time.  If I had, I probably would have done much better with girls….no, no I wouldn’t have.

The issue starts off with a bang, as not only do we get GR shoving some mook through a window, but we also get existentialism from the get-go!

Ghost Rider - Vengeance Unbound #33 - Page 3
I feel like if we changed these two out for teenagers, and it was just a regular push instead of a choke slam through a window, this would be the start of an ABC Afterschool Special also entitled “What Does It Matter” as “WHY?” is bellowed.

Ghost Rider’s absence during the Rise of the Midnight Sons has led certain criminal elements to begin to retake their former territories.  They thought they were safe due to GR being gone, but now he’s back with a vengeance!  (Sorry, I had to!)  I do wonder how these guys dodged the attention of the other Marvel street-level folks at this time, such as Punisher or Moon Knight, whether GR was there or not, but I guess even the lowly street thugs of the Marvel Universe are more resourceful than the ones of our world.

One way or another though, they are no match for Ghost Rider, who dispatches them quite easily, and then uses his insanity-inducing gaze, the Penance Stare, to make these criminals feel the fear and pain of their victims.  That’s such a stellar idea.  The fact that you get the Penance Stare from a flaming skull face makes you feel even more sorry as well, and it gives the Penance Stare a visual that the reader not only will notice, but would FEEL.  Every time I saw GR do it, I resolved to be a better person.

However, that same visual that gives GR the edge in the form of inspiring bowel-emptying paralysis in street level criminals also makes it hard for him to assist the victims of the crimes, no matter how much he wants to.

Ghost Rider - Vengeance Unbound #33 - Page 5
Even if the Penance Stare was nothing but shooting hellfire from GR’s eyes into someone else’s, it would still be awesome.

The beginning of the issue is very accurate; Ghost Rider and Dan Ketch are having an existential crisis.  Howard Mackie is really good on this title, and he scripts Dan Ketch very well.  Dan muses that, “There has to be more to our lives than waiting for the innocent to die.”  I never really thought about it, except possibly in the case of Spider-Man and The Last Avengers Story, about how much that must weigh on heroes.  There isn’t much for a hero to do but react, and if one is a hero, then the only reaction one would have would be to villainy.  Villainy in superhero comics involves massive property damage and massive attacks on civilians, which would result in massive casualties.  That’s got to weigh heavily on many heroes.  They are powerless to do much of anything but react, and by the time they do that, the damage is done.

Dan Ketch is also dealing with having died, so he has more on his mind than even the crisis mentioned above.  Between all that and a recent encounter with Nightmare, Dan is having issues sleeping, and I have to say that this is the best comic book page in history representing the feeling of not being able to sleep.  Bret Blevins, Al Williamson, and the colors of Gregory Wright really make me scared to lay down tonight, not due to anything monstrous in this horror/superhero mash-up, but rather because I will be haunted by floating digital numbers.

Ghost Rider - Vengeance Unbound #33 - Page 8
The floating numbers also remind me of a 1980’s commercial, and I mean that in the best way.

Nothing is simultaneously as mocking and haunting as digital numbers when I can’t sleep, whether they be on an alarm clock from the 90’s or my smartphone today.  I want to point out that Gregory Wright got the color of the digital clock display perfect.  The numbers aren’t just red on those clocks; they’re INSANITY-INDUCING red, and Wright nails that color here, especially against the totally black background.

Seeing as how Ketch can’t sleep, he decides to do some physical training, which means hitting a bag again and again.  This is the middle of the night, and so his mom emerges to give him some life-changing news.  Before she can do that, though, Madcap becomes the envy of just about every body modification aficionado as he laments being misunderstood by the consumers of his art.

Ghost Rider - Vengeance Unbound #33 - Page 12
This is what your parents were worried would happen when they taught you not to play with sharp items.

Madcap is definitely one of the Not-Ready-For-Prime-Players with that knife stuff.  I can’t help but feel bad for him, though, because I can feel, and apparently, he cannot.  That’s more than sad.  I’d rather be able to wrap myself in all the sad times I have had rather than be unable to feel anything, no matter what teenage me said as he listened to the same Nine Inch Nails songs over and over again.

There are situations, however, where anyone would prefer not to have feelings so that they could deal with heavy stuff better.  For instance, Madcap would not really understand the gravity of the situation that Dan Ketch faces with his mom’s big reveal.

Ghost Rider - Vengeance Unbound #33 - Page 13
There was probably a better time to tell Dan Ketch this besides right after he just died.

Dan needs to go on a motorcycle ride to clear his head now, which in our world would work out perfectly.  In the Marvel Universe, though, it just leads to angst for our hero and a fight with a villain to boot.  No hero ever gets to just clear their head; they are required to run into trouble and then deal with it.  I am certain that is a physical law in superhero universes.

Trouble isn’t quite the word I would use for Madcap, who is certainly the epitome of madness.  Perhaps even more so than The Joker, though, not because Madcap is crazier, but because he is indestructible.  The Joker is mad, certainly.  No one would dare call that cat sane, unless he demanded you did or else. Even then, everyone reading this article knows that all calling The Joker sane (even at his request) will get you is the “or else” he is threatening, whether that is getting drowned by a clownfish or having to eat the world’s funniest poison.  At the end of the day, though, The Joker is still cognizant that he is alive and can be hurt or killed.  Madcap is alive, but he can’t be hurt or killed.  In fact, he can’t feel much of anything.  That’s the catalyst for his madness.  If you couldn’t even stub your toe and feel that awful pain, you’d go nuts, just like Madcap.

Madcap, though, is really interested in making other people nuts.  Especially folks in Grand Central Station at rush hour.

Ghost Rider - Vengeance Unbound #33 - Page 18
Madcap says there’s no reason for anything, but obviously his calling in life was to come up with different spins on the word “cop.”

Madcap’s spree spills innocent blood, and that triggers Dan Ketch to become Ghost Rider. Of course, we have to listen to Madcap’s philosophy on life before he gets there, and I wonder how much of this is madness – I mean, other than him inducing the cop to shoot innocent people; that’s firmly in the “Madness” category.

His idea that everything is pointless, however, carries some weight with many people I know.  One can question what is meaning itself for a long time, and if one can’t answer, does that make things pointless?  The folks I know who adhere to this philosophy tend to not be mad (although they are fairly morose and forlorn: think Goth Talk from SNL), but they aren’t very cheery.  They just seem to think that there can be no lasting sort of legacy, and therefore, most everything is pointless.  Yes, I know some weird people; thankfully, I find enough purpose in bringing the Legions of the Unspoken all these fantastic comic books, so I am not like them!

Ghost Rider’s staunch belief in the sanctity of the innocent really flies in the face of Madcap’s philosophy, so they decide to settle it the best way possible; they trade philosophy while punching each other.  Also, Ghost Rider looks cool as hell on that motorcycle.

Ghost Rider - Vengeance Unbound #33 - Page 20.5
Some of them will just find other ways to destroy themselves, Ghost Rider.

Madcap has the ability to not get hurt, but he isn’t really known for much else.  He doesn’t know, say, Madness Karate, so Ghost Rider and Madcap lock up, it doesn’t last long, and it is decidedly one-sided.  Madcap has no chance against the Spirit of Vengeance!

The highlight of the fight has to be when Ghost Rider and Madcap swap stares!  Madcap’s madness inducing gaze could possibly give him the edge in this battle.

Ghost Rider - Vengeance Unbound #33 - Page 26
Make you own “Hanging Around” joke here. Mine involves Counting Crows’s third album.

I really cannot describe what a huge deal it was to see Ghost Rider execute the Penance Stare in the 90’s.  I never, ever got tired of it, although I guess others did.  The idea of a FLAMING SKULL staring fire into someone’s eyes that makes said someone feel the pain of all the evil they have done fascinated me, and it continues to fascinate me to this very day.  The 90’s may have gotten some things wrong, but for a good 2-3 year period, they got Ghost Rider in a way that has never been equaled, before or since, and Howard Mackie’s writing has a lot to do with that, in addition to the great art by Mark Texeira and Javier Saltares on the book’s first few years as well.  Bret Blevins is terrific here; the art really gave GR that Horror Hero look you have to know they were going for.

But I got distracted, which is quite a rarity when super-powered beings are duking it out with madness inducing beams that they emit from their eyes!  As you can see above, Madcap’s beam has no effect on Ghost Rider at all, but the Penance Stare on the other hand…

Ghost Rider - Vengeance Unbound #33 - Page 27
They should start having motorcycle lasso competitions at rodeos.

Ghost Rider follows up his Montana impression by saving the baby while telling us that the baby’s life is full of meaning.

That's a pretty tall order, Ghost Rider.  Never let it be said that GR doesn't set the highest of goals.
No blood has been spilled? Didn’t the cop that Madcap turned insane shoot like six people?

I love tying Ghost Rider’s role as the Spirit of Vengeance to protection of the innocent, and I think that is what separated him from other vigilantes like Punisher.  I mean, sure, Frank Castle saves some innocent folks, but his mission isn’t tied to that role the way Mackie is presenting Ghost Rider’s as being.  Of course, his anathema towards killing also separated him, but I like my horror heroes with a smattering of hope.  I am not sure that horror of any kind, even the awesome amalgam of horror and superheroes, works without hope.

An unexpected side effect of Ghost Rider’s Penance Stare on Madcap is that it made him feel something.  Feeling anything to Madcap is better than feeling nothing, and therefore, getting that feeling is more important than anything else.  Madcap acts in the manner one would expect, as he wants more of it.  The idea that anyone would want more of the Penance Stare put Madcap in to an upper echelon of villainy in my eyes.  I could not imagine someone wanting to feel the pain of their actions over and over again, but I also cannot possibly imagine the insanity that goes along with being unable to feel.  I mean, the effects of extreme isolation and sensory deprivation as torture are well known.  Madcap has been under these conditions for years, and what’s even worse than the fact that he wants the Penance Stare again is the fact that he is willing to go to extreme lengths to get it…

Ghost Rider - Vengeance Unbound #33 - Page 31

I would call that creepy, but that would just not be a word with enough weight to describe how I feel about this image and about Madcap in general; truly very few characters personify madness the way Madcap does, and few stories would bring you the Madness you crave in the third month of the year (TAKE THAT, NCAA)!

Dan Ketch has different things on his mind, though, and on the last page of the book the genius in getting folks to pick up another comic book can be seen. The comic had a beginning, middle, and end all of its own, but it also dangled enough subplots to get you to buy that next issue.  That’s a lost art in today’s comics, where just about everything is written for the trade.  Mackie nailed it here, though:

Ghost Rider - Vengeance Unbound #33 - Page 32
That is the sort of next issue blurb that hooks me every time!

Before I finish this up, I also want to point out a really cool tidbit from the letters page.  This issue of Ghost Rider came out at about the time that Doomsday killed Superman, and there aren’t many that come more innocent than The Man of Tomorrow!  So, in the bottom right corner of the letters page, we get to see Ghost Rider’s thoughts on the situation!

Ghost Rider - Vengeance Unbound #33 - Page 33

We talked about how cool and brutal Doomsday was in a prior article here at The Unspoken Decade, and I think just about every superhero fan of the 1990’s would have loved to have seen Superman’s killer tangle with everyone’s favorite burning skull-faced hero?  That would have been beyond epic!  I wish that DC and Marvel had managed to do that when they were crossover happy in the 90’s!

I loved this panel; I think it is the equivalent of an Easter Egg on a DVD.  I did not have to work as hard to find it, but I also certainly was not expecting it.  Ghost Rider’s mourning of Superman also made the overall issue even more enjoyable, and I am too embarrassed to tell you of the crossovers this inspired that I played out in my action figures or in the backs of my notebooks at school when I should have been learning Algebra, which I made a “D” in that semester.  My mom was mad, but I managed to keep my comics!

Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy the NCAA Tournament as much as I do!  I’m ready to enjoy some madness, some Cinderella teams (as long as they don’t beat Kansas!), and attempting to eat more snack food than is humanly possible as I hope for a deep run for my Jayhawks!  Stay tuned this week for Mr. Hero from Emily Scott, and Venom:  The Madness from Darry Weight!  Have a great big dance, everyone!

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Super-Blog Team Up Presents-GODKILLERS: Doomsday & Bane!

 OTIwToNO

 

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.

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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.

The Death and Return of Superman #1992 (1993) - Page 11
Doomsday’s suit makes him look like one of the villains from the Sega CD game Night Trap, especially if one of them had been apprehended by Dr. Octopus

 

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.

The Death and Return of Superman #1992 (1993) - Page 17
I guess the laughing afterwards makes it creepy, but the real question is, why the hell did that bird come to Doomsday in the first place? Did he think he was the world’s scariest and least ergonomic birdbath or something?

 

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 Death and Return of Superman #1992 (1993) - Page 32
Does Oberon just listen to every police band in the world and wait for something that sounds worth of JLA attention? That’s both the best and worst job ever.

 

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.

This is the only time in history someone who used a power ring as a weapon did not go into battle without encasing themselves in a force field first.
This is the only time in history someone who used a power ring as a weapon did not go into battle without encasing themselves in a force field first.

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.

The Death and Return of Superman #1992 (1993) - Page 48

Why in the hell would Maxima wear gloves but nothing over her navel.
Why in the hell would Maxima wear gloves but nothing over her navel.

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.

Booster Gold looks more like a C.H.P.S. officer from the future than a football player from the future.
Booster Gold looks more like a C.H.P.S. officer from the future than a football player from the future.

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!

Oh teenagers, you and your backwards baseball caps and your surly comments.
Oh teenagers, you and your backwards baseball caps and your surly comments.

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.

The Death and Return of Superman #1992 (1993) - Page 109
(I think that Doomsday destroyed this Lex-Mart because he hates the encroachment of Corporate America against small business.)

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.)

The Death and Return of Superman #1992 (1993) - Page 123
He smashed The Cadmus Project and Guardian too, but I can’t show you everything here.  This article is too long as it is!

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.

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Supergirl appears to be made out of Nickelodeon Gak.

 

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.

I had a poster of that tombstone for quite some time; I still have comic shop posters of the event.  I hope I never have to get rid of them.
I had a poster of that tombstone for quite some time; I still have comic shop posters of the event.  I hope I never have to get rid of them.

 

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.

 

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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?

With the Venom tubes sticking out behind his head, Bane looks like a cross between a Luchadore and a Ghostbuster, two of the coolest things ever.
With the Venom tubes sticking out behind his head, Bane looks like a cross between a Luchadore and a Ghostbuster, two of the coolest things ever.

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.

Batman - Vengeance Of Bane #227 - Page 4 Batman - Vengeance Of Bane #227 - Page 6

I am sure some politician here will suggest this as a “tough on crime” initiative any moment.
I am sure some politician here will suggest this as a “tough on crime” initiative any moment.

 

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…

It seems like if you want to avoid having your nostril ripped out in prison, you have to drop the nose ring chain look.
It seems like if you want to avoid having your nostril ripped out in prison, you have to drop the nose ring chain look.

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.

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The henchman dumping the books out of the bag, Trogg, is holding that bag of books like it is a trick or treat bag full of candy.

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.

Batman - Vengeance Of Bane #227 - Page 24

That vision Bane has of Batman would be a sweet Elseworlds Batman.
That vision Bane has of Batman would be a sweet Elseworlds Batman.

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.

Batman - Vengeance Of Bane #227 - Page 28 Batman - Vengeance Of Bane #227 - Page 32

That teddy bear will need a bigger band-aid now that it has fallen so far.
That teddy bear will need a bigger band-aid now that it has fallen so far.

 

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…

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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.

979269-snes_death_and_return_of_superman_the_box_front
(I played this for hours and never beat it, no matter how many late fees I racked up at the video store by keeping it too long. Thanks to emulators and GameFAQ, I will soon though.)

 

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!!!

Bronze Age Babies show us The Frightful Four!

Fantastiverse brings you The Green Goblin!

Check out an edible Boba Fett and Darth Vader at Between the Pages!

Longbox Graveyard brings us the best cosmic villain ever, Thanos!

SuperHero Satellite shows us The Legion in The Great Darkness Saga!

Chasing Amazing gets 90’s like we do here as the monster called Carnage arrives!

Superior Spider-Talk goes old school with The Chameleon!

Silver Age Sensations is bringing us the best Armored Soviet not named Rocket Red!

The Daily Rios brings you JLA vs. Beasts!

Flodo’s Page features Green Lantern villain The Lamplighter!

The Retroist gives you the one villain who rises above all others…DOOM!