Tuesday, April 20, 2010

When Men were Men and Flashes Didn't Wear Bowties!

I was born in the early 80’s, but like any kid who had trouble getting a date, comics really grabbed my attention as a teenager, during the 90’s. Now today, the 90’s are typically regarded with scorn and derision. We think back to that decade and remember Rob Liefeld’s poorly drawn feet, endless X-Men crossovers, and a period of time in which people thought giving Superman a mullet was a good idea. Tragically, these are all things that happened. And yet in the midst of all this garbage, we had the DC universe. And during the 1990’s, the DC Universe was completely awesome.

On the Flash, Mark Waid was doing such a good job of reviving the spirit of the Silver Age that none of us cared how stupid “Speed Force” sounded. In JLA, Grant Morrison was kicking the doors off the DC universe every month and showing us what was possible when you wrote superhero comics under the influence. On Aztek, Morrison and Mark Millar made me care about a hero named Aztek! That’s Aztek with a Z! In Green Lantern, Kyle Rayner was making Green Lantern not seem old and boring for the first time I’d ever seen. On Nightwing, Chuck Dixon made Nightwing finally work outside a Titans book and created a city even sleezier than Gotham! The Legion of Super Heroes no longer required a PhD in continuity to understand. And on Hitman, Garth Ennis was turning baby penguins into zombies and killing them with chainsaws!

Sure Batman was just sorta there, but at least Kelley Jones gave him really pointy ears. And Superman may have been an exercise in mulleted mediocrity, but at least when they drew Krypton they used those super weird John Byrne designs where they had caulk all over their sleeves.

Mid 90’s DC had its ups and its downs, but at the end of the day it was usually trying something new. New characters, new continuities, new creators, new concepts. Even a book like the Flash, which was practically drowning in its affection for the Silver Age, was always doing something different.

Green Lantern was containing exploding supernovas with his power ring, the Flash was racing across time and space to return to his one true love, Lex Luthor was bankrolling a secret society to get a superhero in the Justice League, and Hitman was puking on Batman’s shoes! Most of it still holds up pretty well today, but back then, when it was surrounded by Onslaught Phase 23, Captain America with an eagle on his head, and people who thought Deathmate Black was a good idea, it was the best thing you had ever seen!

Everyone is always at least somewhat nostalgic when they think back to the comics of their youth and I am no exception. However, I think even the most enthusiastic DC fans would think that this period compares favorably to today’s DC comics, where we get 3 months of the Justice League looking at photographs, a Legion with a continuity that only 32nd Level Freemasons can understand, and explanations of why Barry Allen wears a bowtie.

Maybe Superman’s mullet wasn’t too high a price to pay after all.

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