It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was a dark time for the Republic. In short, it was...the ‘90s. The 1990s were an odd time for comic books. A group of comic book artists, including the likes of Jim Lee and hate-favorite Rob Liefield, splintered off from Marvel Comics to start their own little company called Image. True to its name, Image Comics featured comic books light on story, heavy on big, flashy art (often either badly drawn or heavily stylized, depending on who you ask), and a grim and gritty aesthetic that seemed to take all the wrong lessons from renowned works such as Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns.
It wasn’t long until the Big Two and other publishers hopped on the bandwagon, which was fueled by marketing gimmicks such as foil-embossed covers issued in a dozen different collectible variants. Not a single one of your favorite heroes was exempt from the 1990s darker and edgier treatment. Wolverine went even more feral than usual, and inexplicably lost his nose. Thor wore a black latex half-shirt. Even Ant-Man bulked up and donned an armored suit as Myrmidon. And so it is in the spirit of gentle fun that I give you my picks for the WORST of the 90s, Marvel-style.
First up we have Vengeance. You’d think that Ghost Rider, a guy with a flaming skull for a head and a demonic motorcycle, would be badass enough for the 90s, but you’d be wrong. Then we have Nightwatch, a bald-faced ripoff of Todd MacFarlane’s more successful Spawn. Next, we have Necromancer… the Dr. Strange of Counter-Earth. And best for last, there’s Adam X the X-TREME! Oh dear Lord -- is there anything more 90s than this guy? With his backwards baseball cap, combustible blood, a costume seemingly made of blades, and a title that features not one but TWO “X”s, this guy that was teased as the (thankfully retconned) “third Summers brother” is literally everything about the 90s in comics, all rolled into one.
Don’t get me wrong, there were a few gems in the 1990s. Some of my favorite indie books were made during that time. But for every Daredevil Fall From Grace or Age of Apocalypse, there were a hundred swimsuit issues, holographic covers, and shoulder padded, useless-belts-and-straps-wearing, enormous gun-toting clones at the ready.
Who are your picks for the worst of the 90s? Teenage Tony Stark? Punisher as an agent of Heaven? Shriek, a femme fatale with fashion inspired by Paul Stanley? Insectoid Janet Van Dyne? Let us know your “unfavorites”, or better yet, send in your own write-ups for a future Marvel-Phile at themarvelphile@ gmail.com!